If you look closely, you can still see traces of pasture contouring in the land at 402 E. Kimbrough St. in Mesquite. Today, it’s the baseball fields at Mesquite High School, but during the Great Depression, it was a site of a historic opportunity for hundreds of young men desperate for work.
Officials from the City of Mesquite, and Historic Mesquite, Inc., Mesquite Independent School District and the Dallas County Historical Commission gathered Monday to honor the members of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 850 with a dedication ceremony of an Official Texas Historical Marker. Historic Mesquite, Inc.’s application for the marker was approved in 2020, but the ceremony was delayed because of the pandemic.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s solutions to two disasters that ravaged the United States in the 1930s: the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Part of the New Deal, the CCC was nicknamed Roosevelt’s “Tree Army.” Participants planted some 220 million trees in a 1,300-mile zone that ran through the Great Plains, from Texas to Canada. Along with planting the forest shelterbelt, CCC men also taught sustainable farming practices to prevent another Dust Bowl catastrophe.
In June 1935, CCC Company 850 opened with 250 participants. The camp spanned eight acres of land belonging to local farmer Hicks Jobson and included 24 barracks, a mess hall, health facility, recreation building and bath house. Young men ages 16-25 from across Texas were recruited to work at Company 850. Workers were paid $30 a month but were required to send $25 to their families to ease their hardships.
Company 850 was one of almost 100 camps in Texas. The Mesquite camp focused on soil conservation and creating levees along the East Fork of the Trinity River. Company 850 men also worked with some 300 farmers from Dallas, Kaufman and Rockwall counties on 40,000+ acres, demonstrating terracing, pasture contouring, strip-cropping and pasture sodding and seeding.
Congressional funding for the 2,900 CCC Camps nationwide ended in the early 1940s as America’s economy improved and national efforts were focused on World War II. CCC Company 850 closed in 1941. Mesquite ISD eventually took over the land and utilizes it as a bus barn and parking facility as well as the baseball fields.