Establishment of Upton State Forest

Conservation Movement

As our country grew so too did its need for lumber to build homes, barns and factories. Families needed lumber for furniture and cord wood to heat their homes. Farmers needed open land for pasture and the railroad needed railroad planks and ties. The logging industry provided jobs and the nation thrived as the forest disappeared.

In the late 1800’s people became alarmed at the clear cutting that was causing erosion and destroying wildlife habitat. Slash from the logging operations fueled fires often set by the passage of the railroad engines spewing sparks. Elected officials everywhere were being pressured to do something.

In 1914 the Massachusetts State Legislature created the State Forest Commission. $90.000 was appropriated to purchase land with the stipulation that not more than $5.00 an acre be paid.

Around 1933 and 1934 the state began purchasing parcels in Upton and surrounding communities. Many of the parcels had been owned by loggers who purchased the land, logged it and then sold it at a greatly reduced price as sprout land. In the North Upton area most of the parcels were purchased from Benjamin Wood, Knowlton Farms and others.

In 1935 Upton State Forest was designated and Camp SP (state park) 25, CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps was opened.

The Great Depression

The 1929 stock market crash plunged the country in a wide spread economic depression. There were soup kitchens and bread lines everywhere. Millions of young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty five were unemployed, many traveling the countryside in search of jobs. Adding to the economic chaos weather conditions created the “Dust Bowl” in the western plains. Whole families left their farms with all their possessions piled onto pickup trucks looking for work in other parts of the country.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4 to the presidency. During his campaign he promised to “give the common man a new deal.” He was aware of the danger in having millions of young people unemployed and restless and concerned about the environmental crisis created by clear cut logging and the Dust Bowl. He had an idea to build on a program already used on a small scale in Connecticut and New York.

On March 9 at four PM he called six men to a meeting and spoke for two hours about the need for reforestation and jobs creation. His plan was to create a Civilian Conservation Corps putting young men to work reclaiming the land. The men would be fed, clothed, housed, trained and transported while being paid $30.00 a month. They would be allowed to keep $5.00 sending the other $25.00 home to their families putting money back into the economy.

The six men included the Secretaries of War, of the Interior and of Agriculture, Director of Budget, Judge Advocate General of the Army and Solicitor of the Department of Interior. All of these departments would have a role in implementing his plan. At six o’clock the President asked if they thought it was a good plan. After they replied that it was he said “Can you have it on my desk by nine o’clock tonight?” After a brief pause they agreed they could and at ten PM President Roosevelt presented the bill to Congressional leaders. March 28 it passed Congress and on April 6, less than a month after that meeting, a man from Pennsylvania became the first enrolled.

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