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Stone Mountain
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Stone Mountain
The story of Stone Mountain actually predates both the first white settlers and the Creek Indians before them. At least 12 Archaic Indian sites have been identified in the vicinity of Stone Mountain. Atop the lofty peak prehistoric Woodland Indians (Additional information:Woodland Indians) built a rock wall, encircling the top of the mountain. It was similar to the wall of rock on Georgia's Fort Mountain State Park. By the time work started on the Confederate Memorial, the rocks comprising the wall were gone, taken by visitors who climbed the mile-long path to the top. Woodland Indians also inhabited villages at the base of the mountain. Two Moundbuilder villages have been found near the base of the mountain.

Crystal Mountain was the name given it in 1567 when Spanish explorer Juan Pardo visited it, in search of the Moundbuilder civilization discovered by deSoto on an earlier trip. The Moundbuilders were gone, replaced by Creek Indians who called the peak Lone Mountain and used the easily spotted mountain as a meeting place. On June 9, 1790, Col. Marinus Willett met with Creek Indian chiefs to arrange a meeting in New York City (then our nation's capital) with President George Washington. Settlers moving west along the Hightower Trail used "Rock Mountain" or "Rock Fort Mountain" (as Stone Mountain was called in those days) as a landmark. Prior to 1813, as they crossed the "rock bridge" over the Yellow River (just north of the present-day GA Highway 124 bridge) they would turn north to the relative safety of Ft. Daniel (present-day Gwinnett County). If they continued west on the Hightower Trail would quickly take them into Indian Territory.

In 1813 Lt. George Gilmer secured the area west of Stone Mountain by building Fort Peachtree. Settlers then could take a route south of Stone Mountain, roughly corresponding to today's Rockbridge Road, leading west to Fort Peachtree, Montgomery's Ferry and Sandtown on the Chattahoochee River. Creek Indians farmed in the vicinity of Stone Mountain until 1821 when the tribe ceded the land to the state of Georgia. Originally part of Henry County, Georgia's Fourth Land Lottery gave the area around the mountain to settlers, who paid the price of $19.00 for a tract of 202.5 acres. During this lottery, the mountain was divided among six winners.

On December 9, 1822 Stone Mountain was made a part of the newly formed Dekalb County. Baptist minister Adiel Sherwood, who went on to become one of the founders of Mercer College, is generally credited with the name "Stone Mountain." A post office was created on July 18, 1834 on the old Augusta Road. Andrew Johnson built a hotel along the road in 1836. Since the lottery Johnson had been purchasing the mountain in small parcels.
Cloud's Tower

Two years later McDonough businessman Aaron Cloud built Cloud's Tower at the top of Stone Mountain. He wanted to take advantage of the railroad coming west from Augusta, Georgia , which was slated to pass to the north of the mountain, and travelers along the road from Augusta who spent the night at the hotel. From the tower, which extended 165 feet above the top of the mountain, visitors could see wide open vistas of nearby "plantations" (most of the land was owned by subsistence farmers) and the small villages in the Georgia piedmont. Following a journey to the mountain, visitors would have to climb the 1.1 mile mountaintop trail to the top, where Cloud also had a restaurant and club.

By 1839 a general store was added and a village was established under the name New Gibraltar. The name was officially changed to Stone Mountain by the Georgia legislature on December 24, 1847. Starting in 1846 Stone Mountain began hosting an agricultural fair. Atlanta fought hard to win the fair, and continued for four years, building a centrally-located fairgrounds. The fair moved to Atlanta in 1850.

Cloud's Tower was swept off the top during a windstorm and replaced by a much smaller tower in 1851. Summer months did bring Atlantans to the mountain via a 4 hour round trip excursion train. During the Civil War Stone Mountain Village was destroyed by men under the command of General James Birdseye McPherson on July 19, 1864. On November 16, 1864 the Right Wing of Sherman's Army tore up track to the north of the mountain during the March to the Sea.

Quarrying the mountain

Small amounts of granite were quarried in the area east and south of Stone Mountain as early as the 1830's, but large-scale efforts to quarry the mountain probably started around 1850 following the completion of a spur line to a quarry site in 1847. This line was destroyed in 1864 and rebuilt by the Georgia Railroad in 1869. The Stone Mountain Railway and Granite Company, which purchased the mountain on February 5, 1867, ran "Dinky" between the village and Stone Mountain, mostly carrying stonecutters, quarry labor and granite.

Quarry operations about 1890
Following the Civil War, Edwin De Leon proclaimed Stone Mountain "...an eighth wonder of the world." in an 1874 article titled The New South for Harper's Magazine. On July 16, 1887 the Southern Granite Company sold Stone Mountain for $45,000 to the Venable Brothers of Atlanta, who would continue to run a quarry on the mountain for 24 years. On April 1, 1929 the Stone Mountain Granite Company began production of "Stonemo" Granite Grit. This product increased egg production in laying hens. Quarried granite production would continue into the 1970's, but today's Stone Mountain Railway has nothing to do with the original. Its tracks were removed in 1942.

Stone Mountain and the Klan

On a cool Thanksgiving evening in 1915 William J. Simmons and a group of 16 to 34 men (depending on whose story you believe) including Samuel Venable, climbed to the peak of Stone Mountain where Simmons read a few verses from the Bible (Romans II) and the men burned a cross that was visible across Atlanta. This is sometimes referred to as the rebirth of the Klan. Venable created a perpetual easement, giving the Klan the right to forever hold meetings on the top of the mountain. Over the next 45 years Stone Mountain was frequently used as a symbolic meeting place for this insidious group. It became such a symbol to the group that Martin Luther King included it in his "I Have a Dream" speech. in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the culmination of the Civil Rights March on Washington King said "...let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!" Rev. King had already gotten his wish. The Klan was no longer welcome at the mountain.

Carving Stone Mountain

Conceived in 1909 by Helen Plane, then a chapter president of what is now known as the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the carving has had many identities. Plane's idea was to honor General Robert E. Lee. When artist Gutzon Borglum was contacted, he added an army of 750 men to the idea. Begun in 1923, Borglum left the project (and the state) in 1925 in a flurry of charges and counter-charges over virtually every aspect of the project.

The second artist to attempt carving Stone Mountain was Augustus Lukeman, who removed Borglum's work and centered on four central figures, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and a color-bearer. Time ran out for Lukeman in 1928 when the lease to create the carving ran out.

Following the state's purchase of the land in 1958, Walker Hancock (sometimes listed as Walter Hancock) began working on the project and carving started again in 1963. In 1970 Spiro Agnew dedicated the carving, filling in for President Nixon who was embroiled in the Kent State fiasco. The carving was declared completed in 1972.

For a more detailed history see Stone Mountain Carving

Today's Stone Mountain

Today's Stone Mountain is really the dream of one man, Scott Candler. The DeKalb County politician felt that completing the Confederate Memorial in combination with other attractions could be a massive revenue generator for the county and the state. As early as 1939 Candler was proposing the idea to just about anybody who would listen, including Governor Talmadge. In 1941 the state made an attempt to purchase the mountain, which now had been split among the heirs to Sam Venable's estate. Finally, when Candler was secretary of state he successfully organized the purchase of the land in 1958.

While Candler was organizing the purchase the land was still in use. U. S. Highway 78 ran directly in front of the partially completed carving and was the main road between Atlanta and Augusta. People would climb the mountaintop trail and get stuck trying to view the carving "up close." DeKalb County resident Elias Nour was the man called to rescue men, women, children and pets who got caught in perilous situations on the mountain. Part stunt man, part acrobat, part showman, Nour kept visitors coming to the mountain with various shows, including push burning automobiles off the mountainside in front of the carving.

Stone Mountain Park

Once Stone Mountain had been purchased the state took the unusual step of condemning its own property. It seems that Sam Venable had given a perpetual easement to the Klan to hold meetings on the mountain and condemnation was the only way to remove the easement. Highway 78 was rerouted to run about a mile north of the park and today's west gate was built on Old Highway 78. Attractions were added including the Antebellum Plantation, The Stone Mountain Railway, the Skylift and Carillon Bells.

In the 1970's the state completed the Stone Mountain Freeway from I-285 to the park and built today's main gate. Campgrounds, hotels, a golf course and many other upscale amenities were added to make Stone Mountain a destination in its own right. To keep people coming back, a one-of-a-kind laser show was also added (nightly April-October, check park for times).

More information

Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain Natural History
Stone Mountain Park
Stone Mountain Carving
Stone Mountain Mountaintop Trail
Stone Mountain Loop

County: Gwinnett County
Dekalb County

Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Georgia


Take exit 39B, the Stone Mountain Freeway/US 78, west towards Snellville/Athens. Take Exit 8, Jefferson Davis Blvd. There is a charge to enter Stone Mountain Park.

North Georgia Mountains
Mountains and mountain chains of North Georgia including Lookout Mountain, Brasstown Bald, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Article Links
Chattahoochee River
DeKalb County
Fort Mountain State Park
James Birdseye McPherson
Robert E. Lee
Stone Mountain Carving
Stone Mountain Loop
Stone Mountain Mountaintop Trail
Stone Mountain Natural History
Stone Mountain Park
Woodland Indians

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