This past week, UCA archaeology students have been out in the field honing their skills at Camp Halsey, a 1930s camp near Woolly Hollow State Park that served as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) residential camp. Enrollees there assisted local farmers with Soil Conservation Service (SCS) projects.
In the 1930s, the U.S. government established “demonstration projects” tied to soil conservation programs within watershed areas. The Cadron Creek Demonstration Project was one of the first in Arkansas. Camp Halsey was set up as a SCS/CCC residential camp in 1934 to provide local participating SCS farmers with additional labor to assist in various soil conservation methods like building terraces, fencing, sodding pastures, controlling gullies, seeding fields and protecting streams and banks.
Camp Halsey temporarily closed a year later but reopened in 1937 as a forestry camp, remaining open until 1939. The remaining buildings were then dismantled and removed. The camp, located on the privately-owned Halsey farm, has remained virtually untouched ever since.
The foundations of the various buildings—barracks, officers’ quarters, supply buildings, recreation hall, latrine and bath house, mess hall and kitchen, educational building, infirmary, two pump houses and a blacksmith shop—are part of the visible remains as well as Front Street, the road which ran through the camp. There is also a huge double fireplace which stood at the end of the recreation hall, and a rock message board.
In 1916, Lynita Langley-Ware, Faulkner County Museum Director, and Dr. Duncan McKinnon, UCA Assistant Professor of Anthropology, began collaborating with Larry Halsey, current family caretaker of the property where Camp Halsey is located. They did preliminary mapping and began gathering historical data for what has now become the Faulkner County Survey Project.
In October 2017, Dr. McKinnon presented a paper on the current and upcoming research, “The Faulkner County Survey Project: Beginning a Program of Research at Camp Halsey” to the Arkansas Archeological Society in North Little Rock, discussing various aspects of the project.
The Field Archaeology class, conducted by Dr. Duncan McKinnon, began work at the Camp Halsey remains on Monday as part of their May Intersession class. This is the first class to do systematic field work at the site.
The students are using a Bartington magnetic gradiometer to map the area, learning skills related to site survey and field data collection. They have also been working with a Topcon total station, on loan from the Arkansas Archeological Survey, to create a site grid and collect topographic data.
“We are so fortunate to have a real archaeological site right here in Faulkner County. This project is just beginning and there is so much work to be done here. We will be able to bring students out here for years to come as we unearth this important part of our history,” said Langley-Ware.
Although the preliminary plans were to excavate and map what was thought to be the infirmary site, it only took a day or so to reveal that the building remains they were studying was probably the garage. Students gained valuable experience in traditional excavation methods and artifact collection as they sifted through the site.
Following a week of field work, the students will be back in the archaeology lab in UCA Burdick Hall, examining and testing the artifacts as well as analyzing the data they have collected. The class will conclude with a final research paper that will be submitted to the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Anthropology (JURA) for review.
“Not only are the students getting to do actual hands-on work in the field, they are also gaining valuable experience and developing skills that will help them to further their careers in archaeology,” Dr. McKinnon said.
The site history and current news, as well as historical and archaeological information about the camp, can be found at http://camphalsey.com.