CPS Unit No. 133, an Agriculture Experiment Station unit at Wooster, Ohio operated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), opened in March 1944. When AFSC withdrew from CPS in March 1946, Selective Service administered the unit for a short time before it closed. Men labored in the various departments at the experimental station to fill gaps in the labor shortage.
CPS Unit No. 133 was located at The Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station in Wooster, Ohio, about 50 miles south and southwest of Cleveland. The station at Wooster focused on crops commonly raised in Ohio, such as corn and wheat, livestock husbandary and nutrition.
Directors: E. Leroy (Bud) Mercer, Jr., Goss Twitchell
Forty-three percent of the men reported their occupation on entry to CPS as technical or professional work. Eleven percent reported occupations in farming or other agricultural work when entering CPS. On average, men in Friends camps and units had completed 14.27 years of education, with sixty-eight percent reporting completion of some college, college graduation, or post graduate work. (Sibley and Jacob, pp. 171-72)
This unit, never larger than five men, included both married and single men.
Men in Friends camps and units tended to report the greatest diversity in religious affiliation when entering CPS. A number in Friends camps reported no religious affiliation.
Bud Mercer prepared a report on the unit, parts of which follow.
The Agricultural Station needed men to serve as ‘stop gaps’ in the laboring forces within the various departments. . . .At present two men are working in the dairy barn about 58 hours per week. They feed, clean, generally maintain a dairy herd of 50 milk cows, plus 30 heifers and bulls. The dairy has been hit the hardest by labor shortage. CPS men have revived the dairy barn and given the encouragement for experiments with the herd knowing that it will get regular and competent maintenance.
One man has been laboring for the entomology department and taking many field records.
A fourth man has been placed on the maintenance crew for the entire station property. He assists a carpenter in keeping the buildings in good repair and constructing new facilities to experiments.
The fifth man is employed in the fruit farm as a general laborer—picking, cultivation, are the principle occupations.
All work at the Agricultural Experiment Station is experimental in nature with an eye towards application to the condition of the state of Ohio. . . . Most all assignees are definitely interested in agriculture and are well qualified for their work here. (Bud Mercer, Nov. 3, 1944)
Bud Mercer, who served as Assistant Director, reported the following about camp life.
The project started on February 24, 1944. . .assignees reported within the first two weeks. Unit strength. . .never over five men. . . . Employees threatened to quit or even strike if CPS men were employed at the station. None of that happened. In many respects, we are accepted by most as regular employees. . . . There are others . . .who can’t stomach the proposition that we are C.O.s. . . The [station?] . . . pays $100.00 per month per assignee for our services. The cost of food, laundry and lodging is deducted by the station from the $100.00 salary. The balance is forwarded to the Selective Service for deposit in the ‘Frozen Fund’ of the U.S. Treasury. Assignees get an allowance of $15.00 per month for clothing. . .
The first ten weeks in Wooster the unit was housed in the city hotel. Each assignee having a private room and eating on an allowance in the local restaurants. The Unit moved May 14 to the 3rd floor of the administration building of the Experiment where assignees now live in one large room, dormitory style. Also on May 14, 1944, the unit started eating in a nearby boarding house. . . . Laundry has always been sent to a wash lady in Wooster. (Nov. 3, 1944)
Ellis Hoskins, in a letter of October 26, 1944, described his experience of the camp.
My wife and I arrived here September 21, 1944 after a three weeks furlough in Iowa and Illinois . . . . As you no doubt know, I work in the Dairy barn with Ralph Curtis. It is a considerable change from my work in North Dakota but a change no doubt is good for all of us. (I won’t be dozing brush at 40 [degrees] below zero here) Ha!
Elva works at the Bursars office here at the station as a secretary. She enjoys here [sic] work very much, and has a room at the southwest corner of the station grounds.
We enjoy the other men in the Unit and consider it a privilege [sic] to be at the Experiment station. . . .
Soffregen and Allinger were up from Coshocton and we had a general ‘bull session’. Dave hates Coshocton about as bad as Trenton but still likes to reside in the state of Ohio. (October 26, 1944)
Letter from Ellis Hoskins, October 26, 1944 in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG002), Section 1, Box 37b.
For more information on the work and life in CPS camps and units, see Albert N. Keim, The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA: Good Books 1990.
Report by Bud Mercer, Nov. 3, 1944 in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Center on Conscience and War Records (DG025), Section 1, Series C1, Box 141.
For more information on the CPS Frozen Fund, see Steven M. Nolt, “The CPS Frozen Fund: The Beginning of Peace-time Interaction Between Historic Peace Churches and the United Stated Government.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, 67 (April 1993), pp. 201-204.
See Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-47. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952, Chapter VII, The Service Record of the Conscientious Objector, pp 124-151.
For more information on this camp, see reports and letters compiled by Anne Yoder, Archivist, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, January 21, 2011.