Construction of Camp Upton in 1917 Told in Major’s Report Pt.1

Footnotes to Long Island History

Construction of Camp Upton in 1917 Told in Major's Report

Thomas R. Bayles



This account of the construction of Camp Upton in 1917 is taken from a report by the construction quartermaster, Major O. K. Meyers.
"On June 20, 1917, travel orders and instruction were received  to proceed to Yaphank, N.Y., and on the following day, accompanied by Col. Frank H. Lawton, of the Department of the East Major M. J. Whitson, of the Cantonment Division, and the president and general manager of the Long Island Rail Road, and inspection of the property so far as the trail extending through it permitted, was made.
"The site of the camp was determined and was located on a U.S. Geological map of section. The factors controlling the location of the site were that it should be centrally located on the property, provide drill grounds on all sides, and that the prevailing winds would not pass over the stables before reaching the barrack buildings. The site selected placed the eastern end of the cantonment on low ground. The location being decided upon, the nucleus of an engineering organization was gotten together that evening.
"The location and arrangements of units having been approved, a field party began surveys on June 23. The contract for construction was let to the Thompson Starrett Co. of New York on June 24 and their representative arrived on June 27.
"The property obtained by the Commander of the East for the contonment was a tract of land containing about 10,000 acres. The property extended from the South Country Road, on the south, to the Middle Country Road, on the north, a distance 6 1/2 miles, and from the Carman's River on the west to the Peconic River on the east, with a maximum width of four miles. TO provide for rifle ranges, additional land to the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Rail Road, a distance of 3 1/4 miles, with a width of 2 1/2 miles. Right to use of the Tangier Smith property to the south has been obtained. The total acreage at this time, June 15, 1918, is about 19,990 acres.
"The soil is very fine sand covered with from one to four feet of sandy loam, and in the lowlands there is an underlying strats of impervious hardpan whcih causes them to be swampy during the wet season. The land is rolling, and in general is from 25 to 80 feet above sea level, a feet mounds being as high as 185 feet.
"The property was originally covered with a hard wood forest. The stumps had rotted level with the ground surface, and numerous shoots from four to ten feet high had grown from them. These old stumps measured up to six feet in diameter and were so numerous that in many places areas could be walked over by the stepping from one stump to another. In addition there from 30 to 50 pipe pine trees to the acre, measuring up to 12 inches in diameter. In addition to the direct cost of removing the brush and trees, the cost of trenching and grading was materially increased. It was necessary to stump, construct and maintain many miles of temporary roads, as trucking could not be done except along prepared routes.
"As it was necessary to house and feed all employees, the clearing placed an additional burden on the hosuing department. Fourteen hundred acres were cleared, and it is estimated that the cost of construction was increased by the undergrowth, by at least $500,000, this figure not including the actual cost of the clearing. The main line of the property crosses the southern part of the property.
"From June 25 until the latter part of July, the only work that could done was clearing the site for a temporary camp near the railroad tracks, clearing the site for the permanent buildings, and ordering materials and equipment. During this period engineering forces were making surveys of the area, in order to secure the necessary information to determine the location of the buildings and pipe lines before the arrival of material. The surveys developed that the land at the east end, of the camp was too low for building purposes, and it was necessary to move the site of the camp 2,000 feet to the west.
To Be Continued

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