Saturday, December 26, 2015

CCC Camp Jenkins Secret Society - 1933

During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps, had two locations in East Hampton - one at Salmon River on Gulf Road near the Comstock Covered Bridge and a second, the 181st Company at Camp Jenkins, north of Cobalt near Great Hill. The CCC program, which local resident Martin Podskoch has written extensively, was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide work opportunities for young men in a wholesome environment. Organized work initiatives, including stabilizing embankments along the Salmon River or clearing brush in our State Forests, were some of the many projects tackled. For two years, CCC members encamped only a few hundred feet from the Cobalt mine sites, and working in conjunction with the State Forest and Park Commission, cleaned up forest debris and underbrush that had accumulated for years, building tables, benches and cement fireplaces for picnickers and cleaned out the longest of the two horizontal mine shafts still easily found in 1933. Although no longer accessible, for years visitors could walk on logs on the muddy mine floor to its very end, approximately 75 feet in length.

During their work experience, sixteen of the men, CCC members at Camp Jenkins, banded together to form what was believed to be the first secret society of the forest recruits in the U.S. The society, known at I.D.K. Sunset Lodge, No. 1 with officers' stations named after trees, adopted by-laws and elected officers. A prerequisite to admittance in addition to being a member of the CCC was "good character" and the society, advanced by many standards of the era, was open to any race, creed or denomination. The first officers were Great Oak, A. G. Kamm (recreation directors of the camp); Small Oak, Albert Budrow; Sturdy Elm (secretary) Frank Wodin; Tall Pine (historian and publicity agent) Henry Kunz; Hemlock (treasurer) Michael Reynolds; Walnut (outside guard) W. H. Bartlett; Hickory (inside guard) William Kruger; Spruce (guide) Joseph Perkowski; and, Willow (chaplain) Archie L. Brown.

The purpose of the organization was to promote goodwill, entertainment, recreation and the welfare of the majority of young men working at the camp.

The society had six committees including investigators (known as the Birches); membership (Ashes); grievance (Cherry); board of inquiry (Poplars); athletic (Brush) and refreshments (Tall Timber). The right and left supporters to the Great Oak were known as Cedar and Chestnut.

Lodge meetings were held in a log cabin constructed at the camp (no longer standing). Its entertainment committee planned a dance inviting the local public to tour the camp. The first "Sapling" to be initiated was Al Kuchl of Hartford. Ritual included three degrees performed by a team of officer members and regular meetings were held on Tuesday evenings.

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