As you will read below and in other places on this website, the workforce at the Powder Plant was extremely diverse due to the shortage of available workers.  Mexicans played a significant role in the building and running of the Powder Plant.  Their population, however, was severely affected by an influenza outbreak.  Several of those who died were buried in mass graves on our site.  You will not be surprised to hear that there are many ghost stories associated with the areas in which these graves are supposedly located. 

Mexican 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:

Mixed Population

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".

Some Educated

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.

This is 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 structure. 
click here for a closer look

SONS OF MARTHA
(Construction of the City of Old Hickory)
By Dixon Merritt
Published by Mason & Hanger Company, Inc.
1928 New York City


    This article is from a chapter in a book published in 1928 by the Mason & Hanger Company. The book describes the 100-year history of the company that built Old Hickory in 1918 in a period of eight months and a day. The company was the major contractor selected by the U. S. Government to construct the world's largest smokeless powder plant to support the Allies during World War I.  You can read the entire article at:   http://www.dupontalumni.org/articles/article28.htm

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.


Though there were among the Mexicans a few carpenters, plumbers, electricians and the like, most of them served as laborers, the capacity in which there was the greatest need. As a rule, they gave excellent service. The help which Mexico thus gave to the United States in the period of its critical need has perhaps never been generally recognized. While American boys were forced to go overseas the places of many of them in the necessary war work at home were taken by Mexicans. because of this and the further fact that they were away from their native land the Mexicans received more consideration than would have been their lot under different circumstances.