Archival materials

Archival materials

CPS Camp No. 128   Lapine                        Oregon           Bureau of Reclamation

Compiled by Anne Yoder, Archivist at Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA for the CPS Memorial Website and received January 21, 2011.


Director = Herbert L. Murch, 1943 – Oct. 1944

Assistant Director = Jake D. Goering


A number of men walked out of CPS from this camp in 1945: Harold L. Barbee; Kenneth R. Bishop; Francis E. Boss; Amos G. Brokaw; George Hiram Brown; Wayne Brown; George H. Cleveland; Eugene Epp; Buster L. Gillman; Ray Knock; Philip J. Larson; Harold W. Lischner; Alex Penor; Frank Randall; Russell Shalkowski; Calvin Sigman; Kenneth D. Taylor; Willard [Bill] Womack; Rhodes Young


Report “What’s What at Lapine” by Grover Hartman, undated:

“The camp is in central Oregon…. [It] was built by Reclamation Service to accommodate a three-company C.C.C. setup – 600 capacity. It has three mess halls, a gymnasium, chapel, infirmary, and library. The library is large and is equipped with chrome and artificial leather furniture. Books are mostly of the C.C.C. variety…. The bunkhouses are arranged in a ‘U’ shape with a bath house and latrine forming the connection between two buildings…. Construction of the dam has gone far enough to create a lake near the camp. Water is rather cold for swimming, however.

Men at Lapine Camp are engaged in the construction of an earthfilled dam to store up water for transmission through a canal to the 10,000 acre area about 100 miles away which is being irrigated…. In addition…men work on the canal, which presents such problems as the construction of an arch to carry water over the river and several tunneling operations.

The camp director is Herbert Murch….an employee of Reclamation Service….

The project was much sought by the people of the area, who have welcomed the men. In the West there is little tendency to be suspicious of C.O.’s….”

[In Box 2c of Section 1, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG 002), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]

Letter to Paul Comley French (NSBRO) from Vic Olsen, Feb. 17, 1944:

“We have a group in these government camps who are a real problem. What to do with them is giving me more than a few grey hairs. Having them all together makes it tough on us. What one can’t think about, is quickly supplied by some other. Looks to me [like] they lay awake all night trying to think up ways to get out of work, an[d] us government men sick of them.

It’s hard enough to get a normal person to make the adjustment to these camps, and when you have, as for instance in this camp, the largest percentage of that abnormal type, it’s a headache. I was in hopes that some of them, well take for instance George Reeves, who should be anxious to cooperate – but isn’t – I thought that George would study the situation and give us some solution – instead he turns out to be just another ‘against type.’

Here we are trying to get an answer to these problems, and most of them just making not only our lives, but theirs also – so miserable – that it is one of the hardest tasks we have to be civil with them.

Well, I trust we are given the strength to carry on. Most of these men are the border line type, who will eventually be in Mental Hospitals as inmates.

They don’t trust anyone but themselves, they make it impossible for one like myself to help. They have bad tempers, are disorderly, arrogant, insulting and unreasonable. A government man like myself is the subject of all this abuse….

Well let’s hope that out of it all, we will be able to get some solution to this problem of the 3%.”

[In Box 140 of Section 1, Series C,1, Center on Conscience and War Records (DG 025), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]


Report of visit by Charles Read, May 8, 1946:

“Lapine is located 18 miles from the village [of the same name]…and 16 miles from the highway,…. through the woods on which there are no…houses so there is no traffic, and this increases the isolation of the place.

There is no organized group life in the camp except for some Bible study by fundamentalist groups and JWs [Jehovah’s Witnesses], of whom there are a good many. The rest of the camp is rather disorganized, owing to the lack of very capable leaders, I expect…. There are some athletics, but there is a very bad lack of equipment… The only regular expenditure is for a weekly third-rate movie. Murch selects the movies and they are exceedingly poor…. There is very little desirable material in the library, and they have only a few magazines….

There are about 100 men in camp, of whom about 20 work on project…. The project in winter is cutting wood to keep warm, and the work is very much slowed down.

Recourse to jails is frequently had. For instance, a man who broke the tail gate of a truck was jailed for having destroyed public property. [He] was brought into the county court, not the Federal Court…. An assignee named Pritchard, who was a truck driver, had driven into camp to ascertain whether the crew should come in, now that it had begun to snow. Pritchard was arrested a week later…on the charge of having stolen government property [the truck]…. This abuse of the courts and tyranny which the jailing of men implies has been used as [a] constant threat to keep men in line. From Murch’s point of view he has been pretty successful in his attempts. The men who had leadership ability and who would have resisted him have been encouraged to walk out, both by his totally unreasonable attitudes, and by the lenient view which the Oregon courts have taken in regard to men who are being prosecuted for violations.

Of the 13 men ordered transferred to Minersville, only six went. The other seven preferred to take their chance with the Oregon courts. The 7 remained at Lapine, but the second day after their transfer was to have been effective, Pollard, Murch’s assistant, came to them and told them they would be prosecuted for trespassing on government property if they remained there. For that reason they left. Murch has disclaimed any knowledge…. However, these were all men whom Murch had come to dislike since they were the most vocal and most critical men in camp, and were giving him the greatest trouble….

Shortly before I left Lapine I met Murch. I received as hostile a reception as I have yet had in a camp, although Ed Bronner, who was with me, said it was cordial for Murch…. I found it difficult to warm to Murch personally. He has an authoritarian outlook and a coarse way of talking, which he uses with all those with whom he deals, both members of his staff and assignees…. Indications I had were that Mrs. Murch is a more approachable person, and when she is in camp she serves frequently to modify her husband’s stringent views, and I heard generally favorable comments about her.

I was amused by the fact that the men refer to their $5.00 monthly stipend as ‘the $5.00 monthly insult.’

It seems likely that a number of men will walk out in case the draft act is extended.”

[In Box 2c of Section 1, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG 002), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]


Letter from Edwin B. Bronner, April 6, 1946:

“This camp is a hole, I just couldn’t have believed that it is what it is before arriving here. My only experience with base camp was the six months at Elkton when it was the model camp of the system.… Work here at Lapine is past being a joke. There are about 120 men in the camp, 10 of which are at a side camp. A few have just started using the big equipment on the dam, just a few and just recently. There are 20 men in the woods cutting wood to keep the fires going. Everyone else is on overhead. The wood cutting crew turns out maybe one cord of wood a day, that is, the entire 20 of them together cut one cord. There seems to be little effort on the part of anyone to get much done. The men in the kitchen work about 4 hours a day at the most. There are two men in one office where one fellow told me that he works hard for 3 days at the end of each month to turn out reports. As a result there is not a person in camp, administration included, who feels that the men are doing any significant work. When I arrived the director told me that the wood crew, where I was assigned, were clearing off land for the reservoir, and not to pay any attention to these people who said that we were just cutting wood to keep the camp warm. The same day he told a new foreman on the job that it was important to get the wood cut because if we didn’t cut six cords a day we wouldn’t keep the camp fires going. Foreman and all agree that as soon as the ground is a little harder the big equipment will go out and clear from one to two acres of the forest in a day….

There is no organization of the men in camp at all. As a result rumors fly through the men a dozen a day. The administration makes no attempt to let the men know what is happening….

The Oregon Federal courts are entirely too easy on walk-outs and other cases against CO’s, so SSS has had to figure out a new scheme. Men have been getting 60 day sentences, suspended sentences, probation for 60 days and such things as that. Murch, camp director, has been told by the judge that he, the judge, will accept the word of the CO’s against Murch’s, and Murch has been laughed out of court on some of his cases against men. So, bad boys are now transferred to Minersville where they will be under Sacramento courts which are much stiffer….

There are almost no recreational facilities. The Saturday night movies are unintelligible because the sound equipment is completely shot, and even so the machine breaks down completely at least twice very time it is used….

There are some good things. There is a big lake in front of the camp. Some boating now, and swimming soon. The dorms are clean and comfortable, the food is better than at Elkton,…but not served carefully. Men can go into town on week-ends, several have cars, and the truck goes in both Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps if work on the dam begins soon work morale will go up, because there would seem to be some use in such a project. However, the utter lack of rapport between the men and the administration precludes any real improvement of the situation. Singing songs about conscription, Kosch and Murch do not help relations. Foreman cussing out the yellow bellied slackers doesn’t help. Men feel that they are fighting hand to hand with conscription and SSS…. Men feel that by slowing down on work they are proving that conscription won’t work. They aren’t, because they are transferred to Minersville, and they only develop inner bitterness which is unhealthy, and the contempt of the foremen. In the hate which some men have for the administration and SSS they are destroying themselves, it is pitiful to see what it is doing to some men. I feel that many will never recover, I hope I am wrong.”

[In Box 2c of Section 1, American Friends Service Committee: Civilian Public Service Records (DG 002), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]


Letter from Laurence Merrill Stickney, undated:

“Trouble at the side camp promises to provide more of same before the end of the month. They are truly more and more, camps of punishment for belief where slaves are kept by threats from a dirty-tongued director.”

[In Box 140 of Section 1, Series C,1, Center on Conscience and War Records (DG 025), Swarthmore College Peace Collection]