Marlan Tiemann reading the original blueprint for a water spillway built in 1935 by the CCC. Note the large, impressive, sweet potato in the corner of the truck bed. It is from Marlan’s garden.
This is the third and final article prompted by Paul Ohrt remembering as a boy the Bluffs [Loess Hills] were covered in tall grass, rather than trees, as they are today.
A drive on I-29 or Hwy 275 – the hills are covered in trees. Also, many projects have been mentioned in relation to the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] and WPA [Workers Progress Administration] – government organizations active from 1933 until 1940.
By 1933 our nation was embroiled in a financial depression that resulted in wide-spread unemployment, bankrupt businesses, abandoned farms (corn prices dropped to 12 cents a bushel) and deep discouragement. Locally, the newspaper reported the roads, due to a January thaw, were muddy and farmers found it difficult to get their crop to town. As one remarked, “Why would you wear out a team to haul it to town only to sell corn that cheap.”
Since conserving the soil was a goal of the CCC/WPA program, in addition to planting 3 billion trees nationwide, the CCC built small and large dams to slow water and limit soil erosion. So from speculation of the tree covered “Bluffs” we go to a farm originally owned west of Westboro, MO, by L.H. & Mary Fuelling, and now owned by a grandson, Marlan Tiemann.
According to the blueprint of the dam, drawn by R.E. Knight and installed on a creek near the barnyard, it has a concrete 5’x6’ box drop inlet culvert. Approximately 4 feet below the top edge of the drop box are four holes, approximately 6 inches in diameter. Water flows through these holes. The concrete box is probably 12 to 15 feet deep and extending from the bottom of
the drop box is a long tunnel, tall enough for a person to walk upright in and probably 15-20 feet or so in length. Thus the water drops through the drain holes and over the top of the box to fall deep into the tunnel and flow on.
The blueprint noted it required 570 bags of cement, 120 tons of sand and 6,711 pounds of steel. Dirt was pushed against this concrete frame to build an earthen dam. Initially a small lake formed behind it. The family named it Mary Beth Lake and old photos show them on a raft using a pole to guide across the water. 82 years later the dam has achieved its purpose. Eroded dirt has filled in the lake, the grass is thick and water from the little creek flows steadily over the box and through the tunnel.
What isn’t known is how many men worked on the project, what camp they were from and what mechanical equipment (if any) was used, or cost to the government or landowner. What is apparent is this dam has stood the test of time, as have many other CCC/WPA projects. Farmers and towns could submit applications for projects. These were reviewed by a committee and/or an engineer and recommendations made or rejected. The CCC completed other projects outside of conservation, such as restoration and organization of Civil War and WWI photos and records.
Then once again in the course of a nation and national life, everything changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and declaration of war. The CCC/WPA disbanded and with a nation focused on defense, many of those who received a “hand up” rather than a “hand out” from the CCC/WPA enlisted or were drafted for military service…and the rest is history.