The Bull Shoals Lake Region of Missouri and Arkansas and Surrounding Areas
African American Civilian Conservation Corps and the Ozarks
Missouri State Parks and Black History Month
Missouri State Parks are remembering the contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ Companies 1713 and 1743 for their strong and historic 1930’s structures such as, the Camp Pin Oak Dining Hall at Lake of the Ozarks State Park or the CCC lodge at Roaring River State Park. Missouri State Parks are also remembering Black History Month and African Americans’ struggle for equality, at The Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site, just miles from the Kansas border,
14 miles (23 km) northeast of Potosi on the eastern edge of the Ozarks,
is noted for its Hiking Trails, Native American rock carvings (petroglyphs); carved in dolomite rock, are believed to have been made around 1000 to 1600 C.E. of birds, arrows, footprints, turkey tracks, human figures, and various geometric shapes and patterns and represent almost 75 percent of the known petroglyphs in Missouri and contain over 350 symbols; and the state park is also known for the Civilian Conservation Corps’ African American Company 1743’s finely crafted stonework from the 1930s. In 1936, the CCC’s Company 1743 constructed the 1000 Steps Trail using large stone steps and building a beautiful overlook shelter in the 68-acre Washington State Park Hardwood Natural Area overseen by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Opossum Track Trail runs throughout a typical Missouri oak-hickory hardwood woodland filled with wildflowers, songbirds, native wildlife, and majestic trees and runs along depressions in the earth; prior to the park’s construction, this area was prospected for a mineral called barite and the depressions are the remains of those mining operations. Barite, locally known as tiff, is used in the production of drilling mud and paint.
On Rockywood Trail, it is common to spot a Missouri tarantula darting across the trail, which passes by a quarry that provided Company 1743 with the stone used to build many of the park’s historic structures. You can find things to do in Missouri State Parks with the Locator Map.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Program, has a newsletter for the preservation community called, Preservation Issues, published by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) with a grant from the National Park Service and offers History and Heritage in the Classroom and Beyond with overviews, lesson plans, and links primarily for research. Preservation Issues, vol. 6, no. 1 (Jan. – Feb. 1996) features the Civilian Conservation Corps African American Company 1743: The Thunderbirds.
Excerpt from Missouri Department of Natural Resources, historic preservation program, Preservation Issues, volume 6 number 1:
CCC Company 1743: The Thunderbirds
“idle through no fault of your own, you were enrolled from city and rural homes and offered an opportunity to engage in healthful, outdoor work on forest, park and soil conservation projects of definite practical value to all people in the nation. The promptness with which you seized this opportunity to engage in honest work, the willingness with which you have performed your daily tasks and the fine spirit you have shown in winning the respect of the communities in which your camps have been located, merits the admiration of the entire country. You, and the men who have guided and supervised your efforts, have cause to be proud of the record the CCC has made in the development of sturdy manhood and in the initiation and prosecution of a conservation program of unprecedented proportions.” - Excerpt from a message from Franklin D. Roosevelt to members of the CCC on Friday, April 17, 1936.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (better known as the CCC) was one of several programs developed during the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Under the administration of the U.S. Army and the National Park Service, the CCC developed state and national parks nationwide. Much of the construction done by these young men more than sixty years ago in many of Missouri's state parks and historic sites is still in use. Like most aspects of society at that time, the CCC was a segregated organization. Only one black CCC Company, the 1743rd, worked in Missouri’s state parks; two others, the 3748th and the 3760th, worked on non-park projects in Missouri. First organized on April 15th, 1933, as Company 694 at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, the unit was initially sent to Pierre, S.D. where it was redesigned as Company 1743. The unit's first assignment in Missouri was at Lake Contrary, just outside of St. Joseph, in October 1933. On June 4, 1934, the men and officers of the 1743rd were ordered to Washington State park near DeSoto in Washington County. There they built Camp Thunderbird, named after the mythical creature that appears frequently in local petroglyphs, established the camp newspaper, Thunderbird Rumblings, and begin a five-year project to develop the state park. In nearby DeSoto, the inhabitants of Camp Thunderbird quickly developed a reputation of being polite, well-behaved and hard-working young men whose roads, trails and buildings showed a high level of craftsmanship. Company 1743 was next ordered to Mark Twain State Park just outside of the village of Florida, in Monroe County. Before sending a black unit to a new assignment, the Army allowed local residents the opportunity to formally object to the move through a petition process. Some residents in the Florida vicinity sent a petition that stated: “… we do not desire to have a colored Civilian Conservation Corps Camp established in Florida …” Not everyone in the area was of the same opinion, however. With the assistance of local businessman, the Missouri State Park Board arranged a bus tour of Washington State Park for 22 citizens from the Florida area. Those on the tour had an opportunity to see first hand the quality of the 1743rd’s work and to speak with residents and businesses from DeSoto. As a result of this trip, the Army received two new petitions; one was from the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and the city council of DeSoto asking that Camp Thunderbird not be dissolved, and that company 1743 be allowed to remain at Washington State Park. The second began: “We, the undersigned citizens residing within three miles of Mark Twain State Park, hereby certify that we have no objections to the assignment of a Negro company of CCC boys to the CCC camp in Mark Twain State Park. We are extremely anxious for the park to be developed as rapidly as possible.” As a result of this petition, the men and officers of CCC Company 1743 were transferred to Mark Twain State Park on December 1, 1939. The National Park Service and the Missouri State Park Board had developed an ambitious master plan for Mark Twain State Park. Over a projected six-year period, CCC Company 1743 was to be assigned the task of building a lodge or hotel with outlying cabins, campgrounds, several picnic areas, a basketball field, trails and roads throughout the 1200-acre park, fishing and boating facilities on the Salt River that flowed through the park, a museum dedicated to Mark Twain and removal of the author's birth cabin back to its original location in the village of Florida. One interesting feature of this early master plan was a large lake that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was to build for flood control and to generate hydropower. Early phases of the master plan included clearing and razing a number of farm structures on the 1000-acre addition the park had recently acquired. The CCC workers also developed a water system that served not only their camp (Camp Tom Sawyer) but also the Buzzard’s Roost picnic area. They built trails and roads throughout the facility, developed two picnic areas, and constructed a park office and maintenance building. When the United States became involved in World War II, CCC camps all across the country were disbanded and the men and officers transferred to active Army units. Camp Tom Sawyer and Camp 1743 were disbanded in July, 1942. Reminders of the 1743rd can still be found in Mark Twain State Park. The most obvious, perhaps, are the stone and timber picnic shelter and entrance sign at Buzzard’s Roost picnic area. The small lake and a few of the buildings used in Camp Tom Sawyer, the largest of which was the mess hall, were later used by thousands of 4-H members who attended Camp Clemens during the 1950s and 1960s. The park maintenance complex and the residences for the park superintendent and the historic site administrator are now located where these camps once stood. Behind the site administrator’s residence is an old barn now used to store lumber; scrawled on one of the walls are the names and dates of a few of the young black men who helped to build the park. When the new maintenance area was completed, the original maintenance building was turned over to Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Park.[ The cabin where the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in 1835, located at 37352 Shrine Rd, Florida, MO 65283.] To some extent, the original list of projects that the 1743rd was expected to complete in six years has continued to influence current development in the park and historic site. On June 5, 1960, a museum containing the small two-room frame house in which Mark Twain was born was dedicated and opened to the public. In September, 1984, an 18,000-acre lake named after Mark Twain was dedicated; the lake levels are remarkably similar to those depicted in the master plan drawn up in the 1930s. – John Cunning. John Cunning is the director of the Missouri State Museum and site administrator at Jefferson Landing State Historic Site.
Excerpt from Missouri Department of Natural Resources, historic preservation program, Preservation Issues, volume 6 number 1:
Missouri Depression Era Park Rustic Architecture 1933 to 1942
Characteristics: Rustic park designs were intended to blend into their surrounding environment in both the natural and cultural sense; at their best, these designs appeared to be a natural outgrowth of their park settings. Buildings were simple in design and small in scale and intended to be practical and efficient. The construction was to be straightforward with "no faking." Colors such as warm browns were employed to subordinate buildings in their settings. Horizontal lines and low silhouettes were emphasized. The Park Rustic Style was applied to a variety of buildings and structures within local and state park settings including dining lodges, picnic shelters, tourist cabins, group camps, bath houses, comfort stations, restrooms, lookout shelters, entrance gates, stone bridges, and even park offices and administration and service buildings. Construction timbers and stone were obtained locally and worked in their rough form reflecting native hewing, sawing, and dressing techniques. The handmade rustic look typically reflected the labor-intensive manner in which buildings and structures were erected - usually by a large crew of enrollees of New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). - James Denny.
Washington School located at 529 South Locust Street, Monroe City, Monroe County, Missouri, 63456, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, employs a colonial revival style of architecture that was designed by African American Architects Bonsack and Pearce and built by Epple Construction Company in 1937. Locally, African American marriage records from 1865 – 1881 in Monroe County, Missouri, can be researched for free with the Monroe County Colored Marriage Book 1 Index 1865-1881. Batch M515873 at FamilySearch. Or, the Lincoln School for African American students, located at 301 Lincoln Street, Vandalia, Audrain County, Missouri, 63382, was constructed in 1927 by the Walsh Company, on land donated by the Ellis Brothers. And, the Second Baptist Church (a.k.a. Pleasant Hill Baptist Church) located at 430 West Grant Street, Neosho, Newton County, Missouri, 64850 was built in 1896 with a Late Gothic Revival style.
The State Historical Society of Missouri has African American material by or about African Americans, including personal papers, records of black organizations and churches, collections with significant information on African Americans, civil rights, slavery, and daily life.
They also have extensive collections of teaching aids, documents, family correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, recordings, records, histories, unpublished manuscripts, programs, directories, reports, pamphlets, and articles of family, friends, employers, church, schools, postcards, a few letters, and announcements that evidence a vivid portrait of black family and social life in Missouri such as, the records of the Royal Arch Masons, their wives, mothers, widows, sisters, and daughters of the African American organization of the Heroines of Jericho at Joplin in Jasper County, Missouri.
The collection from Fannie Marie Tolson, the first African American educator to teach in the desegregated schools of Fayette, Missouri includes family correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia from Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, and teaching aids and documents concerning St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Fayette, and recordings of two interviews conducted with Tolson.
There are also records from the Warren family and descendants that lived in the Three Creeks area of Boone County, Ashland, and Columbia, Missouri, whose collection of documents affirm black family life, social and church events, education for several generations, economic and social conditions, clothing styles, automobiles, houses and their locations, prevailing trends, and racial attitudes.
Other Missouri African American collections include the African American Healing Arts and Lore project focused on the topic of folk medicine and healing practices among elder African Americans in the St. Louis Community. And, the histories, unpublished manuscripts, programs, directories, reports, pamphlets, and articles of Afro-Americans In St. Louis, 1920-1980. As well as, the African American Pioneers In Journalism And Broadcasting Oral History Project.
Diamond Discovery Center in Murfreesboro, Arkansas
In 1906, diamonds were found at the county seat of Pike County, Arkansas, United States, on a local farm, in the city of Murfreesboro. A diamond-bearing volcanic formation, now belonging to the state of Arkansas, Crater of Diamonds State Park, was eventually opened to the public, in 1972, when the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism purchased the site. Diamonds are continuously being discovered in this state park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. If you’re making plans to visit this state park, you can rent or purchase your equipment and receive a helpful introduction to diamond searching at the Diamond Discovery Center. You will also enjoy the exhibit hall and the gift shop, while you are there. An admission fee is charged for gem-hunting. This state park has campsites for recreational vehicles with a dump station, and for tents with and without hook-ups, a bathhouse with restrooms, hot showers, cafe, wildlife observation blind, an enclosed pavilion with air-conditioning, playground, interpretive programs, hiking trails, laundry, and an amphitheater.
It’s hard to appreciate just how vast the Ozark Mountains are because, unlike the Rockies, they have flat horizon lines instead of jagged, towering peaks. As you drive through our area you will encounter many open vistas like this one. We are in the actual Ozark Mountains, not in the foothills. There are many paved, well maintained roads that make excellent driving tours.
Dogwoods & Red Buds
Many people are not aware that Ozark foliage displays are almost as spectacular as northern foliage. With over 200 tree species growing in the Ozarks the chances for a colorful fall display are very good. Most years the foliage display peeks the last few days of October or the first week of November. This time of year is also when several species of wildflowers also bloom, which is not the case in more northern regions. The first blossoms appearing each spring are those of the red bud tree. About two weeks later the dogwoods bloom. When conditions are right both trees can bloom at the same time. Dogwoods usually blossom around the last week of April to the first week of May. Drive down any back road and you’ll find the dogwood blooms. When you are planning your vacation to Branson, Missouri for yourself and your family, remember to consider care for your pets while you are away.
Blooming from March through November, white, blue, red, orange, purple, and many shades in between, wildflowers can be found everywhere. Beside the road, beside the lake and rivers, in the fields, and in the forest, there’s no shortage of native color. In addition the bloom colors change about every three weeks as different species blossom. All the blooms attract an incredible number of colorful butterflies.
Like the mammal populations, the bird life is also very diverse in the Ozarks. Birds of prey include several owl and hawk species, and bald eagles winter in the area. Humming birds are very common; so are a multitude of song and water birds. You’ll spot birds of all kinds while driving down the road, canoeing, or watching the shoreline. Hawks can be spotted sitting in trees and power lines along the roads. Owls show up right at dusk just minutes before it’s too dark to see. Song birds are most visible at first daylight through sunrise. Water birds are active in the evenings as well as early morning.
The Ozark Mountains support one of the most diverse and well-populated mammal populations in America. From the black bear down to the tiny shrew, many different animal species make their home in our area; foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mink, otter, rabbits, ferrets, several squirrel species, and many more can be seen on a regular basis with a little planning. Deer, squirrels, wild turkey, and many other animals frequent resort yards. Still others can be seen along the lake shores and along back roads in the dawn and dusk periods of each day.
Kids & Critters
There are several species of turtles living in the Ozarks and you’ll see them in the water as well as on land. The box turtles live by consuming plants and vegetables. In addition to turtle-catching, children spend hours chasing the harmless little lizards living around rocks and logs. The fast-running lizards present a considerable challenge to children trying to catch them. It’s not unusual for the kids to spend hours attempting to corral one. The numerous butterflies in the area also make great chasing and we’ve seen children collect whole sets while vacationing.
A maze of coves, creek arms, and peninsulas make up the Bull Shoals Lake shoreline. There can be hundreds of boats on the water but you see only a few of them because of the broken shorelines. Lake maps are sold in several area facilities that will help you find just the right spot to beach a houseboat, fish, hunt, and more. Water skiing, wave boarding, tubing, fishing, scuba diving, swimming, wave running, exploring, are all popular water sports. Marinas and resort rent boats and other water sport equipment. The water is warm from about the middle of May through the middle of September. You can always find smooth water in the coves even on windy days. There are few large boats making uncomfortable wakes in this area of Bull Shoals. All the land surrounding Bull Shoals Lake is public property owned by the Federal government. You can hike, fish, hunt, and otherwise enjoy the
lake shore. With almost 1,000 miles of shore line, there are plenty of places to go. Many people find a private spot by boat then anchor or beach to swim, fish, camp, and hike.
Bull Shoals Lake is a great place to go scuba diving, the water is very clear (visibility is usually more than 10 feet which is very uncommon for a lake). There are several dive shops on the lake and many different artifacts have been sunk on the lake for scuba divers and skin divers to enjoy including a school bus, and an old WWII boat.
Bald Eagle Viewing In Missouri And Arkansas
Bald Eagle Viewing
Many people are unaware that Missouri has one of the largest bald eagle migrations in America. The many lakes and wetland areas in Missouri, along with the large rivers, offers enough plentiful food and fresh water for thousands of eagles take up residence during their annual migration southward. The great birds leave their nesting ranges in the Great Lakes region and Canada. During the winter, Missouri’s lakes and rivers offer ideal hunting conditions for the magnificent bird.
To view the flying and feeding eagles, come early in the morning and look for the bald eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. The following areas are hot spots for viewing:
Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, off Route K, southwest of Columbia
Lake of the Ozarks, Bagnell Dam Access, east of Bagnell
Lock and Dam 24 in Clarksville
Lock and Dam 25, east of Winfield
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Puxico
Riverlands Environmental Demonstration Area, West Alton
Schell-Osage Conservation Area, north of El Dorado Springs
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, south of Mound City
Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, south of Sumner
Table Rock Lake, southwest of Branson
Truman Reservoir, west of Warsaw
Bald Eagle in Symbolism
One of the three symbols connected with the astrological sign Scorpio; the scorpion, the eagle and the phoenix; the eagle has probing eyes that give the predator the ability to strike at a moment’s notice. But unlike the scorpion, the eagle is free to soar above the earth to see what others may not see.
The bald eagle is the official emblem of the USA. It is used on coins, money, buildings, and much more. It serves many different purposes in America, but it has also served throughout history as well. In a range of unique cultures, the bald eagle may be the link between the gods and man.
Bald Eagle Facts
Name: The term “bald” is a bit confusing. It refers to the Old English word “balde”—meaning white—rather than without feathers. The scientific name, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, means white-headed sea eagle.
Eyesight: Eagle vision is five to six times sharper than a human’s. The prominent brow shades the eye for keener vision.
Beak: The eagle’s hooked beak is used for tearing flesh.
Size: One of the largest birds of prey in the world, bald eagles have a 6 1/2- to 8-foot wingspan and are 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall, weighing 8 to 15 pounds. In many birds of prey, the female is larger than the male. However, unless birds are perched next to each other, sexes cannot be told apart.
Foods: Fish compose 60 to 90 percent of the bald eagle diet, most of which is scavenged. Eagles usually locate prey by soaring or watching from a high perch. Piracy is another way eagles get food. If one bird makes a prize catch, others often will try to take the food away. Prey animals weigh from 3 to 5 pounds, at most. An eagle would have difficulty carrying anything even one-half its own weight, making the myth of eagles carrying off human babies or calves sound absurd.
Young: Two, and sometimes three, white eggs are laid each year in March or April. Both parents incubate the eggs for 34 to 40 days. By 10 to 11 weeks of age, eagles are feathered, nearly full grown and able to fly from the nest.
Speed: Eagles fly 20 to 40 miles per hour and can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour while diving.
Talons: Powerful feet with razor-sharp, 2-inch talons are used to take prey.
Age: Bald eagles have lived up to 50 years in captivity. Their life expectancy in the wild may be 15 to 25 years.
Nests: Nests usually are built in the top of a large tree. Each year in January and February, the pair adds to the nest. A bald eagle nest can become the largest of any North American bird. The national record is 20 feet deep and 10 feet wide, weighing 2 tons! In Missouri, however, nests average about 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep.
Mortality rate: On average, biologists estimate that there is a 40 to 50 percent mortality rate for bald eagles during their first year after leaving the nest, a 10 percent mortality rate the second year and 5 percent per year from the third year on.
Color: The distinctive white head and tail mark an adult—a sexually mature bird that is at least 4 to 5 years old. Younger birds’ plumage varies from solid, dark brown to mottled brown and white. Males and females are colored alike.
Range: Bald eagles historically occurred throughout North America. The largest natural area breeding populations are in Alaska and Canada, but there are significant bald eagle populations in the Great Lakes states, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the Greater Yellowstone area, and the Chesapeake Bay region.