Well here I am working at Missouri Military Academy (MMA) in Mexico Missouri. In my previous blog I talked about military schools and my first week at MMA. Now let me tell you about my new home. Well, the town was incorporated in 1857. Mexico is a city in Audrain County, Missouri. The 2010 census estimated the population at 11,543. What was once a booming city in the eighties has tumbled into a poor town. I did some “internet research” and this is what I found:
First, I was surprised to find that MMA was the host of the annual Miss Missouri Pageant in mid-June; the winner was the first openly gay contestant in the Miss America pageant early September.
Also that the town was a major source for the nation’s fire brick production since 1910, so much so, that it was called the “Fire Brick Capital of the World”. However, the industry fell on hard times and both major factory plants in the area closed in 2002.
In addition, in the 1980s, Mexico (Mo) was one of six nationwide finalists for Saturn’s new U.S. auto plant. Mexico lost out to winner Spring Hill, Tennessee because Mexico was not served by a four-lane freeway. So as not to lose future development, Mexico officials quickly lobbied state and federal officials to secure funding for a new four-lane divided highway (U.S. Route 54) which now serves the community from Interstate 70. Interestingly the Saturn plant in Spring Hill closed in 2004.
Digging more into the history of the town I found that it was also known as the “Saddle Horse Capital of the World,” now Mexico still hosts Hollywood celebrities and other visitors from around the world who come to purchase riding horses. The Simmons Stables is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mexico was also the home of Hardin College and Conservatory of Music, a Baptist college established in 1873 for young women, an institution founded and endowed by Charles H. Hardin, governor of the state from 1872–1874. Sadly, Hardin College closed during the Great Depression and never re-opened.
Now here is a little about the school where I am teaching. It opened in 1890. In 1896 a fire destroyed the entire MMA campus. Due to the fire the Academy was closed until 1900. In 1957 the school band was appointed by the state of Missouri to march in the parade for the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C. The band also participated in the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter Inaugurations. In 1985 the U.S. Department of Education announced its selection of Missouri Military Academy as an Exemplary Private School. One of just 65 private schools selected out of 27,000 across the U.S. Not only that, it was the only military school to be recognized. In 2014 MMA celebrated its 125th Anniversary.
MMA also led the parade for the Annual Soybean Festival.
Now here are some important people with ties to Mexico, Mo:
-Tom Bass, a legendary rider and horse trainer. Bass was born into slavery on 1859 on the Hayden plantation in Boone County, Missouri. After freedom he trained horses for notable people including Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, and Will Rogers and is also famous for inventing the Bass bit, a mechanism designed to protect a horse’s mouth during training. It is still widely used today.
-Rex McDonald was an American Saddlebred stallion who only lost three shows from 1893 to around 1910. Rex also had an influential career as a sire.He sired over 200 colts.
-Charles Henry Hardin was a politician and governor from Missouri, and one of the eight founders of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
-Tyronn Jamar Lue, the current head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. Lue led the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship and became one of the few rookie coaches in the NBA to ever lead his team to a title.