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21Country: (Re)Making CCC Camp #1592

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BLUFFTON, Ind. (WPTA21) - The boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) are the unsung heroes behind many of Indiana's state parks.

Under the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, the federal program allowed young men to earn money for their families.

Friends of the Ouabache State Park compiled much of the history behind CCC Camp #1592 in Bluffton.

"There were many young men or teenagers that couldn't get jobs," member Alan Daugherty told us, "families were large, they had no money, and this program put those boys to work."

"They actually went into the camps and earned about $35 a month, and they were allowed to keep $5 initially and the rest went home to support their family," he continued.

Researching the history behind the camp started as a hobby, but soon developed into an obsession.

"I had read these names so many times, put down the information, saw pictures of them, and began to know the boys that turned themselves into men here," he explained, "it became very personal."

Though interested himself, Daugherty recognized the information he poured over needed to be presented in a more digestible way.

"A lot of the parks in Indiana had CCC Camps in them, but I hadn't ever heard of a model in Indiana," he said, "it just kind of struck me that... I have all this extra time, I'm retired, I have all these skills, most of the materials, so why not?"

Daugherty, a retired art teacher, went to work.

He used all the information the Friends of the Ouabache State Park had: newspapers, legal documents, even what little of the site that remains today.

That data turned to numbers as Daugherty pieced together measurements of each building, scaling it down into a model that's now displayed at the Wells County Public Library Bluffton branch.

With permission he emphasized, it even includes remnants of the camp.

"The roadways along the edges, they put a curbing using limestone that they had quarried in the park themselves," he told us, "the stones in there are actually from the ground where these CCC boys lived."

Daugherty also added, "that washer that's on there, was actually one that one of those boys at the CCC camp used to put that firetower together."

With all that attention to detail, the model took six months to put together, all during the pandemic.

"Half of the cost of what's here is just in the plexiglass!" Daugherty said laughing.

The structure needed protection as it moved from place to place.

The demand for plexiglass skyrocketed as it became a resource for barriers and sneeze guards in the fight against COVID-19.

"All of these buildings that are still there... they dug Konkle Lake," Daugherty said, "it wouldn't be there if it weren't for the boys that lived in these buildings and the work that they did between '35 and '41."

Now, he uses his creation to remind the public of those who made the park that the community has enjoyed for decades.

"We were surprised at how interested the kids got in the history because of the model and it became a very teachable moment."

If you want to check out Daugherty's work, it will remain at the Bluffton Library through mid-December.

After that, it's next stop will be at the Berne Public Library beginning December 21.

Daugherty hopes one day it will be permanently displayed at the Ouabache State Park, so the elements he used in the CCC camp model can once again return home.

For more on the Friends of the Oaubache State Park, you can follow the group's updates on social media here.

Editor's Note: There may be differences in how the word Ouabache is pronounced. Here's an explanation from the Indiana DNR website: "Ouabache is difficult to spell, but easy to pronounce. Simply say "Wabash," just like the river that forms the southwest boundary for the park. This is the French spelling of a Miami Indian word, "waapaahšiki," so don't be surprised to hear many folks call it o-ba-chee. The full name of the Wabash River in the Miami language is "waapaahšiki siipiiwi."

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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