Members of CCC Company 2303 - Williamsburg VA
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp NHP-5 was created at Williamsburg, Virginia, for the purpose of developing the Lake Matoaka area, part of the College of William & Mary campus. Beginning in 1934, Camp NHP-5 housed CCC Company 2303, an African American unit.
2303’s work at Matoaka State Park included “trails and bridges, a boat house, picnic shelters, and an amphitheatre [called “Players’ Dell”] seating 500 persons” (Dist. 4, Third Corps Area history, 1937). Today, it seems this area is no longer called “Matoaka State Park,” but is simply viewed as part of the overall campus and holdings of the college.
Company 2303 also helped four other African American CCC units working on the restoration and development of Colonial National Historical Park (CNHP). This work would continue until at least the end of 1941 – virtually the entire life of the CCC program. The CCC enrollees worked under the direction of the National Park Service (NPS), which had just taken over the job of caring for military and historical parks from the US Army.
A contemporary history of Company 2303 described their extensive archeology work at CNHP: “The main project now is the archaeological investigation of Jamestown Island (settled in 1607). It consists of research, landscaping, building workshops and tourist conveniences. The C.C.C. boys, under direction of the National Park Service, are digging up the ruins. Every shovel of dirt and sand is sifted for artifacts and fragments. These are taken to a laboratory, cleaned, labeled, and filed. A great deal of the earthenware and glassware found is broken. Here again, C.C.C. boys working in a ceramics laboratory put these broken articles together. In the blacksmith shop, they make replicas of the original iron work” (Dist. 4, Third Corps Area history, 1937). (See also our project page, “Colonial National Historical Park: Archaeology – Yorktown VA.”)
Company 2303’s work at CNHP also included “forest protection, installation of light, water and sewage systems at Jamestown Island, landscaping and tree-planting… restoring Colonial graves, and underpinning cemetery walls at Bruton Chapel (built in 1619)” (Dist. 4, Third Corps Area history, 1937).
The location of Camp NHP-5 was described as west of Williamsburg, adjoining the College of William & Mary, and at the rear of the campus. We don’t know exactly where this spot is, but we think it was very close to Lake Matoaka, where much of Company 2303’s early projects were carried out.
NB: CCC camps in the Jim Crow-era South were always segregated, but that was not true everywhere until 1935; for further discussion, click here.
Con C. McCarthy (ed.), Civilian Conservation Corps, History, District No. 4, Third Corps Area, 1933-1937, Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service Publishing Company and The Telegraph Press, 1937, pp. 200-202.
“Company 2303, CCC, Plans Open House,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 4, 1937, p. 12
“Hoke Views Possibilities Of Matoaka Park At Dedication Of ‘Players Dell’: Roosevelt Thanked for Sending CCC to Develop 1,200 Acre Tract As Outdoor Laboratory for Students,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), October 21, 1934, p. 19.
“Matoaka Park And Forest To Be Newest Attraction For City When Completed: Beautiful Natural Area Being Developed by U.S. Government on College Campus,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), May 20, 1934, p. 18.
“Williamsburg Cultural Resources Map Project,” Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library (accessed July 9, 2022).
“Matoaka Trails,” College of William & Mary (accessed July 9, 2022).
Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on July 11, 2022.
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