Friday, May 04, 2007

Salemtown, A Century Ago: Rural Migrant Mill Workers and a Settlement House Center

A century ago, the area where Salemtown sits was a neighborhood of rural migrant workers from DeKalb County (Tennessee) and a center for the Settlement House Movement in Nashville. The Settlement House Movement came from England in the late 19th Century and took hold in New York and Chicago. Settlement Houses were started in immigrant and poor communities by middle- and upper-class social activists and reformers who moved to and lived in those communities in an effort to bridge class divisions.

In turn-of-the-century Nashville, Methodist women--who were immersed in the theology of "social gospel"--followed the growing national movement and started Settlement Houses in Nashville:
In 1908, the Warioto Settlement House began for mill workers at the Morgan and Hamilton Bag Company's Warioto Cotton Mill [now upscale Werthan Lofts; "Warioto" is the Native American name for the Cumberland River]. These were white, predominantly rural migrant workers, who lived in Kalb Hollow [now Salemtown], in North Nashville. Young Methodist women from the Methodist Training School of Nashville canvassed the community and invited mill workers to the new settlement. Warioto settlement services ranged from activities for pre-school children to sewing and cooking groups, to mothers learning the newest techniques of child care, diet, and the prevention of disease. From funds raised through the Methodist Centenary Drive, the Warioto Settlement House moved to Monroe Street [in current Germantown] in 1919. Two years later, a new building was erected and Warioto was given the name Centenary Methodist Institute.
Regardless of the dramatic changes that have happened to this area in 100 years, this history is a legacy for our neighborhood and it should be remembered and passed on.

No comments:

Post a Comment