ELBERTON, Ga. - It’s an unusual fact, but one you’ll probably never forget: One North Georgia city is responsible for roughly two-thirds of all the headstones in this country. That place is Elberton – and for people interested in exploring Georgia history, there’s a fascinating story waiting there.
Elberton was founded back in 1803, and is located about 35 miles east of Athens. Before the Civil War, Elberton was an agriculture town, but in the years following the war, granite quarrying became more and more important to the area, as the rock was used in rebuilding railroad infrastructure. It just so happens that Elberton is located on what could be called a “river of rock,” with unusually high-quality granite running right through the area. According to Christopher J. Kubas of the Elberton Granite Association, "You're talking about a vein of granite that is 35 miles long, it's about six miles wide, and it's about two to three miles in depth of solid rock, so there is an abundance of granite available, some of which we'll probably never get to."
So how did Elberton granite come to be so famously used for monuments? The answer lies in the strange story of a scandalous statue nicknamed “Dutchy.” According to Kubas, a group of women in the 1890s decided they wanted to build a granite monument in the town square to commemorate Confederate veterans who has passed away in the war. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan: "The sculptor was probably a German immigrant, maybe from up north, who had never seen a Confederate soldier. So, when he sculpted Dutchy, he actually sculpted Dutchy with a Union uniform,” says Kubas. “The last thing people here in Elberton wanted was a statue of a Northern Union soldier looking over them.”
Dutchy soon became the most hated “man” in town, and in 1900, angry townspeople yanked him down. But as news of Dutchy spread, so did the fact that the granite from which he was sculpted was so pure and beautiful. Thus, craftsman began using Elberton granite for monuments, helping launch an entire industry.
Good Day Atlanta’s Paul Milliken spent some time exploring the Elberton Granite Museum (which happens to be Dutchy’s final resting place) and the downtown area, learning more about the area’s unique history.