Oral histories from the native Chickasaw say that the Bulwark appeared as a sort of volcanic stone, rent through with glassy intrusions, when their forefathers first came to know of it. Even then, the stones were beginning to crumble from within, and drawings from the 1810s and 1830s show that the feature bulged considerably during that time.

After the Chickasaw were forcibly removed, a local group including some notables of partial Chickasaw descent acted on what they regarded as a misguided but accurate local legend and began to reinforce the crumbling natural stone. Mortar was added in the 1840s, followed by brick buttresses shortly after the Civil War. Concrete followed in 1898, with reinforced concrete following in 1927.

To disguise the work from prying eyes, the small hillock from which the Bulwark protruded was completely bricked in as a warehouse, albeit one that never held any products. Indeed, most of the room inside was taken up by earth and stone and previous attempts to reinforce the Bulwark.

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