Off-the-Beaten-Path reporters Patti & Tom Burkett take us to the tiny town of Elberton, GA, home of America's Stonehenge and the Elbertson Guidestones.
“Be not a cancer on the Earth – Leave room for Nature” is the tenth and final principle on a Georgia monument intended to provide guidance to ensure the survival of humanity and provide a new star should civilization come to a crashing end.
While this imposing monument, sometimes called the America Stonehenge, is peculiar enough, the story of how it came to be, here in a rural Southern cow pasture, is stranger still.
The Granite Capital of the USA
Elberton, Georgia is sometimes called the Granite Capital of the USA, and the town has the chops to make the claim.
Roughly half the monuments, gravestones, and public statues and memorials in the country come from no more than a few miles from here.
More than four hundred quarries dot the surrounding landscape, ranging over parts of three counties. According to the expert we talked to, business is better now than it has ever been, and work is easy to find.
First Stop: A huge spire of Granite
Just outside the Elberton Granite Museum is a spire more than fifty feet high, the largest ever made from a single piece of stone.
We stopped here first so we wouldn’t miss out on anything we should see. Good thing, too, because after a fifteen-minute film and a stroll through more than a century of granite mining, cutting, and shaping tools, the granite man advised us not to get out of town without seeing the Granite Bowl, just a block and a half down the street.
We’d have missed it for sure, situated as it is behind some commercial buildings along the main street.
Second Stop: The Granite Bowl
The high school football stadium is carved out of a hillside and the entire structure, except for the grass, is made of granite—seats, rails, concession stand, press box.
Talk about a hard field to play! The walls of the school gymnasium next door are made of the same stone.
It’s a bit strange driving through the town. Many of the buildings have granite facades, and the signs out front look like a cross between gravestones and civic memorials. While you’re in town, don’t miss the Elberton Depot, originally built by the Seaboard Air Line Railway in 1910.
Without getting into a lot of rail history, the Sea Board line, called “The Route of Courteous Service” has roots going back to 1830 and was known for passenger service to destinations in the southeast including the Florida coast. The depot is beautiful and architecturally interesting.
The Elberton Guidestones
Heading out of town, we took the turn on Guidestones Road, up to the top of a hill where the monument stood, surrounded by peacefully grazing cows.
It’s almost twenty feet high, made of five granite slabs and topped by a sixth. Back in 1979, a man approached the owner of the Elberton Granite finishing company about building the monument.
The man used a pseudonym and insisted that he remain anonymous. Joe Fendley, owner of the company, was a bit leery and quoted an outrageously high price for the project.
The stranger agreed without quibble, and Fendley’s crew set to work on the six stones and four thousand characters carved on them.
In addition to the ten guiding principles, spelled out in each of eight languages, the capstone says “Let these be guidestones to an age of reason” in four ancient languages.
With its central gnomon, the structure is a celestial calendar, marking the equinoxes and solstices, a sundial, and has several other astronomical features.
There’s been speculation over the years as to the real identity of the man who commissioned the work, and further speculation that the “small group of Americans who seek the Age of Reason” might be the Rosicrucians.
The stones stand firmly at the center of recurrent controversy and conspiracy theories dating from their Cold War origins.
Quite enough to send a little shiver up your spine, out here off the beaten path.
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