Tomochichi’s Monument

Tomochichi Monument, Wright Square

Tomochichi Monument, Wright Square, Savannah

Our very first memorial was erected in 1899 to Tomochichi, the Mico of the Yamacraws, and the story says a great deal about the character of our first President, Nellie Gordon (Mrs. William Washington).

As all Georgia history buffs know, Tomochichi provided invaluable assistance to the English settlers on their arrival in 1733 and even travelled to England with General Oglethorpe. When Tomochichi died in 1739 at age 97, he requested that he be buried amongst his English friends. Oglethorpe was one of the pall bearers when the coffin was brought down the river from Yamacraw Village and was interred in Wright Square in Savannah with cannon and musket fire. The general then ordered that a pyramid of stones be erected over the grave in the Indian tradition.

Fast forward to 1883. The City Fathers were looking for a way to honor William Washington Gordon who pioneered the building of Georgia’s first railroad, the Central of Georgia. Tomochichi’s mound of stones was flattened to make way for a handsome monument to “a brave man, a faithful and devoted officer, and to the first president of the Company.”

The daughter-in-law of W. W. Gordon was our own Nellie Gordon who decided that one of the first projects of the fledgling Dames was to place some sort of memorial in the square to take the place of the stones that had been removed from the grave of the brave Indian chief who had been such a friend to the first Savannahians.

Nellie wrote to the Stone Mountain Co. in Atlanta asking them the price of a large boulder of Georgia granite that could serve as a monument. The company replied that they had the perfect thing—a huge granite boulder– and they would be delighted to send it as a gift to such a worthy cause, and, furthermore, since General Gordon had been a president of the railroad, there would be no shipping charges.

Nellie replied politely and thanked the Stone Mountain Co. for their generous offer but explained that the ladies of the Colonial Dames wanted this to be their own contribution to the community so would the company please send a bill. The bill arrived shortly afterwards and was for the sum of one dollar, “payable on the Day of Judgment.” Nellie wrote back and explained that she and “the other ladies would be entirely too busy attending to their own affairs on that momentous day,” so she enclosed a dollar bill to settle the matter.

The monument was dedicated on April 21, 1899. A bronze tablet encircled with Cherokee roses and arrowheads states “In memory of Tomochichi – the Mico of the Yamacraws – the companion of Oglethorpe – and the friend and ally of the Colony of Georgia. ”

Adapted from an article in the Savannah Morning News 8/12/1962.

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