Village One of Local World War Memories
Old Hickory News Ė Fifteenth Anniversary 1939
The Mexican village, whose inhabitants played such a part back in the powder plant days, was torn down just over ten years ago, but even today you can hear vivid stories of this settlement from persons who lived in Old Hickory at that time.
During the war the United States was forced to call on foreign labor to some extent for construction work, and when the Government started operations here, a good many of the darker skinned people from further south trekked to Middle Tennessee to obtain employment.
The Mexican village, where they settled, was located far behind the present plants and today all traces of it have vanished. Undoubtedly, there are people in Old Hickory today who do not know of the existence of such a community. The Nashville Industrial Corporation completed the salvage work on the little village about ten or twelve years ago selling most of the weather-beaten lumber.
By then the inhabitants had departed for their far-away homes or had gone on to other fields, for with the end of the war came an end to any need for their work here.
A paper published during the war for the thousands of people then living in Old Hickory ran the following article on the Mexican village:
The Mexican village is on of the interesting places about Old Hickory. The village at this time has a population of about fourteen hundred men, women and children.
This includes about fifty Indians. Six of these Indians were accompanied to Old Hickory by their wives. They came here from the Indian reservation at Navajo, new Mexico. Besides, there are a few Porto(sic) Rico blacks and Porto Ricans. There is a difference between the Porto Rico blacks and the so-called "regular "Porto Rican".
These Mexicans have been employed mostly by the Mason & Hanger Company, although quite a number of them are in the employ of the du Pont Company. Among these Mexicans are some who are well educated in Spanish, and they are ambitious to secure an English education. It is possible that arrangements may be made for the establishment of a night school for the benefit of these people, though at this time nothing of this kind is being planned.
The Mexican has been a big help to the United States Government in the great war. While thousands of Uncle Samís boys have been forced to go to war many Mexicans have been available on different construction jobs throughout the country, and a great deal of work on the various ammunition plants and other war work over the United States has been done by Mexicans.
Heretofore the Austrian and Greek has been depended on to a great extent for all kinds of construction work in the United States, but under existing circumstances the Austrian and Greek have not been available for several years. The Mexican is about the only foreign labor that this country has had to depend on while Uncle Samís boys have been needed in the army and navy.
As a general thing, the Mexican, if he is properly handled, develops into a good man, and he can be put to most any kind of work. Numerous examples are to be found among the Old Hickory Mexicans of their taking advantages of opportunities. Quite a number of these men have worked themselves up from the common laborer to positions paying sixty-five and seventy-five cents per hour.
White Chief Was Judge
Thomas L. Shortall, of Chicago, is the manager of the Mexican village. Mr. Shortall has been engaged in construction work for more than twenty years, much of the time being spent in the Southwest, among the Mexicans. He understands their customs as well as their language, and in addition to this he has the respect of all the residents of the village, who do not hesitate to submit to him for settlement all their troubles, arguments and disputes.
Such matters as shortages and other adjustments are handled for them by Mr. Shortall, who sits as the arbiter in all matters in which the Mexicans are interested. He has their complete confidences in all of their affairs.
At the present time there are thirty-five buildings in the Mexican village including the village club house.
Fun and Death
The club house is a place where residents of the village are privileged to gather each evening where they can pass the time socially. Their native games are indulged in and as long as those attending the clubhouse are orderly they are permitted to visit the clubhouse regularly.
The club house is also used for other public gatherings and occasionally a dance, which is attended by the majority of the residents of the village, is enjoyed. The music is furnished by Mexicans and the dances are greatly enjoyed.
The Mexican village was hard hit by the "flu" recently, and there were a large number of serious cases among the residents. On this account, a Spanish priest, Rev. Leon Monasterio of San Antonia, Texas, was sent for and he spent a month at this place, administering both to the spiritual and physical welfare of the afflicted people.
While the population of the village at this time is estimated by Manager Shortall at fourteen hundred, it has been gradually growing. New residents have been continually arriving while there has been a large number of births in the village since its establishment.
a blueprint of Old Hickory that hangs in one of DuPont-Old Hickory's
conference rooms. All of the symbols on this map represent a
click here for a closer look
SONS OF MARTHA
Note: Thanks to
Wilson Stewart for making this article available online!
The Mexican Village
At that time there were living on the reservation 1,400 Mexicans. Not all of them, however, were laborers. Many were women and children, as a considerable portion of the Mexican laborers brought their families with them.
The Mexican Village consisted of bunk houses for both the bachelors and married men with their families, bath houses, commissary. barber shop, club room. With the Mexicans were about fifty Nacajo Indians and a number of Porto Ricans.
The Mexican Village was operated under the supervision of the Mason & Hanger Company. Every effort was made to take the best possible care of these people, far from their homes, among surroundings utterly strange to them. There was appointed a superintendent for the village--a man who had previously lived and worked among Mexicans. A Mexican who spoke both Spanish and English was detailed to assist him. A commissary was built and operated especially for the Mexicans and the women of that nationality were encouraged to conduct boarding tables where the Mexican laborers could enjoy cooking of the kind which they knew and appreciated. Residents of the village were encouraged to gather at the club house in the evenings for native games, dancing and other social diversions.
During the epidemic of the Spanish influenza the Mexicans were hard hit. The death rate undoubtedly would have been very high but for the effective measures taken. A hospital was set up in the village with an adequate number of doctors and nurses constantly in attendance. Though many serious cases of influenza developed, comparatively few deaths occurred. A Spanish Priest was secured and for about a month during the period of sickness and fear of the disease lived among the Mexicans and ministered to their needs.