CPS Camp No. 9, a Forest Service base camp, located in Petersham, Massachusetts and operated by the American Friends Service Committee, opened in June 1941 and closed in October 1942. Men cleared fire debris left by the 1937 New England hurricane.
CPS Camp No. 9, a Forest Service base camp near Petersham, Massachusetts, was in the Harvard Forest and Swift River Valley.
Director: Henry Perry
Dietician: Mary Lydon
The men at American Friends Service Committee camps tended to constitute the most religiously diverse group of men, including those declaring no religious affiliation when entering CPS. They came from a variety of occupations, and the numbers from cities were most often greater than from rural areas. Men in Friends camps reported on average 14.27 years of education when entering CPS, with a number reporting graduate and post graduate education. (Sibley and Jacob p. 171-172)
Some of the early work of CPS men was to clear fire debris left by the New England 1937 hurricane. Some men became specialists in telephone maintenance, including repairing lines to ranger stations and stretching new lines for system improvement. Some staffed lookout towers and participated in fire fighting.
The September 5, 1941 issue of the camp newspaper reported on the “project of water-hole construction on government and private land in the public interest”. The purpose was to construct these holes within twenty-five miles of camp to use in fire control, the sites being chosen by the district fire warden. At that date, the men had already completed five which required 605 person days. Men also completed fire-fighting training and placed rails around the water-holes in the Federation of Women’s Forest. (Days of Our Year p. 3)
The men were scheduled to build ten water-holes by October, to be followed with fire inspection and maintenance of the government lumber yards housing the hurricane timber fall.
A second article in Days of Our Year proposed a framework for a camp project in affiliation with a Petersham Forest Co-op, a group of local landowners trying to discover the amount of “merchantable lumber lying in the forests”. The campers identified a three point program to determine the possibility—
1) survey the amount of fallen lumber in the unsurveyed territory for type and number of board feet;
2) survey new growth to discover the amount of hard and soft wood replacing the former stands and working out a plan to make this new stand valuable;
3) “determine by cost accounting, the expense of making this lumber merchantable”.
Since the wood was somewhat small, the local group and the CPS men were studying whether it might be used for toys and boxes. “Petersham men are eager to clear this land and to discover if hurricanes are profitable”. (p. 2)
The group began its life together by making decisions based upon the “sense of the meeting”. With new men entering the camp, who were not familiar with this process, the question had arisen if decisions should be made by voting. The September 5, 1941 issue of Days of Our Year compared and contrasted the effect of the two different modes of decision making on group life and relationships. (p. 3)
The men decided to organize their camp life into six standing committees as reported in the same issue of Days of Our Year.
House – repairs, cleanliness, use of buildings
Education – library, classes, music, outside speakers
Grounds – landscaping, outside recreation, Saturday work
Safety – fire protection, accident prevention, first aid
Camp Statistics – camp paper, camp diary and history
Community Relations – outside performances, schools, choirs
Harvard Forest - farm help, conferences (p. 2)
The men had already begun French and Spanish classes and established two reading-studying groups. They were organizing a music group, a theatre group, and a speaker series on “pacifism and contemporary affairs”.
Petersham men remained active in the larger CPS community, hosting one regional meeting to talk about issues and problems in CPS. The agenda for the March 1942 meeting (with representatives from Cooperstown in New York, Stoddard in New Hampshire, Royalston and Ashburnham in Massachusetts) included Administration issues (weekends, use of private and AFSC cars, camp-staff relations and camp discipline). The two day session also provided time to discuss self-subsistence, public relations, purposes of camps, as well as areas of cooperation.
Later in March, representatives from the four New England camps, Cooperstown and Kane in Pennsylvania met at Amherst, Massachusetts with members of the American Friends Service Committee, the Brethren Service Committee and the National Service Board of Religious Objectors to discuss problems of mutual concern. The discussions emphasized “democracy from the bottom up” and dealt with resolutions on Democracy, Discipline, Responsibility, and Education. The March 21 issue of Days of Our Year discussed these matters in some detail and also reported on the most difficult problem-- making “our pacifist way of life more effective in our own camps”. (pp. 1, 2, 4)
The men published the camp newspaper Days of Our Year beginning in September 1941 and ending in October 1942.
Days of Our Year, Civilian Public Service Camp Nine, Petersham, Massachusetts, (September 5, 1941); Vol. I No. 15 (March 1, 1942); Vol. I No. 16 (March 21, 1942); Vol. II, No. 2 (August 26, 1942) in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG002), Section 3, Box 3.
For general information on CPS camps and units, see Albert N. Keim, The CPS Story: An Illustrated History of Civilian Public Service. Intercourse, PA: Good Books 1990.
See also Mulford Q. Sibley and Philip E. Jacob, Conscription of Conscience: The American State and the Conscientious Objector, 1940-1947. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1952.