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Story of How Camp Cody was Constructed Despite Difficulties is Related

El Paso Herald Newspaper - Saturday, October 20, 1917

C. A. Tilton, Auditor of Contractor, and Major C. H. Miller, Engineer in Charge, Tell Southwestern Society of Engineers How They Solved Problems.

The story of how Camp Cody, the great army training camp at Deming, New Mexico, was constructed in record time despite innumerable difficulties was related in a vivid and interesting manner by C. A. Tilton, auditor of the contractor, and Major C. H. Miller, Engineer in Charge of construction, Friday at the afternoon session of the convention of Southwestern Society of Engineers. Friday night the engineers banqueted at the El Paso del Norte. The convention will be brought to a close Saturday and Sunday the visitors will start on their homeward trek.

Another Cripple Creek

Red Dog and Cripple Creek in their palmy days had nothing on the boom at Deming that has existed since the first steps toward the construction of Camp Cody were taken in the latter part of July, according to Mr Tilton and Major Miller.

Major Miller stated that he arrived in Deming from Little Rock, Arkansas, his home city and found only one assistant on the ground. The man was not an engineer but a very efficient business man and aided materially in laying out preliminary plans. The contractor, Owen Hughes, of Dallas, had not arrived and he was immediately wired for and instructed to be on the camp site July 26.

Survey of Site Made

In the meantime, Black and Veatch civil engineers, of Kansas city, had made a survey of the proposed site. Major Miller stated that scarcely any one knew that a camp was to be constructed until his arrival, particularly the railroad officials. This meant, he pointed out that no preparation whatever had been made for material or labor to construct the camp. One or two Deming merchants had taken a chance on the city receiving the cantonment, and A. H. Bush had one million feet of lumber under way which he had intended to dispose of to private individuals. It was this lumber that saved the day, the Major declared, as the material ordered from Washington about July 17, when the contract was signed, did not reach the camp until the work was well under way.

“Deming people have done all they could for us, and it is to their assistance, combined with that of El Pasoans, that we are indebted for the speed we made in constructing the camp,” he said.

Camp to Be Ready August 1

Advices received from Washington stated that the camp must be ready to receive troops August 1, and it was not until the night of July 1 that the first carload of lumber arrived. Material ordered could not possible have reached Deming before the arrival of the first contingent of troops.

With only tentative plans at hand, a force of workmen were immediately organized and on August 5 Washington was advised that the camp would be ready for the first advance companies from six regiment by the eleventh. On August 15, 33 buildings had been erected. It was not until August 18, however, that the first definite advice as to requirements for the camp were received.

Shortage of Labor

In relating the trouble the contractor experienced in getting together his first force of men, Major Miller explained that 55 carpenters and 70 laborers entirely exhausted the Deming supply, and three small trucks and 30 teams were all that could be obtained in the New Mexico town. Laborers and additional teams and trucks were imported from El Paso. On the fourth of August the force of men at work on the camp numbered 450 and three days later 900 were on the job and 53 buildings were under construction.

Did Own Typewriting.

It was impossible to find, beg or steal a typewriter in Deming the first few days he was there. Major Miller said. However he eventually borrowed a “mill” and for several days did his own stenographic work. Later typewriters and stenographers were imported from El Paso.

As letters were from four to five days on the road to Washington, most of the correspondence with army heads at the capital was handled by night telegraphic letters, some of which were an entire page in length.

16,000,000 Feet of Lumber

It was first estimated that only 4,000,000 feet of lumber would be used, but as the work progressed and the camp grew in size it was found that over 16,000,000 feet would be needed. In one day over 650,000 feet of lumber was unloaded out of railway cars.

Great was the “grief” experienced during the during the earlier days, when it was not know from one day to the other whether there would be enough material on hand at dawn with which to work. As an example of the many pretty worries with which they had to contend, Major Miller pointed out the fact that one set of fire hydrants were delivered at Deming with threads different from the threads on the fire hose. The hose cart came equipped with wrenches that did not fit the fire hydrant.

Preliminary plans for the post office were not what they should have been, Major Miller said. The Deming postmaster pointed out many faults and declared that work in such an office would be greatly hampered. So The contractor and the major wired to Washington for the correct plans, and while they were on the road constructed an office as they believed it should be constructed. It had been completed when the blue prints arrived.

Quarters for Employes Built.

With every building in Deming occupied on July 20 and many residences renting for sums as high as $150 a month, the contractor had to build quarters for his employes and homes for his department heads.

“But the camp is now practically completed, due to the assistance of the people of Deming and El Paso,” concluded Major Miller.

Mr. Tilton spoke as follows, “I was informed that I was to read a paper on Camp Cody, but realizing the enormity of this subject, by mutual consent I have divided this responsibility with Major Miller, one far more qualified than I, who has prepared himself to address you extemporaneously.

“I, therefore, will confine myself to remarks, which are, or rather should be applicable from the contractor's viewpoint, to the engineers”.

Contract Executed July 18

“The contact for the construction of Camp Cody was signed and executed on the eighteenth was to the effect that troops would arrive shortly after the first of August, Owen Hughes, the contractor, arriving in Deming on July 25 at the urgent call of the major and immediately realized the fact that he had something to do to carry out these same orders for the accommodation of those who had answered their country's call.

“Deming, from the standpoint of hurried action, is not a cheerful or hopeful subject to consider, being a creation set in the plains and removed from any-wheres.

“The original order for lumber was placed from Washington and the receipt of the same was a matter of conjecture. Fortunately the local lumber companies had realized the necessities of the camp and had fortified themselves by stocking up, this being especially true of the Deming Lumber company, with the result that the S. O. S. signal sent out by the major and Mr. Hughes was immediately answered and on the afternoon of the 26th operations were commenced.

Small Organization at First

“The office force consisted at that time of myself, so you can readily realize it was a small affair.” The organization consisted of Mr. Hughes and three former employes. Around his selection is superintendent, George Lotridge, he proceeded to build his permanent organization. “The first car of lumber was received on the first day of August and by the fifteenth day of the month the landscape at Camp Cody began to take on the appearance of a camp. At this time Mr. Lotridge was taken with appendicitis with the result that Mr. Hughes had to assume all responsibilities.

“The camp site was equipped with 500 feet of sidetrack and just when the bulk of the lumber began to arrive the railroad proceeded to obstruct the approaches to the same for the purpose of building the permanent track into the camp, with the result that all materials were delivered on the main. Seven hundred and twenty-four cars have been received to date and unloaded without any demurrage, the contents of the same aggregating in excess of 13,000,000 feet of lumber.

Shortage of Supplies

“The shortage of lumber and materials in general has been a constant source of anxiety, and it is only because Deming had a Bush and Texas the city of El Paso have we been able to accomplish results. The government camp at Columbus contributed sixteen cars of lumber, consisting of 364,372 feet, but Fort Bliss of this city, saved the day by the transference of 1,827,750 feet, requiring 84 cars, at a time when it was most urgent.

“Eighteen trucks in one day moved from the lumber yard to the base of operation, a haul of over a mile, with 24,000 feet of lumber, at a cost of less then 3 cent per thousand.

Much Pipe Used

“Lumber has not, however, been the only material used and I desire especially to speak on the work accomplished by J. M. Madden, our superintendent in charge of the water and plumbing equipment. Sixty-eight thousand feet of pipe was laid in 12 days, 4,500 of which was ten-inch pipe, and all connections made. Over 27 miles of pipe has been laid to date and to bring about the completion of this work our superintendent in charge inveigled the public works commissioner at Dallas to turn over much needed connections which will as per his promise be returned later. I believe that the major will bespeak his praise of Mr. Madden so I will not endeavor to enlarge upon his accomplishments, only to add that he is one good fellow who has more than made good.

“The electrical equipment under D. H. Murphy has been installed with such proficiency and speed that one who has had any dealings with such equipment can not but wonder how it could be accomplished. I hesitate to mention the total involved in express charges but suffice is to day he got his material. In order to get poles it was necessary to purchase and wreck several abandoned line of the Deming Power company, these lines being located from five to eighteen miles from camp site. Mr. Murphy employed in the pulling of the poles a portable jack with which he was enabled to wreck about 35 thirty-foot poles per day. The primary line is of 2,300 volts, three phase, and the construction being according to the A. T. & T. specifications. The 1,500 buildings of the camp were all wired in approximately 45 days in addition to the erecting of the overhead equipment.

2,945,500 Feet in Flooring.

“Returning to lumber for your information, I will say 2,945,000 feet will be consumed in the flooring and side walls for the tents of the encampment. Three thousand and three hundred floors, 16×16, have been made since the third day of this month and all but 100 were in place at 5 o'clock last evening.

“The matter of wages is something that I will but lightly touch upon for the major, I know, has the rates, but I will say that we met the El Paso scale and for Mr. Hughes I bespeak his sympathy for the local contractors. Our largest net payroll exceeded $97,000. The workmen were paid in currency and the result has been a satisfied organization.

“Our overhead expense, through the wisdom of Mr. Hughes, has been very light, being less that one-half of one per cent of the cost of construction but at the same time said overhead is the highest paid organization doing similar work in this country, Mr. Hughes having selected his force for their qualifications and eliminating numbers.

“In conclusion I get to state that while our troubles have been many our complaints are nil.”

Dean G. M. Butler of the University of Arizona session Friday. His subject was “Some Effects of the Draft Law on the Arizona Mining industry.”

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