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.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: 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. 

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