Sunday, August 8, 2010

Camp Somerset

Camp Somerset is located on Camp Road in Westover Maryland. Today it is a migrant Labor Camp but it started it's life as a Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC)camp in 1935. The first 17 buildings there were built for 270 men. It included an administration building, five sleeping quarters, a mess hall, a kitchen, a recreation hall, officers quarters, shops, pumping station, an electric generator, a bath and a garage. A number of buildings currently in use look like they originate from this time period.

This is the entrance to the present migrant worker camp. I tried to enter to take photos but the security guard forbid me to enter the property.

The men in the CCC camp cleared tax ditches and worked on drainage projects in the area. The men were allowed to go to nearby town two nights a week. Their present not only increased the economic life of the area but also increased the date life for the local girls. With the outbreak of World War II the CCC camps were done away with and in their place Camp Somerset became an Army post. It was headquarters for the Army posts in Berlin, Chincoteague, and Oyster that guarded the shoreline during World War II. Eventually Camp Somerset had near to a thousand men stationed on it. More buildings were built.

In 1944 the entire group at Camp Somerset were sent to Camp Pemberton, Virginia. Since most of the young men in the area were in the service there was a shortage of farm labor. The county requested German POWs and Camp Somerset became a Prisoner of War camp. There were over a thousand of them and about 150 army guards. The prisoners worked in canning houses, sawmills, meat packing plants and on farms throughout Somerset County. The Germans stayed at Camp Somerset until June of 1946 and were than sent to England, where it is assumed they were returned to Germany. On occasion you will read in the Daily Times of one of the young men who were a POW at Camp Somerset returning to visit the area.

The six acres of land than became a migrant worker camp and with some periods of none use has remained so. Today I believe it has some connection with the tomato canning plant on Route 413.

A number of the points made in this post came from newspaper articles and oral history but I would amiss if I did not mention the excellent Old Home Essay done in 1962 by Linda Boston on Camp Somerset.

One of the other points of interest on Camp Road is a natural spring. This photo looks like a drainage pipe but it is the water flow from the natural spring. There seems to always be some one there filling a jug with water. In the time it took me to take this picture there were four different cars of people stopping for water.

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