Duck Creek Soil Erosion Project

During the 1930s, many farmers in East Texas noticed that their crop yields were steadily decreasing. Some of the problem was caused by the fact that farmers insisted on planting their crops in straight rows, producing the perfect environment for soil erosion. The fertile soil was simply washing away along with an estimated $400 million nationwide in crop loss. Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was proposing a civilian conservation corps to combat high levels of unemployment. Among the corps’ responsibilities would be a new effort to prevent soil erosion.

In September of 1933, Hugh Hammond Bennett, an expert on soil conservation, became the head of the Soil Erosion Service (SES). Bennett saw an opportunity to use the manpower of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide erosion prevention help for individual farms across the nation. Bennett wished to show farmers everywhere the value of conservation techniques. By the end of 1934, there were over 160 CCC camps dedicated to soil erosion prevention. One such camp was the Lindale CCC Camp, housing Company 896.

CCC Company 896 participated in the Duck Creek Erosion Project in Lindale, Texas. The CCC enrollees constructed terraces, planted trees and shrubs, and built dams in efforts to reduce soil erosion in Smith County. Educating the local farmers was also a big part of the CCC efforts at Duck Creek. CCC enrollees taught local farmers how to use cover crops, contour plowing, strip cropping, and fertilizer to improve the quality of the soil. The CCC worked with farmers in a 25,000 acre area in Lindale and tried to implement individualized soil conservation plans for each farm.

Projects like the Duck Creek Soil Erosion Project created a lasting legacy of agricultural education and experience. The erosion prevention techniques were not new, but the large-scale approach of the CCC led to more awareness, education and utilization of these techniques. The Duck Creek Project was one of the first organized, scientific, soil erosion endeavors in the country. The project was so successful in conservation education, experimentation and demonstration, that the Duck Creek area evolved into a training ground for many in the field: foresters, biologists, surveyors, agronomists, economists and engineers.

Images

Cooperator Sign

Cooperator Sign

These metal signs were distributed to farmers who participated in the Soil Erosion Service (SES) projects. The SES was founded mainly through Hugh Hammond Bennett's efforts and was the precursor to the Soil Conservation Service (SCS). The SCS supervised 500 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps between 1933 and 1942. The CCC provided labor and instruction to cooperators. Cooperators were taught the most effective methods to help prevent soil erosion on their farms. | Source: "Kansas Conservation History: 1930-33," United States Department of Agriculture: National Resources Conservation Service Kansas, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ks/about/zcid=nrcs142p2_033461. View File Details Page

The Mexia Weekly Herald. September 4, 1936

The Mexia Weekly Herald. September 4, 1936

This news story tells of the Duck Creek Erosion Project, near Lindale, Texas. The article describes the advantages of strip cropping, which is a technique of planting alternating crops in rows to act as barriers to slow water runoff. At this point of the Duck Creek Project, seventy-four cooperative agreements were underway with local farmers. Hundreds of farmers from all over Texas came to learn from the Duck Creek Project. | Source: Harold G. Anthony, "The Duck Creek Erosion Project," The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 38, No. 36, Ed. 1 Friday, September 4, 1936, The Portal to Texas History, accessed March 4, 2015, http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth299469/m1/8/zq=duck. View File Details Page

U.S. Historical Marker in Louisa County, Virginia

U.S. Historical Marker in Louisa County, Virginia

Dedicated in 2011, this marker commemorates Hugh Hammond Bennett. Bennett was a trailblazer in the field of soil conservation. Bennett was the head of the Soil Conservation Service. Bennett was deeply concerned about the effects of soil erosion, particularly during the Dust Bowl years and sought to educate others through lecturing and demonstration projects like the one at Duck Creek. | Source: "Hugh Hammond Bennett (1881-1960) Marker, W-227," MARKERHISTORY.COM, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.markerhistory.com/hugh-hammond-bennett-1881-1960-marker-w-227/. View File Details Page

Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Map

Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Map

SCS head, Hugh Hammond Bennett, points to a map of the SCS regions. Second from the left is Howard Finnell. Finnell studied soil erosion techniques like terracing and contour planting in the 1920s and discovered that these methods could help farmers double the odds of having a good crop. Bennett put Finnell in charge of conservation efforts in the hardest hit parts of Texas, and utilized his research on all soil erosion projects, including at Duck Creek. | Source: "Henry Howard Finnell," PBS, The Dust Bowl: A Film by Ken Burns: Biographies, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/dustbowl/bios/henry-howard-finnell/. View File Details Page

Bragg and Julia Ann Morris

Bragg and Julia Ann Morris

The first couple to sign a cooperator agreement for the soil erosion service to be utilized on their farm as part of the Duck Creek Project. Bragg Morris was born in 1850 as a slave in Georgia. He move to Lindale, Texas with his owners. After emancipation Morris settled on a 110-acre farm. Julia Ann and Bragg were married January 28, 1885 and later had 13 children whose descendants still meet yearly for a reunion in Lindale. In 1939, Morris donated part of his farm for the Lindale Colored School which later became Bragg Morris High School. | Source: "Bragg Morris & Julia Ann Jones Morris," Bragg Morris Family Website, accessed March 4, 2015, http://braggmorrisfamily.org/ View File Details Page

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 896

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 896

Lindale was the first soil conservation camp in East Texas. The men of Company 896 were the ones who provided the labor for the Duck Creek Soil Erosion Project. Company 896 had opportunities for relaxation and recreation as well, including a band. | Source: "12 CCC Camp Photos~No. 896 Lindale TX Baseball, Band," ebay, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/12-CCC-Camp-Photos-No-896-Lindale-TX-Baseball-Band-etc-1930s-/141613484795zpt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20f8d24afb. View File Details Page

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Lindale, Texas

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Lindale, Texas

Company 896 worked on Project SCS-3-T, better known as the Duck Creek Erosion Project. This camp was established in 1934. CCC camps had barracks and a mess hall. Many of the men participated in different sports including boxing, volleyball and baseball as seen here. | Source: "12 CCC Camp Photos~No. 896 Lindale TX Baseball, Band," ebay, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/12-CCC-Camp-Photos-No-896-Lindale-TX-Baseball-Band-etc-1930s-/141613484795zpt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20f8d24afb. View File Details Page

Contour Farming

Contour Farming

One of the soil erosion prevention techniques used by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was contour farming. Contouring is when crops are not planted in straight rows, but rather follow the natural contour of the land. These lines help the water stay and sink into the soil, rather than carry away the topsoil. | Source: "CCC Work in Nebraska," Association of Rretired Conservation Service Employees (ARCSE), accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.arcse.org/qCCCNE.htm. View File Details Page

Farm Tour Trucks 1939, Texas

Farm Tour Trucks 1939, Texas

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) toured farms in the area to demonstrate the effectiveness of the soil erosion prevention techniques. Louis P. Merrill, supervisor of the Duck Creek Soil Erosion Project in Lindale, consistently invited farmers, conservation students and 4-H clubs to come and observe and learn more about the work of the CCC. | Source: "Civilian Conservation Corps - Trucks for Farm Tour, 1939," University of North Texas: UNT Digital Library, accessed March 4, 2015, http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc226946/m1/1/. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Rachael Larkin, “Duck Creek Soil Erosion Project,” East Texas History, accessed June 26, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/81.
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