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African American CCC camp is focus of Historical Society fall meeting

The young men who signed up to construct roads and buildings in the nation’s parks and forests during the Great Depression often endured back-breaking work. Those young men who were also African American endured even more. Last year the Civilian Conservation Corps celebrated its 75th anniversary. Much has been written about the CCC throughout the years; however, there is a gap in the research. The participation and accomplishments of African American CCC companies is all but forgotten in the history books. 

The Augusta County Historical Society’s fall meeting, to be held Sunday, Nov. 1, at 3 p.m. at Loch Willow Presbyterian Church in Churchville, will focus on Camp Rattlesnake. This camp was one of just three African American CCC camps in the George Washington National Forest.

National forest archaeologist Sally Zaragoza will discuss the results of her work on Camp Rattlesnake, whose ruins can still be viewed a few miles beyond Deerfield. Zaragoza will give informal tours of the archaeological site on Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and noon before the afternoon fall meeting.

Zaragoza has combined her work in the earth with a thorough study of the archival documents and newspapers of the time period. She found that young African American men at the CCC camps had to deal not only with the hard work that was a part of such camps, but they often had to deal with discrimination and efforts to have them removed from the very communities they were helping.

Zaragoza’s work on the Deerfield camp has revealed several surprises including one fact that contradicts all the history books and another that contradicts the social norms of the time. She will discuss those surprises as well as the camp’s history during her program.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program. A variety of the society’s new gift line featuring “Augusta’s Old Bags” (flour bags from area mills) will also be available for sale at the meeting.


Augusta County Historical Society
What: Fall Meeting features archaeologist Sally Zaragoza speaking on the topic of “Camp Rattlesnake: Augusta County’s African American CCC camp”
When: Sunday, Nov. 1, 3 p.m.
Where: Loch Willow Presbyterian Church, Rt. 42 in the village of Churchville
Fee: Free
Directions: From Staunton (Rt. 250), go approximately 5 miles to the middle of the village of Churchville; turn left on Rt. 42, Loch Willow is on the right.

Camp Rattlesnake site tours (Sunday, Nov. 1, 10 a.m.-noon, free) Sally Zaragoza will lead walks around the archaeological ruins.
Directions: From Staunton (Rt. 250) at the bypass, head west for approximately 15 miles to the fork in the road; at the fork in the road, turn left on Deerfield Valley Rd. (Rt. 629); go almost 8 miles until you reach Deerfield; turn left on Marble Valley Rd. (Rt. 600); go about 8 more miles; Camp Rattlesnake on the right, marked with a sign. Limited pull-off parking.

For more information: Contact the Augusta County Historical Society at 540-248-4151 or

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