Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall

Oct 12, 2016 0 comments

For the last 35 years, Alabama resident Tom Hendrix has been building a mile-long monument, in his hometown Florence, to honor his great-great grandmother, a Yuchi Indian who was one of the millions of Native Americans who were forced from their homes in the southeast to the new Indian Territories in Oklahoma following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Hendrix’s great-great-grandmother, Te-lah-nay, then a 17-year-old girl, walked with her sister along what is now known as the “Trail of Tears” to her new territories in present day Muskogee, Oklahoma. But Te-lah-nay longed to return home, and after spending just one winter in Oklahoma, she began a lonely, five-year-long perilious journey back to her native land — a distance of more than 600 miles.

Tom Hendrix’s monument was built to commemorate Te-lah-nay’s courageous walk back home. The monument consist of two parallel walls made of limestone and sandstone rocks, about four feet high, that meander through his property under a thick canopy of oak and beech trees. It is the largest unmortared wall in the United States.


Photo credit: Laura Bell/Flickr

Tom Hendrix had heard stories about Te-lah-nay from his grandmother all his life, and he felt that he needed to do something to honor her memory. An elderly Yuchi woman provided him the idea. He was told, “One step at a time, one stone at a time. Lay a stone for every step she made… We shall pass this earth. Only the stones will remain. We honor our ancestors with stones.”

Hendrix started constructing the wall on his own property a few miles off the Natchez Trace Parkway. Over the decades, Hendrix estimates that he has carried more than 8.5 million pounds of stones from the Tennessee River, and in the process wore out —in his own words— “three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,700 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one 87-year-old man.” Such a dedication for a woman he has never met.

Today, the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall has become something of a pilgrimage site drawing people from all around the world. These days, Hendrix spends more time greeting visitors than building the wall.


Photo credit: Laura Bell/Flickr


Photo credit: Laura Bell/Flickr


Photo credit: Laura Bell/Flickr

Sources: BBC / savingplaces.org / journal.alabamachanin.com


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