Between October 20 and November 27, 1933 Lewis W. Hine created 190 negatives for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). 16 Black and white negatives would be of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) . The complete collection found in the National Archives titled “Lewis Hine TVA Collection” is his record of a time, place and people who would be displaced or changed, for better or worse, by the rising flood waters from the first of the TVA projects – the Norris Dam.
On Nov 6, 1933 at 2 o’clock the Oscar Cloud family “sat” before Lewis Hines’ 4×5 box camera. Hine noted that the oldest son was in the CCC. In what capacity is not clear because Oscar and Cecil Cloud had 8 children and their eldest son Ollie (not pictured) was born in 1901, too old to be a CCC boy.
But son Bruce age 19, standing left, would be of CCC age and Charles, at 17, seated to Cecils’ right was too young. The child who seems to be slipping from Oscars grasp has been identified as their son Ray. But this is questioned. Ray may have been 15 when this photo was taken and not likely to be sitting in Oscars lap. This is still being researched.
Like other families displaced by the flood waters, work was found with the CCC camps or the TVA. Oscar became a quarrymen on the Norris Dam Project.
Hine would return for one day, November 17, 1933 to photograph four of the 29 new CCC camps. Because of his notes and orderly numbering system we know the first camp he stopped at was TVA-22, where he describes the “Idaho boys” setting up tents for the new arrivals. He also mentions this camp being located on a hill above Fall Creek.
This location would become significant when reading the “Memories Along Clinch River”written by Vergie Brewer Perry. Vergie was a child living with her TVA displaced family in Union County when the CCC arrived. Her father and uncle rushed to apply for a job at the new CCC camp on the hill overlooking Fall Creek and were promptly hired. She recalls the difference this employment made in her family. Her father and uncle would walk upright and take longer strides, her mother bought a new dress. They thrived on the hustle and bustle brought to the area. She also recalls : “Once a car stopped, a man with a camera aimed it right at us, took a picture and went on his way.”
The Army transported CCC boys from all over of the United States to this area of eastern Tennessee . Each camp had a quota of 200. The landscape and lives in the Clinch River Valley were forever changed with the displacement of 3,500 natives in addition to the thousands of TVA workers and CCC boys who descended upon Union County in the Fall of 1933.
Hine stayed at camp TVA-22 long enough to photograph the new boys having lunch. These rookies had just arrived from New York in day coaches. They were tired, hungry and eager for their new life.
Lining up before their first meal, in camp, they listened to Captain Welsh explain the rules.
For the last two camps he submitted just one photo each. A general view of the camps, TVA-24 and TVA-19.
But he left at the end of November due to a misunderstanding regarding the usage and ownership of the negatives.
Although the Lewis Wilkes Hine CCC collection is thin, it does have a unique aspect.
Hine left a part of himself behind with the CCC that day.
There it is, a silhouette of Lewis Wilkes Hine with the CCC boys from “Idaho” and New York, dining together at their new camp, TVA-22, which was situated north of Norris Dam on a hill above Fall Creek.
I would like to acknowledge sources and thank those who helped make sense of the stories behind Lewis W. Hine’s CCC images.
Bob Pasquill, Alabama Forest Archeologist and Historian, author of “Civilian Conservation Corps in Alabama, A Great and Lasting Good” available through Alabama University Press. Each and every time I speak with you I gain a better understanding of the CCC. Can’t thank you enough.
Great grandson of Oscar Cloud (later changed to McCloud). Whom I encourage to continue finding your family connections in the Clinch River area and possibly in the Lewis W. Hine photographs.
Books and other writings are always a reference source, if only to better understand the era. For the TVA photographs this book proved insightful: TVA Photography: Thirty years of life in the Tennessee Valley by Patricia Bernard Ezzel
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