Camp Macedonia Brook operated as a base for the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 to 1936, during the New Deal. The camp was charged with building a new road to Macedonia Brook State Park and a road to the top of Kent Falls. The road to Macedonia, which still exists, was especially difficult, requiring many cuts into the rocks and filling. The New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad ran alongside the camp, allowing for direct delivery of supplies. The men of the camp were also involved in flood relief during the 1936 floods of the Housatonic.
This blog has typically focused on the history of Litchfield County. While the region certainly has a rich history, it has an equally rich tradition as a place for outdoorsmen. These characteristics intersect at Housatonic Meadows State Park.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the legislation establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps on March 31, 1933. Over the next eight years , millions of men would serve in the CCC, providing income for their families ravaged by the Great Depression.
One of the first camps was Camp Cross in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Named for Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross, it opened on June 20, 1933 and was one of the original 13 camps in the state. Commanded by Thomas C. Hood, the camp housed the 182nd Civilian Conservation Corps, which was trained in fighting forest fires, chopping and sawing wood, and identifying trees.
For their first task, the 182nd cleared 45 acres in the Housatonic Meadows State Park, which had been established in 1927. (As the park is one the west side of the Housatonic, it is technically in the town of Sharon.) Here they also planted 45,000 red pine trees in 1933, and another 28,500 trees (red and Scotch pine, European larch, hemlock and white spruce) in 1936. The corps also repaired and maintained roads and constructed stone walls in the park. By 1936, the 182nd was working 6,800 acres and had mapped topographic and recreational features and catalogued trees on the property. Their works was not without danger, however, as one corpsman was reportedly injured by a deer, two others killed a nine-foot rattlesnake, and many reported seeing “wild cats.” The attack on Pearl Harbor eliminated the needs for the camps, but not before the CCC allowed millions of men an opportunity to help provide for their families.
Housatonic Meadows State Park also contains two monuments that denote the area’s reputation as one of the finest fly fishing locales in the northeast. In front of the campground office is a monument honoring Ranger Nate Strong that was erected by the Housatonic Fly Fisherman’s Association.
Further south, near the intersection of Routes 4 and 7 is a second monument, this one honoring Francis L. Sheane, who was the chairman of the state Board of Fisheries and Game in the 1940s.
Kent Falls is one of Connecticut’s most popular state parks, with hundreds of thousands of people taking advantage of its picnic area and cooling waters every summer. There remains at least one part of it, however, that is hidden in plain sight.
Nearly all visitors who hike to the top of the falls do so via the paved path and steps. At the northern end of the parking lot, however, is the red blazed trail. Following this trail for a tenth of a mile brings the explorer to the yellow blazed trail. The reward for the additional effort is a gradual switch-backed ascent to the top of the falls, with magnificent stone retaining walls supporting the trail (which is an old road bed.)
The stone walls were built by the men of the Camp Macedonia unit of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The camp opened in June 1935 and employed 202 men. While originally opened to build what would become Macedonia State Park, suitable land for a camp was not available near Macedonia Brook. (The site of Camp Macedonia has only within the last five years been located; its location is not being shared as means of preserving it are determined.)
In addition to the stone walls, the CCC also constructed the picnic area and the other trails to the top of the falls. In exchange for their labor, the men received $30 per month, $25 of which had to be sent home to their families. They were also provided with food, lodging, medical care and education, a desired commodity as most of the men had only an eighth-grade education. Responsible men were paid an extra fifty cents a weeks to serve as leaders, helping the two army officers stationed at the camp with its administration.
Most go to Kent Falls to admire its natural beauty. It is appropriate, however, to also spend a moment reflecting on the men who made this natural beauty accessible to us.