Stolen Moments from the Ernst Farm: Letters to a Texan in the CCC

William V. Scott, Texas Tech University

Editor’s Note: We are highlighting scholarship that will be featured at our triennial conference May 14-19, 2024.

In the Summer of 1934, a young man by the name of Eddie L. Bell enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal employment endeavor for young men. In May 1934, Bell was sent to his first assignment, when he was transferred to New Mexico. The young Bell was twenty-four years of age and was kept in touch with the life in South Texas, one that constantly communicated with Bell was his sweetheart, Nellie E. Ernst. Ernst wrote Bell weekly and sometimes more often. Ernst’s letters are a wealth of information pertaining to a productive woman-ran South Texas family farm in rural Bexar County. In her attempt to keep her love in touch with the daily occurrences of farm life and community in the Roosevelt era. Ernst letters include numbers and vivid descriptions of the farm’s livestock production which including both cattle and hogs, a dairy operation, and a variety of poultry which are followed from brooding to the table, and often market. The Ernst Farm’s vegetable production would also follow a similar comparison, which details from field through the processes of preserving and canning. The 406-acre Ernst Farm on the outskirts of San Antonio, was almost completely operated by strong-willed rural women, as a mother, three sisters and a granddaughter make a productive farm through the Depression and World War II.

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