McGath Contributes CCC Materials to Southeast Archives

Photo of Ray McGath sitting on top of a truck that he likely drove at Camp 3729 in New Madrid.

Ray McCath sitting on top of a truck that he likely drove at Camp 3729 in New Madrid, Mo.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 17, 2009 – Ray McGath, of Poplar Bluff, Mo., has donated a small collection of materials documenting his service with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1939-1941 to the Kent Library Special Collections and Archives at Southeast Missouri State University. 

“These materials will be valuable learning tools because they document the experiences of a young man from Southeast Missouri during the Great Depression,” said Dr. Bonnie Stepenoff, professor of history at Southeast.

McGath was born in Portageville, Mo., in 1919 where he was the son of a sharecropper.  He had 12 brothers and sisters, six of whom died in infancy.  His family had no electricity, no indoor plumbing and no radio.  At the age of 20, he traveled to New Madrid, Mo., and registered for the CCC, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Plan to provide employment to young men during the depression. The legacy of the CCC in Southeast Missouri includes work on the drainage districts, planting trees, controlling fires and floods, building roads, trails and structures in parks, recreation areas, forests, and wild areas such as the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.

When McGath left a New Madrid CCC camp in 1941, he joined the Navy, where he served for six years as a signalman during World War II.  After leaving the Navy, he worked for more than 30 years for the Missouri Natural Gas Company.

Among the items McGath has donated are many photographs of himself and other men in the CCC and copies from 1940-1941 of The Swamp Angel, the newsletter from the camp at New Madrid.  The newsletter includes news of the men and the camp’s project. 

“There are additional materials in the collection documenting CCC reunions over the years, but the newsletters and the photographs are the most interesting items,” says Dr. Lisa Speer, special collections librarian.  “The oral history interview that Dr. Stepenoff conducted with Mr. McGath will also be transcribed and the tape and a copy of the transcription will be placed in the archives for research use.”