How did people engage with local government? While a list of jurors or tax assessments may not be compelling reading, it helps us to piece together the story of who was in Benezette.
During the Depression, a Civilian Conservation Corps company was posted to Benezette, Pennsylvania.
The Iris of Progress was a monthly newsletter published by the Benezett camp (Company 303, “Camp Vann”) from 1935-1938 (“the official organ of CCC Camp Vann, published by the enrollees”).
The transcripts provided here are minimally edited in order to preserve the voices of the young black men who served, in the original vernacular of the 1930s, just as they wrote it.
Many enrollees at the camp were from Philadelphia, and they sent a steady stream of news back home that was published in the city's largest black newspaper, the Philadelphia Tribune. Unlike the Iris of Progress which was produced at the camp, letters sent to the Tribune did not need to be reviewed by camp supervisory personnel.
There were also many enrollees from Pittsburgh, PA and they sent their stories home to the city's black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. The camp at Benezette was called "Camp Vann" in honor of the paper's editor, Robert Lee Vann.
The first people arrived in what we today call Benezette at the end of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. They were the ancestors of modern American Indians and evidence of their presence is represented by artifacts and human remains that have been uncovered. This evidence is scattered but we can draw some conclusions from archaeological evidence in central and northern Pennsylvania and southern New York.
Benezette never had its own newspaper but there were several in the surrounding communities. Most papers had a column for local news from nearby communities. This "news" often included weather observations, social events, even a little gossip. It was the Facebook of a century ago!
Injuries, bug bites, sickness - what's hurting?