Clay County was hard hit by the Depression. The 1925 Census of Agriculture shows that there were 362 farms, all but 52 under one hundred acres. Only ten of them were on improved roads. 28,431 pecan trees had been planted, principally around Long Branch, but were not bearing yet. The small farms, and the dreams of pecan fortunes were about to be dashed in 1929.
The Federal Government tried to help with three efforts: The Resettlement Administration, The WPA, and The CCC. The Resettlment Adminisration provided loans and helped farmers move to better land. The WPA documented substantial historical records which would otherwise have been lost to time -- it kept writers busy. And the CCC built Gold Head State Park -- one of the first in the State.
In addition, David Paul Davis, born in Creen Cove Springs and a land developer in Florida, hit hard times earlier than most, experiencing difficulties as early as 1926. A thesis "In Search of David Paul Davis" has been prepared.
The Resettlement Administration
Small farmers were given mortgages against personal property, farm equipment and even future crops to help them through tough times. They were encouraged to move to larger communities. The Archives has a copy of the "Chattel Mortgages and Farmer Resettlements" documents pertaining to Clay County (currently being restored).
We are currently determining which WPA company built the Colonial Inn at Penney Farms (and why!). Also which CCC company built the civic center at Middleburg.
Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Times were hard much earlier than 1935 when the WPA was organized. Before that, Roosevelt (and Hoover) and created FERA -- the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
Under FERA, four important programs were carried out related to Clay County:
Zora Neale Hurston Sound Records.
The building of Camp Blanding's rifle range and recreation facility.
The Historical Records Survey
Inventory of the Archives of Clay County
Veteran Interments (transcribed by volunteers, the various lists combined and cemetery codes replaced with cemetery names for your convenience)
The Federal Writers Project
Diary of A. M. Reed 1848-1899 (of Mulberry Grove, just north of NAS JAX)
Oral Interviews -- The WPA interviewed and transcribed many people from all over the United States in the 1930s. We have selected oral interviews that had something to say about Clay County.
Negro Writers Unit
Edward Lycugus Oral Interview, of the Fleming slave family
Neil Coker Oral Interview, mentions Bellamy Rd and McRae grist mill
Duval Emergency Relief Council
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began in 1933 as a part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal relief program. A federal program, the CCC worked in connection with the U.S. Army, Depts. of the Interior, Agriculture, and Labor, and the National Park Service to provide work relief for single, unemployed men between the ages of 18 and 25. Later, World War I veterans were also allowed to join the CCC. Paid $30 a month, with $25 of the pay sent home to their families, the enrollees were housed in army-style camps and worked on forestry, soil reclamation, park construction, and fire suppression projects. Enrollees generally signed up for six-month stints. The CCC remained in operation until 1942, when World War II diverted energies and money away from federal relief programs. Florida maintained an annual average of twenty-five CCC camps throughout the program's existence. The Florida Park Service is an outgrown of the CCC.
The records of the CCC are at the National Archives, RG35. Camp Inspection reports are ARC565152, Florida is in box 43 (AF2 & AF3 - Keystone Heights, AF4 & AF5 - Camp Blanding) and box 44 (P65 - Green Cove Springs, SP5 - Gold Head State Park)
Several companies made improvements in Clay County:
Co. 416 & 418
African-American units at Camp Blanding. Co. 416 arrived on Mar 22, 1941and worked on on project Army-4. Co. 418 arrived May 1, 1941 and worked on project Army-5.
At an Army reservation at Keystone Heights working on project Army-1 (5/19/1941) and Army-3 (10/20-1941)
The Company arrived at private land in Green Cove Springs on June 29, 1933.
This history of Co. 1421 is detailed in FHQ Vol 65, No 4, April 1987: Roosevelt's "Tree Army": The Civilian Conservation Core of Florida.
"In the Shadow of the Mountain: the Spirit of the CCC" has some snippets about the CCC in Green Cove Springs.
This company built Gold Head State Park, and they were unusual, being an all-veteran unit.
Read how great they were in their camp newsletter.
Co. 4468 arrived at Keystone Heights on April 4, 1941 and worked on project Army-2