Rare Footage of the Chickasaw Ordnance Works Ruins Near Millington

A 1960s home movie shows the ruins of the Chickasaw Ordnance Works gunpowder plant near Millington.



I've written before about the Chickasaw Ordnance Works, the old World War II gunpowder plant southwest of Millington.

Known to locals simply as "the powder plant," this sprawling facility was built by the DuPont company shortly before the U.S. entered World War II. It was designed to manufacture the new kind of smokeless gunpowder, and before it shut down after the war, it operated 24 hours a day.

Spread out over some 20 acres (maybe more), it was an awesome industrial complex, with a pair of smokestacks that were said to be the tallest ever erected in the Mid-South, underground chambers, storage ponds, and all sorts of other buildings. It was such a dangerous place to work that employees weren't even allowed to carry ballpoint pens; one click of that button on top could set off a spark that would blow up most of Shelby County. Today, though there are still plenty of smaller ruins in the woods on either side of Shake Rag Road, the soaring stacks are the most prominent reminder of the old plant.

My pal Bill Cunningham, a local historian with an astonishing collection of artifacts (cars, signs, even an original Merrymobile) has turned up a short 8mm film taken in 1959 of the Chickasaw Ordnance Works ruins. Bill tells me it was shot by his father, and that's his sister in the door of their 1957 Ford, while Bill (out of sight) slumbered in the front seat. You can view it here:

Special thanks to William R. Burke for telling me about this.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

Rare Photo: Gladys Presley's Original Gravesite at Forest Hill Cemetery — Mother of Elvis Presley

2012.11.18 08:47 PM

Helen of Memphis Began Life as the Woman’s Art Building

As depicted in “The Art Work of Memphis” (1926), the Woman’s Art Building later housed the well-known boutique, Helen of Memphis.
2015.05.20 03:05 PM

Bicycle History For Sale This Weekend

A Summer Avenue icon, the historic Memphis Bicycle Company is selling off its entire inventory — more than 50 years of bicycles, parts, and accessories, May 16th-17th.
2015.05.13 08:50 PM
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Stories

The Strange Obsession of Memphis Artist Miriam Haas

A Memphis artist named Miriam Haas embarked on a campaign to paint oil portraits of seemingly every dog she encountered. After her death, her home was filled with hundreds of these little paintings. Why did she do it?
2015.05.26 10:37 PM

Years Ago, Concrete Contractors Set Their Names in Stone ... Well, Cement.

Look closely as you walk along old sidewalks, and you can often find the names of the companies who poured them pressed into the cement.
2015.05.24 04:27 PM

Helen of Memphis Began Life as the Woman’s Art Building

As depicted in “The Art Work of Memphis” (1926), the Woman’s Art Building later housed the well-known boutique, Helen of Memphis.
2015.05.20 03:05 PM

Add your comment:
Edit Module

Buy the Ask Vance Books

Edit ModuleShow Tags


Famed Memphis trivia expert Vance Lauderdale answers reader questions weekly here on his blog!

About This Blog

Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

Got a question for Vance?  Email him here.

Find Vance's old blog posts (pre-April 2011) and comments here.

Be Vance's friend on Facebook:  facebook.com/vancelauderdale

Recent Posts

Archives

Feed

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Ask Vance Feed »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags