In November 1932, Miriam A. (Ma) Fergerson was elected governor. She unsuccessfully attempted to get legislature passed for both a sales tax and an income tax. She did succeed in getting a 2 cent per barrel tax on oil.
Under President Roosevelt, the nation organized the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the earliest New Deal programs. The CCC was designed to put young men to work and provide some financial relief for families. The young men would have jobs, primarily by working to conserve the country’s natural resources. The CCC planted more than three billion trees, built flood control barriers, fought forest fires, and maintained forest roads and forest walking trails in 800 parks nationwide.
The CCC built wildlife refugees, fish-rearing facilities, campground facilities, water storage dams, and built bridges over creeks for walking paths. From 1933 to 1942, the beginning of World War II, more than three million young men were employed. Under the leadership of Mayor Max Starcke, the walkway along Walnut Branch Creek in Seguin was built by the CCC. Every few hundred yards, small dams were constructed with walking steps across the top which created a beautiful waterfall. The dams were destroyed in the 1950s because of the polio scare. There was the fear that mosquitoes in the small ponds would breed and possibly spread the polio virus. The former stagecoach route through Seguin was also marked with stone walls from Center Street (now Donegan) to Market Street (now Nolte). Landscaping was done along the drainage areas to the creek. The walkway is currently being restored and improved.
The Seguin CCC camp was located south of Starcke Park on what was later called Spring Hill — across State Highway 123 Business from Johnny’s Bar-B-Que restaurant.
The CCC employed more than 14 million young men who would work for no more than 18 months. The young men, ages from 18 to 25 years old, earned $30 per month with $25 going home to his family to buy food, etc., and $5 could be kept by the individual to spend as he wanted. This was an effort to get money back into circulation. There were 2,650 CCC Camps throughout the 48 states and territories.
Fortunately for Seguin, the town was mostly dependent on the farm and ranching industry. When the Great Depression came, and other cities were failing, the Darst Creek oil boom was developing just 12 miles east of town. (While in college, I worked two summers in the Darst Creek oil field as a derrick man. The first time I climbed a 10 story derrick, I wondered if I had lost my mind doing that kind of work.) Seguin could raise enough money to match federal grants for “make work” projects. The New Deal transformed the look of Seguin with the Art Deco city hall, courthouse, jail and city fountain, as well as storm sewers, sidewalks and three swimming pools (one for the Anglos, one for Blacks, and one for Hispanics.) The town commemorated its centennial by opening Max Starcke Park, with a golf course, a pavilion, picnic tables and barbecue pits along a scenic river drive, and the serpentine dam that created a waterfall.
In 2012, a ceremony was held by the Texas Recreation and Park Society, which presented an award to Seguin’s Parks and Recreation Department that designated Walnut Springs as a Lone Star Legacy Park. Mayor Keil’s plans are to extend the park walk, called the Walnut Branch Linear Park Trail, from Highway 78 on the north to eventually link with Max Starcke Park on the south.
There are many similarities in The Great Depression and today’s political, health and economic situation. During the last five weeks, 26 million people have filed for unemployment benefits; investments have dropped; and the food supply chain is backed up, putting many farmers and ranchers out of business. As of this week, 51 food processing plants have closed, and beef production is down by 20%. Crops are being plowed under because the canning factories are closed and cannot take their produce. The two largest meat packing plants in the U.S. were forced to close and shelves in some stores are bare.
Schools have been closed for the duration of the school year. Food lines are miles long and often run out of items before everyone is served.
If the coronavirus continues and combines with the flu virus in the fall, more businesses will fail, schools will be closed, and the economy may suffer even more.
Hopefully, this pandemic will soon be under control.