In about 2004, Baby Girl and I went to look for some strange roadside folk art in Palmyra, Tennessee, about an hour’s drive northwest of Nashville. I’d read about the eccentric artist, Enoch Tanner Wickham, who built concrete figures and placed them in a park on his property.
At the time, 34 years after Wickam’s death in 1970, the sculptures had been vandalized and most were headless, making them quite eerie. But soon after, people began to appreciate Wickam’s creativity. Several of his works were installed in the art museum at Clarksville’s Austin Peay State University –including his statue of the college’s namesake, former governor Austin Peay – in hopes of preserving them.
After all these years, I could only locate one of my photos from that trip, shown at right. The other accompanying photos come from Southern Places, the archives of Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for historic Preservation and the James E. Walker Library.
Here’s a brief history of Wickham from the Encyclopedia of Tennessee: “Enoch Tanner Wickham left an artistic legacy in the form of a permanent concrete sculpture park by the side of the road near Palmyra, Tennessee, across the Cumberland River from Clarksville. Wickham, a descendant of early settlers of Montgomery County, was a farmer, a woodsman, and a self-taught artist with a penchant for engineering. Around 1950, he began creating larger-than-life-size statuary using a combination of bought materials and whatever was at hand. Sometimes he smoothed concrete directly onto iron bed frames, electrical cord, or bailing wire; at other times, he used metal stovepipe to cast it into sections. Most of Wickham’s sculptures were placed on pedestals, usually with dedicatory inscriptions. Clearly, he meant these to be public monuments. During what for most people would be retirement years, E.T. Wickham was just hitting his stride. He produced as many as forty sculptures over the twenty-year period before his death at age eighty-seven.”
A Wickham descendent catalogued photos of all his sculptures at WickhamStonePark.com.