Camp Reynolds was just a blip in time in the history of the United States, but it left a lasting ripple that still is felt today throughout the area.
The Army troop replacement depot was built in 1942 to prepare up to 90,000 men at a time for deployment in World War II. It covered 2,500 acres of converted farmland on Route 18 in Pymatuning Township, south of Greenville.
Brookfield Historical Society’s Elizabeth Boozer mixed her own knowledge with that of unofficial camp historian Art Williams for a presentation at the society’s April 11 meeting.
The site was chosen for the area’s mild winters, access to railroads, proximity to East Coast ports, cheap land (about $70 an acre), good water supply and suitable terrain for obstacle training and rifle ranges, Boozer said. The camp was named after Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, a Civil War hero killed at Gettysburg.
The initial construction contracts were awarded in June 1942; by the end of the year, more than 1,000 structures had been built.
“My grandfather worked for Paul Glenn Contracting in Sharon, and that was one of the subcontractors,” Boozer said.
Soldiers fanned out throughout the area seeking recreation while at the camp, sometimes jamming the streets in downtown Sharon.
“My aunt (Bonnie Massey) would go out to the dances” with soldiers, Nancy Martin said.
Massey also stood at the rail stations and “waved to the trains when the troops were going out or coming in, so that there would be people to welcome them,” Martin said.
Many of those young ladies learned a painful life lesson when casualty lists were published with the names of some of those young men on them, Martin said.
Later in the war, the camp also held prisoners of war. Some of those men never went home and made livelihoods on area farms and in the mills.
With the war over in 1945, the camp was decommissioned in February 1946.
“It was come and used and gone,” Boozer said.
A group of Greenville-area businessmen, seeing the infrastructure built for the camp as an opportunity, purchased chunks of the property to create what is now the Greenville Reynolds Development, an industrial and warehousing park that has provided jobs for thousands of area residents over the years.
Some of the barracks were repurposed as public housing – now known as Frank Fay Terrace – while other structures were dismantled.
“My dad (Paul Lees) and his brother (John Lees), when they disassembled the barracks there, some of the trusses and stuff they hauled back … to Brookfield,” said Trustee Gary Lees. His father used those trussses in building his home, Lees said.
New houses, businesses and a school also were built on former camp land, and the area is today known as Reynolds.
For more information on Camp Reynolds, go to www.campreynolds.com