Lester Solomon, Daniel Boone, Piomingo and Sitting Bull
"In the last grouping of statues that Wickham created, the selection of personalities at first seems odd. Daniel Boone and Sitting Bull are familiar characters from American frontier days, but Piomingo and Lester Solomon are more obscure to today’s audience. The lack of an elevated platform for these figures may be a reflection of Wickham’s age and reduced agility. Why did Wickham include these figures together in a grouping? Pioneering spirit, love of land, and involvement with the development and settlement of Tennessee might have been part of Wickham’s reasoning.
Lester Solomon conservationist and naturalist was a contemporary of Wickham’s. As the county farm agent (Soil Conservationist of the Montgomery County Soil District, 1945 – 1967) Solomon was in frequent contact with Wickham in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. More specifically, Solomon and Wickham planted a one hundred-acre farm in pines to help conserve the wooded areas of Montgomery County. Even though Solomon is remembered as a tall white-headed man, he appears as the shortest of the four figures in the grouping. Perhaps Wickham’s own height made Solomon seem below average.
Daniel Boone, renowned for his pioneering skills, was one of the early long hunters to explore Kentucky and Tennessee. He blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap ca. 1770 and later returned to Eastern Kentucky where he created an outpost for some of the earliest settlers. Wickham’s inscription, Trail Wagoner of the South,refers to his earlier role, ca. 1755, as a wagon driver in support of General Braddock’s English troops during the French and Indian Wars. “Always one who preferred hunting, trapping, exploring, and land speculating to civilization and farming,” Boone is clearly a personality who would appeal to Wickham, who himself enjoyed all of these pursuits. Mrs. John Conroy, whose lineage proves her a relation of Daniel Boone, unveiled the statue, while State Representative Frank Runyon gave the dedicatory remarks for the statue.
Piomingo was a Chickasaw tribal leader from 1784 to 1789. He convinced many of his tribe to support the Colonists in their fight for independence, a shift in the tribe’s usual allegiance to the British. Piomingo lived and led his community at Longtown or Chuckafalaya, near what is now Tupelo, Mississippi. Piomingo was at “the peaceful assumption of Fort Barrancas, a Spanish post at present Memphis,” and attended the Nashville Indian conference in 1792. Piomingo’s presence in Tennessee may be what attracted Wickham to his subject. The only clue the artist leaves today’s viewer is the inscription on the statue’s base, which reads, Piomingo, mountain leader and a friend to the Cumberland Settlers. Oddly, Piomingo’s statue was the only figure in the grouping of four that was not mentioned in the mimeographed program from the Sunday, 13 July 1969 “Statue Dedication.” According to interviews Dan Prince gathered for his 22 March 1973 article in Versus, Piomingo was one of first statues to be knocked over. The photographic records also make this clear.
Sitting Bull, born Tatanka Yotanka, was a Hunkpapa Sioux leader and medicine man. He is best remembered for his presence at Little Bighorn in 1876. Wickham’s interest, however, may have had more to do with the Native American’s dedication to his land. Sitting Bull experienced move after move as the United States government discovered profitable reasons to reclaim land that had been designated as reservation for the displaced Lakota tribe. Encouraging the Lakota to refuse to sell their land to the U.S. government, Sitting Bull was killed in a struggle with Native American police in 1890. Wickham labels his statue of the Sioux leader a great American. Apparently, resistance to the U.S. government did not make one un-American in Wickham’s mind. Wickham was adamant about reducing taxes and keeping the government’s hand out of the individual’s business." -quoted text is from the 2001 Customs House Museum Online Wickham Exhibit.
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|Lester Solomon, Daniel Boone, Piomingo and Sitting Bull||Lester Solomon, Daniel Boone, Piomingo and Sitting Bull||Conservationist Lester Solomon|
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