on Camp White
How short is human memory! It is hard to believe that it is only seven short years ago that Captain Bean and his crew of engineers came to this valley for the purpose of planning an army cantonment to be located somewhere in the vicinity of the old Agate Desert. We can well remember how they spent the summer moving the boundaries of that camp all over the landscape--they seemed to have the darned thing on wheels and moved the boundary almost daily.
Then in November they packed up their dolls and toys and departed--and the dream of an army camp in this valley seemed all washed up. But we failed to reckon with the treacherous Jap, for just a month later came Pearl Harbor. And in January, 1941, here came Bean (by then a major) and his men again, and the contract was soon let for the building of what was ever after to be known as Camp White. And what a hectic summer that was. More than eighteen hundred buildings were constructed on the old desert between the fifteenth of February and the fifteenth of August when the camp was activated and the 91st Division took over.
All that fall and winter you stumbled over soldiers everywhere you went. We couldn't go back into the hills anywhere without running into army convoys or groups of men slogging along the various roads, or camped beside some stream or spring. And the winter of 1942-43 was a particularly wet one, and the camp became known far and wide in army circles as "Lake White." It sure was a mess. That was the time the county road department lost some $1200 worth of crushed rock we had piled up behind a certain school house a mile or more outside the camp boundary and which was swiped by the soldiers to make paths from their barracks to the mess halls, etc. (We never were able to prove just who took the stuff, so never could collect the cost from the army officials.)
From the time of the activation of the big camp in August, 1942, until after the end of the shooting part of the war the whole county boomed like a beehive. Hundreds of our people found jobs at the camp. All sorts of new businesses opened up, and the older ones were almost swamped with work. Wages rose to an almost unbelievable extent, and everyone was plenty busy. But when the army finally moved on things began to go down, at least for a while. Then the men and women who had gone away to work in various war activities began to come home, and later the GIs themselves returned. Since then the big problem in this county has been to try to get new industries going to take up as much of the slack as possible.
Finally the army decided that they no longer wanted the camp, and it was declared "surplus" and ordered wrecked. That made a lot of work for several months, but the job is finally completed and most of the resultant mess cleaned up. Just the other day we drove through the heart of the old camp and were especially struck at the desolateness of the landscape. Even where General Gearhart had his headquarters the only sign left was part of a brick fireplace and the ruins of a concrete vault sticking up out of the weeds. Grass and weeds now hide even the foundations of the hundreds of barracks and other buildings which once covered a space two miles wide by four miles long. It gives a feller a lonesome feeling to look at it.
Arthur E. Powell, "Musings," Central Point American, June 17, 1948, page 1
Last revised August 23, 2009