Davy Crockett National Forest

Davy Crockett may not have killed a bear at three years old as he claimed, but he still was the “King of the Wild Frontier.” Therefore, it is not surprising that in 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt named a new national forest after the legendary frontiersman who died fighting at the Battle of the Alamo. The newly-minted Davy Crockett National Forest offered federal protection to a rich and timbered landscape that needed conservation if it was to survive.

The story of the Davy Crockett National Forest begins properly with Texas settler, J.H. Ratcliff who owned an operated a small sawmill in the area at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1901, Ratcliff sold that sawmill to the Central Coal and Coke Company (known as the Four C). The town of Ratcliff was then established around the Four C Milling operation. Due to tensions between the lumber company and local merchants, however, the company decided to create a new mill outside of Ratcliff in what would become the town of Kennard. This site soon became the second largest sawmill in the nation, cranking out 300,000 board feet a day by 1902. Yet, the production came at a cost. By the early 1930s, the timber industry had depleted the forests in East Texas, and people were worried about the regional economy and jobs.

In 1933, as part of federal conservation efforts, the Texas legislature authorized the acquisition of much of this cut-over timberland for the United States national forest system. As one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped reforest much of the land that the timber companies had decimated. CCC Camp P-58-T was built in Weches and CCC Camp F-4-T was built in Ratcliff, both in 1933. These camps housed the companies that helped create the Davy Crockett National Forest. From 1933 until 1941, CCC workers transformed a small log pond into Ratcliff Lake, built recreational facilities and roads, installed phone lines, and fought fires. One of the most important CCC projects was to plant seedlings and reforest the land. Known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” the CCC planted about 3 million trees in the area. Davy Crockett National Forest now includes over 160,000 acres of woodlands in Houston and Trinity counties.


Welcome to Davy Crockett National Forest One of four national forests in East Texas, Davy Crockett National Forest is located west of Lufkin and east of Crockett, Texas. This national forest owes a lot to the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) whose labor built and reforested much of the area. Today the forest is used for lumber, cattle grazing, hunting and recreation. Source: http://myetx.com/davy-crockett-national-forest/.
J.H. Ratcliff An 1899 photo of J.H. Ratcliff. J.H. Ratcliff came to settle East Texas around 1875 in what is now Davy Crockett National Forest. Ratcliff built a sawmill around 1885 and later sold it to the Central Coal and Coke Company. J.H. was postmaster for the Ratcliff post office in 1889 and a Democratic member of the 26th Texas legislature in 1899. Source: "J.H. Ratcliff," Legislative Reference Library of Texas, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/legeLeaders/members/memberdisplay.cfm?memberID=3400.
Four C Ruins Today these ruins of an old sawmill still stand near Ratcliff in Davy Crockett National Forest. Milling declined here due to a struggle between the Four C Company and local merchants in Ratcliff. The Four C Company built a sixteen foot wall between the mill and Ratcliff to prevent workers from purchasing cheaper goods in town, rather than at the company store. The wall was dynamited and after much conflict, the company decided to move its operations. Source: "Ratcliff Lake campground - Davy Crockett National Forest (TX)," U.S. National Forest Campground Guide, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/gallery/ratcliff_lake/slides/davy6.html.
Ratcliff CCC Camp The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp F-4-T was built in Ratcliff in 1933 and 1934. The men housed in this camp helped build Davy Crockett National Forest. Texas was home to over ninety CCC camps. These camps included barracks, a mess hall and a bathhouse. Ratcliff CCC Camp F-4-T closed in 1941. Source: "Ratcliff CCC Camp," rootsweb, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txhousto/photo_locations/ccc.camp.htm.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 888 CCC Company 888 after winning the award for Best Company of the third period in 1934. Company 888 was stationed at Camp P-58-T in Weches, Texas. These men helped create Davy Crockett National Forest. There were nine black members in Company 888, notice their position in the photo. Source: "Civilian Conservation Corps Company 888," Explore East Texas, accessed March 4, 2015, http://exploreeasttexas.com/?attachment_id=788.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Construction Crew The Ratcliff CCC construction crew ready to build, 1938. 2.5 million young men joined the CCC across the United States, including 156,000 Texans. These men changed the landscape of East Texas. Source: "Ratcliff CCC Camp," rootsweb, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txhousto/photo_locations/ccc.camp.htm.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Planting Crew The Ratcliff CCC planting crew riding in to work. "Roosevelt's Tree Army" improved parks, planted trees and other conservation projects. The CCC planted 72 million trees in East Texas. Without these men, the forests of East Texas would be completely different today, Source: "Ratcliff CCC Camp," rootsweb, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txhousto/photo_locations/ccc.camp.htm.
Ratcliff Lake In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps turned the Central Coal and Coke Company's log pond into Ratcliff Lake. The Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area is used today for camping, swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities. Source: "Civilian Conservation Corps sustains forests, parks and protection from wildfire," Texas A&M Forest Service, accessed March 4, 2015, http://tfsweb.tamu.edu/history/Single-Article.aspx?id=19540.
The 1941-42 Texas Almanac At the beginning of the Great Depression, Texas had no national forests. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed four national forests in Texas in the 1930s: Davy Crockett, Angelina, Sam Houston and Sabine. These forests cover 637,646 acres. The stated objectives of forest programs included: reforestation, recreation, conservation and prevention of soil erosion. Source: "Texas Almanac, 1941-1942," page 186, The Portal to Texas History, accessed March 4, 2015, http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117164/m1/188/?q=davy%20crockett.
2011 Drought Damage In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) transformed a log pond into a picturesque 45 acre lake and built a recreation area surrounding the lake. Hurricane Ike did a lot of damage to the Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area in 2008, followed by a drought three years later. Crews worked hard to clean up and repair the area. Source: "Ratcliff Lake cleanup continues," United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service: National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, September 11, 2012, accessed March 4, 2015, http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/texas/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5390066.



Rachael Larkin, “Davy Crockett National Forest,” East Texas History, accessed September 30, 2022, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/80.