Not very far from where I live there’s a winding rock wall, the largest non-mortared rock wall in the United States. Containing 8.5 million pounds of stone and 1.25 miles long, it is a memorial to a Native American woman.
It was built by Tom Hendrix as a tribute to his great-great grandmother, a Euchee Indian, who as a teenager was forced from her home in North Alabama to the Oklahoma Territory along the Trail of Tears in 1839.
Te-lah-nay was 18 years old when she was relocated by the American government to Muscovy, Okla. She stayed one winter and wanted to return home. She walked all the way. It took her five years.
flickr photo by Paul Mashburn
Upon her return to North Alabama, she was called Mary Hipp and earned a living as an herbalist. She befriended a Methodist minister named Wiley B. Edwards by curing him of “a bad case of yellow toes and a disorder of the middle.” He recorded stories of the remainder of Te-lah-nay’s life in a 168-page journal.
Official records are scarce but Hendrix said she lived to be about 35 years old and is buried in Parsonage Cemetery in Lauderdale County.
Nearly 100 years later, when Hendrix was a child in 1936, he sat by his grandmother, Parmelia Hendrix, and listened to tales of his Indian heritage. It was there that Hendrix learned of Te-lah-nay’s incredible journey.
In 1988, Tom Hendrix felt a need to honor his great-great-grandmother and began constructing a memorial, in stone, because his grandmother told him, “We all shall pass this earth; only the stones will remain.”
The wall contains 8.5 million pounds of stone. Hendrix kept track by weighing his trailer while empty and then weighing it filled with stones for each load.
In 2000, he wrote a book about his great-great-grandmother’s journey and the wall, and called it “If the Legends Fade.”
Please go here to watch a four minute video and see more photos. It will be well worth your time.
Also, here for additional info and another video of Hendrix speaking about the Wall.