A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Civilian Conservation Corps and Cheesequake State Park

The PBS history series The American Experience was on WNJN on my cable system this evening. The episode was about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and its work in parks nationwide during the Depression days of the 1930's. (You can read more about the episode or even watch it online here)

The show mentioned that there were 48 CCC work camps in New Jersey, so I looked online and found a NJ DEP article about the CCC's efforts in our state. Turns out that nearby Cheesequake State Park was among the parks established or improved by CCC teams.

I found a front page article in The Matawan Journal dated 27 January 1938 that details the state's first acquisition of land and structures for the new park and outlines the budget for additional land purchases. The State Board of Conservation and Development had just acquired a 250 acre tract of land and a manor house from the Favier Brothers, according to an assemblyman quoted by the Journal. The land was acquired at approximately $30 an acre. The manor house reportedly was built during the Civil War by the Gordon family.

The Journal article said that surveyors were at the ready to prepare the ncessary estimates so the CCC could begin clearing land for roads and working on the manor house. Additional tracts were being title searched and other acquisitions were under review. The state legislature had allotted $100,000 for development of the park and $50,000 more was being sought. A general warning was issued that lands would be condemned for use by the park if "fancy prices" were sought by land owners.

I found a modest history of the park that says the park was opened on 22 June 1940, but I couldn't double check that fact because the 1940 editions of the Journal are not available online. That opening date also appears on a regional botanists website. I found Journal articles from 1944 showing routine use of the park for scouting events. The Wikipedia article on the park has a dismal history section and would be worth updating. A USGS blurb on the park is misleading and poorly written.


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