MaryAnn & I on top of Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain is situated near Atlanta, Georgia and has been visited by Native Americans and European settlers for hundreds, even thousands of years. At the base of the mountain is a 1.3 mile trail that leads to the top of the mountain that has been used to get to the summit since the 1820’s and even earlier by Native Americans.
In 1821 the Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Indian Springs opening up a large part of eastern Georgia for settlement by Europeans. This area included “Rock Mountain” as it was then called. By 1828 hundreds of people began visiting then Rock Mountain as stagecoach service became widely used in the area.
A rock quarry was established in the 1820’s that supplied high quality granite to many buildings throughout America including the Capital building in Washington DC. The rock quarry provided employment for thousands of people in the local area.
The name, “Rock Mountain” was changed to “Stone Mountain” in the late 1830’s. During the Civil War the community surrounding the mountain was destroyed by Union soldiers in the siege of Atlanta in 1864.
Atlanta from the top of Stone Mountain.
Unfortunately, the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization began having meetings at Stone Mountain in 1915 with the permission of the rock quarry owner, Samuel Venable, who was also a member. These meetings continued at the mountain for over 40 years and caused Stone Mountain to be associated with the Klans supremacist ideas.
However, the State of Georgia acquired the mountain and the surrounding area in 1958 and by 1960 the official link between the Klan and Stone Mountain had been severed.
The carvings on the rock face of Stone Mountain depicts Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
It was the bust of Lincoln that prompted Helen Plane, President of United Daughters of the Confederacy, to contact Gutzon Borglum (the same man who would later carve the images of Mount Rushmore) about the Possibility of doing a head of Robert E. lee on the side of Stone Mountain in Georgia. He agreed to visit the site in 1915 but upon seeing the size of the place he said, “Ladies, the head of Lee on the side of that mountain would look like a postage stamp on a barn door!” Having thus crushed their dream, he proceeded to give them a new one –a large group featuring Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on horseback followed by a column of soldiers.
Because of World War I, work at Stone Mountain did not begin until 1923. Carving was limited to jackhammers and chisels until a visiting Belgian engineer taught Borglum the use of dynamite for precise work. The head of Lee was unveiled in 1924. Soldiers in the audience who served with the Confederate leader were moved to tears by the likeness.
However, trouble had been brewing between Borglum and the businessmen directing the project, and Borglum was abruptly dismissed. He destroyed his models in order to protect his design and this so angered the directors that a warrant was issued for his arrest and he was forced to flee Georgia. Augustus Lukeman is hired to replace Borglum and Borglum’s head of Lee was removed. In fact, none of Borglum’s work survived when the carving was finally finished in 1970.
Gum tree. This tree was given the dubious honor of becoming the place where hickers deposited their used gum while climbing Stone Mountain.
MaryAnn & our Tiny House. On this trip we were on the road 7 months!
I know that today Stone Mountain is a very controversial subject. However, it still holds a significant place in the history of America that should be preserved for future generations to help them understand where we have come from and how we got where we are today. The old saying, “If we don’t learn from history, we repeat it.” Holds true especially for the parts of our history we are not particularly proud of.
This is the last installment in our series on Georgia. We barely scratched the surface of this beautiful state. The history and beauty of Georgia is a place calling us back here for another look in the near future. If you’ve never been to Georgia plan a trip soon before the fuel prices get so high no one will be able to afford to travel.