Wickham Stone ParkEnoch Tanner (E.T.) Wickham (June 1883 - August 1970)
About the Artist/Site
In the backwoods of rural Tennessee are the decaying remnants of Enoch Tanner (E.T.) Wickham’s statues. After a lifetime of tobacco farming, Wickham built and moved into a cabin in Palmyra, TN. In his late sixties, with his children out of the house and living off his savings and social security, Wickham finally had the time and money to become an artist. He did not start sculpting in earnest until the early 1950s, but he did not stop until his death in 1970, almost twenty years later, at the age of 87.
Wickham built his creations out of concrete over a substructure of chicken wire, metal rods, and other reclaimed materials. The thematic emphases of most of Wickham’s large statues fall primarily into historical or political categories, but there are also a few religious pieces. Subjects include Robert and John F. Kennedy, the Liberty Bell, Daniel Boone, Sitting Bull, Andrew Jackson, and a self-portrait riding a giant bull. Many of the statues were built above a large pedestal base with inscriptions that named the subject and described their importance in a few sentences.
A few of his statues received a bit of acclaim during the artist’s lifetime. In 1959, Senator Estes Kefauver spoke at a dedication to Wickham’s WWII memorial, a work that Wickham built to honor his son Ernest, who had died in the Great War. Reportedly, between 700 and 1000 people attended the dedication, which included speeches and music from an Army band. A few years later, Wickham repaid the honor by crafting a statue of Senator Kefauver.
After his death in 1970, neglect and violent vandalism took a heavy toll on Wickham’s statues. Besides general decay and weathering, the statues became covered with graffiti, and were shot at, smashed with sledgehammers, and rammed by pickup trucks, all for sport, assumedly drunken. Most of the figures above the pedestal have been destroyed, and many are gone. The lucky ones are only missing limbs, and all have been decapitated.
To see the decaying remnants of Wickham Stone Park, visit Buck Smith Hill Road, between Shiloh Canaan Road and Oak Ridge Road, in rural Palmyra about an hour northwest of Nashville. About five statue fragments remain on Buck Smith Hill Road, the original location of all the statues. From there drive ¾ mile east on Buck Smith Hill Road to Oak Ridge Road, and turn left. A few hundred feet down, on the right, ten pieces are visible; these were relocated in 2003 behind a wire fence to help prevent further vandalism. Just past the statues on the left is Wickham Road, and down the road is the Wickham cemetery, where Wickham’s statue of an angel, the only in situ statue in its original pristine state, keeps watch over Wickham’s family plot. A few of Wickham’s smaller pieces have been collected by Austin Peay State University as well as the Customs House Museum, both in nearby Clarksville, TN.
Map & Site Information
Oak Ridge Road
Palmyra, Tennessee, 37142 us
Latitude/Longitude: 36.4286502 / -87.471029
Red Bay, AL