Camp Reynolds - World War II Army Cam
 
HISTORY OUTLINE
Introduction
Construction
Commanders
Camp Highlights
General Reynolds
Prisoners of War
Race Riot
Conversion
Industrial Parks
Reynolds School

History Written
by Earl Miller


The History has been revised and updated
with additional information/corrections
on April 28, 2013
by Art Williams

 

Camp Reynolds History
Camp Reynolds
Introduction

The history of Camp Reynolds has to be one of the more intriguing tales to come out of the Second World War for Pennsylvania, Mercer County, in general and for the Reynolds area residents in particular.

In 1942, nearly 2,500 acres of rich Pymatuning Township farmland, located in Mercer County was transformed almost overnight into the largest camp of its kind in Pennsylvania and perhaps the United States.

In about six short months, there sprang from the Pymatuning potato fields a vast military installation which would become the parade ground for over a million servicemen.

The War Department's decision to pick the site location three miles south of Greenville, PA was based on a variety of reasons. The main factors were the winters were relatively mild, there were good railroad facilities and it was close to East Coast embarkation points.

Others factors included that land could be acquired cheaply, surrounding acreage was sufficient to expand the camp, the water supply was adequate, and the terrain was suitable for use of obstacle and training courses and a rifle range.

Camp Reynolds

Construction

The original Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot, commonly referred to as Shenango or Camp Shenango, which later would be renamed Camp Reynolds, was unlike any other military depot at that time, not only in formation but also in construction.

Its impressive array of service clubs, gymnasiums, chapels, libraries, theaters, hospital, post exchanges, guest facilities, etc. rivaled those of any post in the country. Its purpose was to receive, process, and forward both officers and enlisted men to the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations. Individual stay depended on the branch of operations and the demand for replacements. The majority of troops were  Europe-bound and went directly to East Coast ports of embarkation and left for overseas destinations.

But all that is getting ahead of the story. Toward the end of the third week in June of 1942 articles appearing in the area newspapers hinted of plans for the establishment of "a large project" south of Greenville, the nature of which was regarded as a military secret. Actually the media had a fairly good idea of what was going on but had been operating under voluntary censorship since the Pearl Harbor attack six months earlier.

On June 24, 1942 the War Department announced in Washington D.C. the authorization and awarding of contracts totaling more than $3,000,000 for a military installation, which was to be a personnel replacement depot near Shenango, a small village south of Greenville.

Acquisition of Pymatuning farmlands began almost immediately. A total of 26 farms were taken over initially. Good cooperation was shown by most of the landowners who considered the price offered by the government, averaging $70 per acre, to be fair. The first parcel of 57 acres was purchased from George S. Diefenderfer and his two sisters, Laura M. and Stella A. Diefenderfer for $40,500 and included space for warehouses. Shortly thereafter an additional 114 acres were acquired at a cost of $10,252. By the time the procurement of land ended in November of 1942 the total land cost for approximately 2,500 acres was $182,000.

The specifications for the Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot called for a three-part camp and consisting of a service area (theaters, gyms, etc.), a hospital and headquarters area, and a battalion area consisting of barracks and other facilities to house 30,000 troops.  

Gannett, Eastman, Fleming of Harrisburg, PA and Mellon-Stuart Construction Co. of Pittsburgh, PA received the contracts to design and build the encampment. No sooner had the first section been completed, than the War Department decided to expand the battalion area to accommodate another 30,000 men. After this was completed the camp was expanded once again to include a total of 90,000. 

Civil Service examiners began taking applications for a "considerable number" of people to be hired almost immediately. William Hawks, a personnel director of a local industry, the Greenville Steel Car, located in Greenville,PA was hired to organize the labor force. 

Ground was broken July 8, 1942 for the first supply building near the overhead highway bridge on Route 18. With the weatherman's cooperation the project soon began to mushroom as the 4,200 men initially employed by the main contractors and 24 subcontractors  began working 10-hour days and six-day weeks.

Thousands of engineers and construction workers and their families flocked to the Greenville area, boosting the town's population from 8,149 in 1940 to 13,015 in 1943, an increase of 60 per cent. It had always been reported that the number may have been closer to 16,500, the figure the Mellon-Stuart firm mentioned in a wartime letter. Trailer camps were established to handle the sudden influx of workers and other housing facilities were pressed to the limit.

In all, some 1,000 structures were erected about the time 1942 had run its course. In addition to barracks facilities for both officers and enlisted men the camp included theaters and gymnasiums, obstacle courses, chapels, fire stations, warehouses, dayrooms, post exchanges, libraries, a 100-bed hospital, mess halls, a train station, latrines, a rifle range, motor pool quarters, ball fields, an amphitheater, service clubs, guest housesrecreational halls, etc. that could support a temporary town of 90,000 persons at any given time.

Additionally, the base had its own sewage treatment plant and waste disposal facilities. There were 18 miles of sewer lines, hundreds of fire hydrants, 25 miles of paved roads, 22 miles of water lines, and over  10 miles of electric lines.

Two 250,000 gallon water tanks at the southern end of the encampment supplied water for the area for many years after the war ended. They were among the many facilities which were to have a lasting value to the area and to be in part responsible for the housing development which started in the 1950's. 

Originally it was estimated that the camp project would cost a few million dollars, but it was said that a total in excess of $20,000,000 was spent in the overall construction. The final cost never was announced officially.

One construction figure that was revealed was the $624,466 cost of the 10 dormitory units erected on the west side of Route 18. The dormitories provided housing for 180 family civilian workers. After the war, in February of 1946 the Mercer County Housing Authority re-opened the dormitories as Reynolds Village, for returning war veterans. Later the dormitories were converted into what is known as Fay Terrace, a county-owned housing project named after Frank Fay, the chairman of the Mercer County Housing Authority.

Camp Reynolds

Eight Commanders

Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot - Camp Reynolds had eight commanders.

On November 4, 1942 Colonel George H. Cherrington, who was living in Pittsburgh, PA at the time was appointed the first commander at the camp. Upon his arrival he was followed by the first components of the headquarters company from New Cumberland, PA. Before becoming commander he held the position of Provost Marshall of Western PA.  Colonel Cherrington was no stranger to the camp as he had attended and spoken at the first (unofficial) flag raising on September 6, 1942. From the time of the flag raising he kept in close contact with the engineers during the camps construction and visited the camp on several occasions before becoming commander.

Colonel Zim E. Lawhon, the second commander, took command on Saturday May 22, 1943. He had been a field artillery officer who was part of the general staff of the War Department in Washington, D.C. before becoming commander. It was during his command that the name of the camp was changed from Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot to Camp Reynolds in honor of Major General John F. Reynolds, a hero of the Civil War, felled by a Confederate sharpshooter on the opening day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Colonel Lawhon died of a respiratory illness at the camp's hospital on November 8th of that same year. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery outside the nation's capital on November 12, 1943.

After Lawhon's death, Colonel George M. Couper, the camp’s commanding officer of the Training Section, took command on November 8, 1943 until December 15, 1943 when Brigadier General Jesse A. Ladd was designated commander. Ladd served in that capacity until the camp was deactivated as a personnel replacement depot and moved to the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in PA on December 11, 1944. After his departure Camp Reynolds assumed a ghost town appearance, reducing the elements of the camp to the hospital and the housing of POWs.

Lieutenant Colonel George Blaney, the next commander assumed command on December 11, 1944. Blaney was formerly the camp's assistant executive officer. It was under his command that the post became the army's first full-time canvas and webbing repair facility. At that time it had a complement of about 300 to man the hospital and to guard the more than 1,000 German prisoners of war.

Lt. Colonel Blaney was followed by Colonel Medorem Crawford, Jr. who became commander on September. 17, 1945. It was during his command that the last of the POWs were repatriated in mid-January of 1946. He served as commander until January 16, 1946 when Major Roy E. Hultz, the camp's executive officer and commander of the POW camp, was named commander. Major Hultz served only two weeks until Major Roy H. Winters, the last commanding officer, was appointed on January 29, 1946.  It was under his command that the last flag lowering took place at the camp at 5:00 PM on February 26, 1946. He served until the camp's official closing on February 28, 1946 when the camp was abandoned as an army post and was placed under the control of the district engineers at Baltimore, MD.

Camp Reynolds

Camp Highlights

During its heyday Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot - Camp Reynolds had its own post office and published its own weekly newspaper, the Victory News which was printed at the Record-Argus in Greenville, PA. The Victory News appeared between April 15, 1943 and November 30, 1944.

Stage, screen, and radio headliners, together with sports notables and persons prominent in other fields of public endeavor, entertained the troops at the camp. Among the outstanding guests were band leaders Satchmo Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Blue Barron, Bob Strong, and Wayne King, singer-actress Judy Garland, the Mills Brothers, Virginia Weidler, Bonnie Baker, June Priesser, contralto Alice Stewart, boxers Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Two-Ton Tony Galento and Fritzie Zivic, and Pennsylvania Governor Edward Martin.

Others in the constant parade of entertainers were Major Bowes and his Amateur Hour, the Truth or Consequences radio show, the Camel Caravan, billiard experts Irving Crane and Charles Peterson, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians, the Harmonica Rascals, Stu Erwin and the cast of "Goodnight Ladies", Art Rooney, Andy Kerr, Olsen and Johnson's "Helzapoppin", a number of touring USO shows and amateur theatrical groups from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Sharon.

Much of the entertainment was provided by the servicemen themselves. They organized track and field, boxing and baseball teams, stage productions, a drum and bugle corps, several dance bands and bowling, handball and basketball leagues. One post cage tournament attracted no less than 23 GI teams. Local colleges, Allegheny, Westminster, Geneva, and Bethany made exhibition basketball appearances.
With upwards of 75,000 men stationed in an unfamiliar area something had to be done to occupy the troops during off-duty hours away from the camp. Attractive bus and rail fares enabled many soldiers to travel to the nearby cities of Sharon, New Castle, Farrell, Youngstown, and others to seek rest and relaxation before their departure overseas.
The United Service Organization and the War Department constructed a recreation center in Greenville's Riverside Park at a cost of $86,000. During its 18 months of operation the center hosted 812,530 servicemen. Another USO center was operated at the Buhl Club in Sharon, PA which during its two years hosted 475,000 soldiers. Besides the USOs there were many churches, clubs, and families that provided for the soldiers needs.
After the camp's final deactivation the Trimble Company of Pittsburgh was awarded the general contract for razing the hundreds of barracks. The city of Erie, PA acquired 200, Cleveland, OH more than 100, Jamestown, NY 50, Johnstown, PA 50, Connellsville, PA 30, Clairton, PA 30, among others. The city of Pittsburgh, PA and several area colleges, among them Thiel, Allegheny, and Westminster, bought many additional barracks, as did many individuals seeking to convert them to homes, garages, hunting camps, and other uses.

Camp Reynolds

Major General John F. Reynolds

The community, now known as Reynolds, had not one but three names during its wartime history.

In 1942 Camp Reynolds came into being as the Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot and was originally named for the nearby village of Shenango. On railroad timetables it bore the Victory, PA designation.

On September 21, 1943 the War Department decreed that the military depot should bear the name of Camp Reynolds in honor of one of the Keystone State's military heroes of the War between the States.

The new designation paid tribute to the memory of Major General John Fulton Reynolds, one of the 51 Union generals who died in battle during the Civil War. He was killed by a 16 year old Confederate sharp­shooter on July 1, 1863, the first day of the bloody action at Gettysburg.

John F. Reynolds was one of the most universally admired officers of the Army of the Potomac. A compassionate man, he was said to be genuinely concerned for the well­being of the soldiers under his command.

By general consensus he was also the army's best horseman. Noted for his equestrian skills, he reportedly could pick up a dime from the ground while his mount was at full gallop.

A handsome man, General Reynolds stood six feet tall and was narrow-waisted. He had black hair and a full beard and was deeply tanned as a result of his many months in the outdoors.

John F. Reynolds was born September 20, 1820, at Lancaster, PA. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY when he was only 21 years of age. Twenty years later, when the Civil War erupted, he was West Point's commandant.

Early in his military career General Reynolds served in the Mexican War and in the Rogue River Indian and Utah expeditions. Starting in 1861 he commanded a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves which was merged with the First Corps, Army of the Potomac. Later he went with Gen. J. M. McDowell to the Department of the Rappahannock but eventually returned to the Army of the Potomac to head a brigade in the Fifth Corps for the move to the James River scene of action. After having been taken a prisoner of war at Glendale, VA, he was freed in an exchange for Confederate troops. Following his return to action he joined the Third Corps, Army of Virginia, in which Reynolds commanded a division. Again with the Army of the Potomac, he was given a First Corps command on Sept. 29, 1862. Still later he was promoted to major-general of Volunteers.

General Reynolds was directing two regiments and commanding the left wing of the army of Gen. George C. Meade, the Union commander at Gettysburg, when he died. About 10 o'clock in the morning General Reynolds and a group of aides rode ahead of their troops to scout an area bordering the eastern edge of McPherson's woods, about a mile west of Gettysburg.

Astride his horse on an elevated piece of ground, Reynolds surveyed the area with his field glasses, issued orders to couriers and started them off in various directions.

Reynolds seemed not to care that he was exposed and in the presence of the enemy. As he turned to see how close his troops were behind him a sharpshooter fired from a vantage point in a cherry tree in the woods and killed the general outright.

The sharpshooter actually fired two shots from a distance of about 800 yards. The first shot fell short and the second Minie ball, named for the Frenchman who had invented this type of ammunition, struck the general in the back of the neck, passed through his head, and emerged near his eye. As General Reynolds slumped dead without uttering a word his frightened horse bolted and dragged the fallen officer, his one foot still entangled in a stirrup, for a short distance before aides could corral the bolting steed, and remove the general's body.

A detachment from the 76th New York Regiment wrapped the body in an army blanket and took it to the nearby home of a man named George George. From there the general was removed by ambulance to Baltimore and eventually to Lancaster for burial.

The sharpshooter who killed General Reynolds was a young soldier by the name of Benjamin Thorpe. He was from the area of Satterwhite, NC and was considered to be one of the best marksmen in General Robert E. Lee's army.

Thorpe was serving in the 26th North Carolina Infantry under the command of Confederate General James T. Archer when it engaged the "Iron Brigade" directed by Reynolds. A considerable time elapsed before Thorpe was to learn who the victim of his deadly long-barreled rifle had been. Instead of exulting, Thorpe was deeply remorseful that he had killed the idol of the Northern army, a man much admired even by his wartime foes.

After the war Thorpe wrote to members of the Reynolds family to explain the circumstances and to express his regret and sorrow. Not many young soldiers would have done that.

The Reynolds family, in the same good spirit, replied by saying the general's death was "a fortune of war". The letter stated that the general's family harbored no animosity.

Forty years later a group of Union survivors of the Gettysburg conflict went to visit Thorpe, who had never married, and who at that time was operating a plantation in Carolina's Piedmont region. Although Thorpe rarely discussed the 1863 incident he did tell visitors that "I was genuinely sorry then, and I have been sorry ever since." He told the visiting veterans that if he were still living the next Memorial Day he would send a floral tribute to be placed on the Reynolds grave.

At the time General Reynolds died General Meade called him "the noblest and the bravest" and said that his loss would be keenly felt by the Union forces.

Harry Huth, one of the Confederate officers opposing Reynolds at Gettysburg, said "the country might well mourn and in doing so honor herself."

Similar views were expressed by other Confederate officers at Gettysburg who had served with or under Reynolds in the old army days or when he was West Point commandant.

Union General H. J. Hunt said of Reynolds: "He had opened brilliantly a battle which would require three days of hard fighting to close with victory. To him may be applied in a wider sense than in its original one, Napier's happy eulogium on Ridge: “'None died on that field with more glory than he, yet many died and there was much glory.' ".

Reynolds fell "with soul unquaking" - from Gettysburg, a Battle Ode, written for the Society of the Army of the Potomac and read at its reunion with Confederate survivors on the battlefield at Gettysburg on July 3, 1888, the 25th anniversary of the battle.

A bronze statue now marks the spot where General Reynolds died at Gettysburg. The state of Pennsylvania erected a granite shaft there as well as a bronze equestrian statue at Philadelphia. After the war many of the men who had served under him commissioned an oil portrait of the general which hangs in the library at West Point.

This, then, is the story of Pennsylvania's most celebrated hero-victim of the Civil War. The name this Mercer County community now bears is inseparably linked with the history of this country at a turning point in its course.

Camp Reynolds

Prisoners of War

During the war there were 150 Prisoner of War Camps and 350 branch camps in the United States holding upwards to 350,000 German prisoners of war and 50,000 plus Italian prisoners of war.

In April 1944 Camp Reynolds was designated as a Prisoner of War Camp with four branch camps which were located in North East (Lakeside Hotel), Erie County, PA,  Kane, McKeon County, PA,  Marienville, Forest County, PA, and Sheffield, Warren County, PA. The original group of 300 prisoners arrived at Camp Reynolds in the first part of April 1944.

The War Department kept wraps on information about Camp Reynolds' prisoner of war camp until late in the war as it was located in a restricted classification because it was a personnel replacement depot where soldiers were moved to ports of embarkation.

Italian prisoners were said to be the first to arrive at the camp but the vast majority of the POWS were German. The early German prisoners were believed to be from General Rommel's Africa Corps. These soldiers had fought in Africa, Sicily, Italy and France.  The German POWS were mostly from German army branches corresponding to our U.S. Army Ground Forces or Service Forces. There were a few Luftwaffe among them, but no sailors or marines. As the war started to wind down the German prisoners were young boys and old men whom Hitler had thrown into the battle.

The Army's Center of Military History's total number of war prisoners based at Reynolds at the end of the conflict was 1,868, including 1,839 enlisted men and 29 non-commissioned officers. The report did not separate German from Italian prisoners at the base level.

Of the 1800 plus prisoners of war around 800 were at Camp Reynolds with the remaining POWS being located at Reynolds' four branch camps.

The prisoners of war living at Camp Reynolds were placed in a rectangle of barracks in the northeastern  area of the reservation.  A high barbwire fence surrounded it and there were towers at the four corners occupied by armed enlisted men.

Under terms of the Geneva Convention all of the prisoners with the exception of officers could be made to work as the U.S. Army saw fit.

The POWS worked in and also outside the camp as well. They were divided into "on-post" and "off-post" prisoners.

Those in the "on-post" group worked at the canvas and webbing repair shop in two eight hour shifts, repairing various canvas items and clothing or equipment. They also worked in the camp vegetable gardens, motor pool, warehouses, the hospital and maintained the camp grounds and buildings. Some also helped on local farms.

The "off-post" prisoners were assigned to seven "off-post" projects in foundries and other industrial plants in the Shenango Valley, Meadville, New Castle, Youngstown and Warren, OH (nearby cities in PA and OH). The 275 "off-post" prisoners were transported daily to and from the camp in buses to the facilities.  There was no record of any German soldiers assigned to Greenville shops or plants.

The POWS that were at the branch camps mostly worked in logging camps although some did work in local industrial plants in those areas.

John Gessner, a captain at the time, who worked with Germans POWs on frequent occasions, recalled that for the most part the Germans were a docile lot. There was one occasion in November of 1945 when it became necessary to place 280 of the POWs on a bread-and-water diet after they staged a sit-down strike because their Nazi spokesman had been shipped out of camp. The strike was short-lived as they elected another spokesman.

A few of the prisoners did attempt to escape from Camp Reynolds but in all instances except one the escapees were caught and returned to camp. One prisoner who got away never was captured.

Many of the escapees were captured nearby. Those that did manage to get out of the area were mostly captured in larger cities, like Pittsburgh, PA, with the language barrier being a factor in their capture.

Perhaps the most notorious of the Camp Reynolds' escapees was a young man named Heinz Golze worked . He attempted three escapes. Previously, he had escaped from Camp Pickett, VA, early in 1944 but was found two days later, hiding in the nearby woods.

His first escape attempt from Camp Reynolds  was July 1944 when he was employed by the Sunshine Packing Company in North East, a branch POW camp of Camp Reynolds. At that time, he was seized by the FBI as he tried to board a train in Oil City, PA.

On the occasion of his second attempt on May 2, 1945, Golze, who was interned at Camp Reynolds and had been recently working in the Johnson Bronze Foundry at New Castle, PA under a war prisoner labor contract, had to be rescued by police from the top of a suburban Pittsburgh, PA dwelling where he had been chased by a dog.

His third attempt came in June of 1945 from Camp Reynolds when in the middle of the night he crawled through a hole he dug under the fence.

In October of 1945 a total of 450 German war prisoners were brought to Camp Reynolds after the branch POW camp at North East had been closed. Around the same time others held at Kane, Marienville and Sheffield arrived at Reynolds to await repatriation.

Some 500 were moved out on the 25th day of November 1945, with several hundred more awaiting their turn to depart for their homeland.

Not long before the last of the prisoners departed several hundred of their number were ushered into a post theater and shown motion picture footage they probably never forgot during the balance of their lives.

This first area showing of the U.S. Signal Corps films depicting the Nazi atrocities at Adolph Hitler's death camps visibly disturbed the POWs.

Unfortunately, many insisted that the horror scenes taken at Dacha and elsewhere were fakes turned out by U.S. propagandists. The German people were incapable of such atrocities, they said.

The prisoner of war camp, which had been established in April 1944, was discontinued Jan, 15, 1946.

Camp Reynolds

Race Riot

The manner in which many black soldiers were treated during the early days and months of the Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot (SPRD) operation was something of a blot the War Department has never been proud of and has always been reluctant to talk about.

When the Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot was conceived during the early phase of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's military units were strictly segregated. At the local depot there were separate barracks, post exchanges, theaters and other facilities for white and black troops. Southern officers and GIs especially did not mix well with the Negroes and consequently the treatment of the blacks probably was what was considered to be about normal for that period in history. There was no civil rights movement at the time, nor were there marches or demonstrations to advance the cause of the minorities.

Some excesses in the treatment of blacks during the early days of the camp were evident, however. For example, the late Joseph G. Magargee of Greenville, a civilian employee at the camp who later became a Reynolds High School teacher and something of an authority on camp history, recalled that in the early days of the camp that the area for black soldiers, although not surrounded by barb-wire, was constantly patrolled by soldiers.  They were not allowed to leave their area and could not keep their rifles in their barracks or have them unless a white officer was overseeing them.

Before he died a few years back Magargee also mentioned that in the camp's early days there was but a single theater for Negroes although they were permitted to occupy the back row seats in a theater for whites. The only other entertainment originally afforded the black troops consisted of card games, pick-up baseball and other diversions of their own making.

It came as no great surprise, then, that the ill feelings harbored by some blacks and whites alike eventually flared into an ugly race riot that ended up with a deadly exchange of gunfire lasting several hours.

Area newspapers and radio stations (there was no television in those days) did their level best to get a line on what transpired that day, July 11, 1943. An article in the camps' newspaper the Victory News the following Thursday July 15, 1943, entitled "Six Shenango Soldiers Commended for Meritorious Conduct On Post" refers to the incident as "a disorder" and makes no mention that the incident was between black and white soldiers. The camp's public relations officials would say only that one black soldier had been killed and six others wounded in a racial flare-up. This was later described as a "spoon-fed" accounting of the rioting.

The Department of the Army's Center of Military History, in response to communication from this writer and then Congressman Tom Ridge, supplied one version of the flare-up by providing a single page copied from Ulysses Lee's publication titled “The Employment of Negro Troops”.

Lee wrote that not all of the violence and disorder in which Negro troops became involved resulted from racial friction or mass grievances. Much of it was purely indigenous in nature, sometimes growing out of cultural traits and patterns of behavior brought into the Army from Civilian life.

In the Shenango Personnel Replacement Depot instance an altercation between Negro and white soldiers in the post exchange area expanded until it involved a large number of troops in the exchange area. This first instance, brought under control by white and Negro military police using tear gas, was followed by another when two new prisoners, picked up for a pass violation, spread news of the earlier fracas to men in the guardhouse. Negro prisoners broke out of the guardhouse and joined by other soldiers, seized firearms and munitions from supply rooms.

Military police, again white and Negro, killed one and wounded five other soldiers in quelling the second disturbance.

John W. Kerpan, who later became a funeral director in Greenville, PA, was a 2nd Lieutenant and second in command of the camp's military police forces at the time of the rioting. He recalls that after several white soldiers went into the 10th Street post exchange for blacks a number of the Negroes retaliated by attempting to enter the white PX on Seventh Street. The blacks met with stiff resistance. Tempers flared and the resulting melee soon got out of hand.

Kerpan's recollection is that at least two Negro soldiers were killed and several others probably were wounded in the resulting gunfire which lasted from about 5 o'clock in the afternoon until long after dark. Some of the black troops disappeared under the cover of darkness but were later picked up in various communities throughout Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. The rioters were immediately sent to overseas destinations.

William F. Kerfoot, Sr., of the Vernon, OH area, was a military police sergeant who said that he had a "front row seat" during the gun­fire display in which not a single military policeman was wounded.

After the rioting, Kerfoot said, he was working in the provost marshal’s office and heard that 30 to 35 black soldiers were killed that day and many more were wounded.

Studs Terkel, the Chicago author who won a general non-fiction Pulitzer prize for his “The Good War”, an Oral History of World War II, presented still another version of the rioting after interviewing Dempsey Travis, now a Chicago realtor.

Travis was 21 and black and an Army private when he arrived at SPRD aboard a "Jim Crow train." He told Terkel that on the day of the flare-up he and a friend he knew only as "Kansas" had just emerged from a theater to find a group of blacks engaged in what he described as a "big discussion." He claimed that six bus loads of white soldiers arrived at the scene and began shooting at the blacks. "Kansas", his fiend was shot and later pronounced dead at the camp hospital. Travis said he fell with three gun­shot wounds in the hip and legs which resulted in several months of hospitalization.

While in the base hospital, Travis claimed he "saw 14 or 15 wounded blacks within a radius of 40 feet." He recalled a Red Cross worker saying that "I don't know how may died and how many were wounded." He maintained that the hostilities lasted more than one day.

The public may never know for certain how many Negro soldiers were killed or wounded that day in July.

Camp Reynolds

The Conversion

How Camp Reynolds was converted to its present stature as an industrial-residential community is a story that has never been fully made public.

When the war ended and plans were under way for abandonment of the camp a wide variety of ideas for its post-war use sprang up. Many concerned people wanted to see the land developed rather than watch it revert back to potato farms. These individuals had the foresight to realize the possibilities of Camp Reynolds developing into a residential area and possibly an industrial complex.

The idea of developing an air express terminal was advanced by more than half a dozen Mercer County communities. The site was approved by the Pennsylvania Aeronautics Commission, but that was as far as it got and the project never got off the ground.

Community leaders from Greenville and Sharon, together with other interests from throughout the county, then came up with another idea and attempted to conclude arrangements for the building of a 1,800-bed veteran’s hospital. Test borings were made but this effort also came to naught when word came from President Harry S. Truman that the Reynolds site was "unsuitable." The White House directed the Veterans Administration to proceed with plans for development of the veterans’ hospital at Deshon, near Butler, PA.

By this time the War Assets Administration controlled the area for disposition. In 1946 Silas Moss was elected president of the Greenville Business Men's Association (GBMA) and work began in earnest to acquire Camp Reynolds, or at least a portion of it, to be developed industrially for the benefit not only of Greenville but for the entire area. With behind-the-scenes help from Congressman Carroll D. Kearns, many months of work ensued until finally, in the summer of 1947, fifty-seven acres of the camp, including the warehouse area  with buildings totaling 251,164 square feet of floor space and some two miles of railroad sidings, were purchased by the GBMA.

The original price the government was asking for the 57 acres was $200,000 but the trustees managed to have the figure reduced to $40,500. Assured that they would be able to acquire the property, the association proceeded with plans for the future.

The businessmen sold the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, located in Sharon, on the idea of leasing three of the warehouses on a three-year lease-purchase agreement. They also entered into an agreement whereby Westinghouse would pay the first year's rent in advance and, as a result, the association could be certain of eventually having an additional $30,643 added to the $2,500 in GBMA post-war funds. Without Westinghouse, the association never would have been able to do what was done.

One troublesome problem remained. The association could not charge Westinghouse rent for property it did not own. In order to expedite the collection of the rent from Westinghouse Electric Corporation, three members of the association, Luther Kuder, Norman Mortensen, and Jess Dart, supplied $38,000 from their own resources. Their resources along with the GBMA post-war fund of $2,500 provided the $40,500 needed to purchase the land from the  War Assets Administration and after a lapse of five months the deed for the property arrived on Oct. 27, 1947. The loans were repaid without interest.

After having rented the balance of the warehouse area to three other firms on three-year lease-purchase arrangements, the trustees turned their attention to additional lands. Another problem was encountered here. William Templeton, who owned 258 acres of land in the center of the area, induced many of the former landowners to exercise their priority to re-purchase their land. Then he attempted to buy their land from them.

After months of negotiations the trustees were able to purchase all of the land in the area with the exception of that owned by Mr. Templeton. Negotiations with an engineering firm for development of the site already had begun and the land belonging to the association completely surrounded Mr. Templeton's 258 acres with the exception of his property's east boundary. After several more conferences Mr. Templeton offered to sell his property. His offer was accepted and the purchase was made.

After purchasing the area the association trustees were constantly watching the sale of all the important buildings throughout the camp area and finally acquired five additional structures with floor space of over 300,000 square feet, over two miles of railroad sidings, about eight miles of paved roads, 639,000 square yards of walks, parking areas and water-bound roads. The purchase price for the land and buildings was $76,629. By the end of 1950 the association had received about $170,000 from rentals and lease-purchase agreements.

Operating expenses had to be met (repairs to rail sidings, taxes, insurance, road repairs, maintenance, etc.) but there was enough surpluses to allow the trustees to make loans to worthy under-capitalized new firms that were attracted to the area. In 1949 there were 10 new industries at Reynolds. During 1950 a total of 61 one-family homes were built and sold within the limits of the area. All the homes were pre­fabricated in the industrial area, Crestwood Homes was one of the businesses that produced the prefabricated houses.

By that time the Reynolds community was well on its way. The follow­ing year the size of the project and the volume of transactions made it impossible for committee members to handle the project on their own. At that time they hired Robert B. Parker, Jr., a graduate engineer who had previously represented an engineering consulting firm not only in the building of Camp Reynolds but as a professional consultant to the committee.

In addition to serving as managing engineer for the GBMA, Parker became general manager of the water company, the sewage disposal company and the Pymatuning Independent Telephone Company.

Prior to Parker's arrival operation of the development corporation was under the control of a board of trustees appointed by officers and directors of the Greenville Business Men's Association. These trustees spent considerable amounts of their own money for travel, meals, telephone bills, entertainment of prospects, etc. and were never compensated for their efforts.

Books of the Reynolds Development were kept for eight years by the First National Bank of Greenville, also without compensation. their efforts. The books were kept for eight years by the First National Bank of Greenville, also without compensation.

Camp Reynolds

Industrial Parks

The shining jewels in the Reynolds crown today are its three industrial parks, Reynolds Industrial Park, Reynolds North Industrial Park and Reynolds East Business Park totaling over 1,200 acres. They are the largest planned and managed industrial developments in the Tri-State area and are located in a metropolitan area of approximately 130,000 persons.

Dating back to 1949, they are also one of the oldest planned industrial parks in the Northeast. The parks are owned and operated by Greenville-Reynolds Development Corporation. The original park consisted of a 430-acre portion of the one-time army camp now occupied by numerous industrial, warehouse, and service-related operations. An additional 40-acre site called the Reynolds North Industrial Park was opened in the late 1980s to meet a demand for smaller, fully-developed business sites.

In the early 1990’s the corporation acquired and began the development of a new 750-acre tract located east of the Shenango River. This new development, now known as Reynolds East, is designed to provide high-quality business sites, with access to rail and all utilities, in a con­trolled environmental setting.

The United States Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration contributed $990,000 to help get the park project off the ground. The grant represented a crowning achievement to the highly productive career of Gene Smith as managing engineer for Greenville-Reynolds Development.

Robert B. Parker, Jr., was the development's first managing engineer. After the death of Parker in 1977 Gene Smith became managing engineer and was followed by Dick Dykes. The development's current Executive Director and Vice President is Brad Gosser.
There are over 50 industrial, warehouse, and service related operations located at Reynolds.

Reynolds industries has turned out a wide variety of products ranging from pre-fabricated homes to paper board tubes and cores used by a variety of industries to special mill work.

Over time still other Reynolds firms provided a wide variety of design and building services, warehouse distribution, auto repair and detailing, miscellaneous storage, aluminum smelting, structural steel and building erection, metal recovery, paving contracting, auction services, telecommunication products and services, general construction, tin mill processing, retail building products, distribution of vinyl and aluminum siding, warehousing, general contracting, and warehouse operations.

Also operating under the Greenville-Reynolds Development umbrella are the Reynolds Water Company and the Reynolds Disposal Company.

Camp Reynolds

Reynolds Schools

Only one elementary school building was located on the land selected by the government for what eventually was to become Camp Reynolds.

It was known as the Rocky View School  and was said to be a perfect example of the "little red schoolhouse" type. All but two of the families sending children to Rocky View resided within the confines of the camp area. 

In the late 1950’s Reynolds High School  was constructed and graduated its first class in 1961.

The school was named after Major General John Reynolds which the camp had been named after in September 1943.

The Reynolds school system area embraces 98 square miles. In addition to the junior-senior high building the system includes one elementary building located beside the high school.

Camp Reynolds

 

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