Tom Hendrix, Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall

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Visiting Information

The wall is open for viewing every day, 8 am to 4 pm.

About the Artist/Site

Tom Hendrix spent most of his career working in the aluminum plant run by the Ford Motor Company in nearby Sheffield, Alabama, retiring after its closure in 1983. But he had grown up listening to stories told by his grandmother of her own grandmother, Te-lah-ney. She had been a member of the Yuchi tribe who were among those displaced along with numerous other Native Americans as a result of the 1830 passage of the Indian Removal Act. Their forced relocation to Oklahoma from various parts of the American Southeast has become known as the Trail of Tears.

The story that Hendrix’s grandmother told was that after Te-lah-ney’s birth, her own grandmother placed remnants of her umbilical cord in the Tennessee River, thus spiritually conjoining them and making the river the young girl’s sister. The Yuchi’s name for the river was Nunnuhsae, or Singing River, and they believed that a woman lived within, guiding them with her song. So when Te-lah-ney reached Oklahoma and found no such melodies or the sense of a woman living in those rivers, she felt she needed to return home. She walked east for five years, lured by the connection to her home river, until she finally arrived.

Hendrix had always been moved by this story, but after he met another Yuchi woman shortly after his retirement, he decided to build a memorial to his great-great-grandmother. The result is a mile-long dry stack wall that ranges in height from four to six feet; it is the largest unmortared wall in the United States. Hendrix estimates that he used some eight million pounds of sandstone and limestone – as well as “three trucks, 22 wheelbarrows, 3,700 pairs of gloves, three dogs and one old man.” While not officially part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, originally created by Native Americans and maintained by the National Park Service, it has been recorded by the Library of Congress.

Although Hendrix worked alone, many people who visit now bring stones of their own – often from all over the world – to add to his efforts. He appreciates the gesture, and also the moral support of his own family; his sons will care for the wall after he passes. “We shall all pass through this earth,” he was told by an elder of the Yuchi tribe. “Only stones remain. We honor our ancestors with stone.” Hendrix has also written a book about Te-lah-ney’s journey, If the Legends Fade.

The wall is open for viewing every day, 8 am to 4 pm.

~Jo Farb Hernández

Map and site information

13890 County Road 8
Florence, Alabama, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 34.946572 / -87.820472

Visiting Information

The wall is open for viewing every day, 8 am to 4 pm.


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