On Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, four American Presidents are immortalized. The heads of Presidents George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are massively carved into the mountain. All these leaders came from the North. The South’s answer lies carved in Stone Mountain Georgia. Here the images of Confederate leaders Robert Lee, Thomas Jackson and Jefferson Davis are carved into the granite face of Stone Mountain.
FACT 1: Stone Mountain is the largest exposed mass of granite in the world. It lies north east of Atlanta in Georgia, US. Geologists conclude that the mountain was born during the Alleghenian Orogeny, a massive collision of tectonic plates that occurred 350 million years ago.
FACT 2: There are many theories to explain why the mountain is bare. The most commonly accepted cause is erosion of the layers of soil and metamorphic rock that surrounded the mountain.
FACT 3: European settlers occupied the base of the mountain in the 1820’s and the town that sprang up was named Stone Mountain, in 1847.
FACT 4: Before the arrival of the Europeans, Native Americans had used the mountain as a ceremonial place for 9000 years. These Natives were nick named Creeks by the European settlers. Before the Creeks, a pre historic Indian tribe, the Woodland Indians, built a circular rock wall around the top of the mountain. These rocks are long gone having been taken by visitors. Mound building Indians lived in villages at the base of the mountain.
FACT 5: The Spanish explorer Juan Pardo came to Stone Mountain in 1567, looking for Mound building Indians. However they were no longer there. The villages were occupied by the Creeks. They called the mountain Lone Mountain. Juan Pardo named it the Crystal Mountain.
FACT 6: The Creeks were almost wiped out by diseases that came with the European explorers. Small pox was the chief culprit. The Creeks had recovered by 1790, when the newly formed union entered into discussion with them. The mountain was then called Rockfort Mountain. The Creeks continued to farm the lands around Stone Mountain up to 1821, when they ceded their land to Georgia.
FACT 7: Stone Mountain, with its scenic beauty has been a tourist attraction since the 1850’s. It remains a major tourist attraction till today. Many events to attract tourists have been introduced. These include the Yellow Daisy Festival, the Easter Sunrise Services, the Highland Games and an extremely popular laser show. In 1996, Stone Mountain provided the venue for three Olympic events, archery, cycling and tennis.
FACT 8: Apart from its tourist activities, Stone Mountain became an important quarrying town. The granite quarried from the mountain was in demand everywhere. With the building of the railroads in the 1830’s and 1840’s the granite could be easily transported. It has been used in the locks of the Panama Canal and on the steps of the US Capitol.
FACT 9: Stone Mountain attracted negative publicity in 1915 when William Simmons resurrected the infamous Ku Klux Klan. On Thanksgiving evening he along with 16 of the new members ignited a cross atop the Mountain. In addition, a memorial was conceived as symbol of the white south. The memorial to be carved into the mountain would feature Confederate icons along with leaders of the Klan. The project suffered many setbacks and was finally completed in 1970. The Klan leaders were not depicted in the final carving, but the memorial is still considered racist.
FACT 10: ‘Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia’ these were Martin Luther King’s words at the conclusion of the Civil Rights March on August 28 1963.