In the early morning of July 6th last year, a powerful bomb partially destroyed a controversial monument a few miles outside the city of Elberton in northeast Georgia.
A long-time British friend of mine living in a small village in Austria is a history buff. In May 2020, he asked me if I had ever heard of “American Stonehenge.” He had come upon it in researching the discovery of an additional ring of pits around Stonehenge in England. Covid had pretty much halted travel around the world, and it seemed like a perfect time for a drive north on traffic-free back roads. In June 2020, I made my way up to the small city of Elberton situated in peaceful rolling hills some hundred miles northeast of Atlanta. The “Georgia Guidestones” displayed a macabre message depicting the end to our present world in eight languages. English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Traditional Chinese and Russian (July 9, 2020, Coastal Breeze News).
According to whom you ask, it is an evil structure bringing back memories of Nazism or forced birth control in China. Failed GOP Georgia governor candidate, Kandiss Taylor, called it “demonic” and declared the Georgia Guidestones should be demolished. For others it was just a “goofy roadside attraction,” as Elberton’s Mayor and local bank president, Daniel Graves, told me recently. Like politics in our nation today, it is either black or white without any possible compromise in between.
Why in Elberton, one could ask?
This barely known small city surrounded by rural landscape happens to be the “Granite Capital of the World.” According to the “Explore Georgia” website there are over 45 quarries producing more monuments than any other place in the world. There are no statistics to prove the claim, but the city of 5,000 inhabitants is home to generations of stonecutters. One day out of the blue in June 1979, a distinguished elderly gentleman in suit and tie presented himself at the Elberton Granite Finishing Company.
He said his name was Robert C. Christian and admitted that was not his real name. He explained that he represented a small group of true Americans who wanted to build a structure out of granite, but who wished to remain anonymous. The stones, Mr. Christian explained, would be a calendar, a clock, and a compass and should be strong enough to withstand storms, catastrophic events, and other unforeseen calamities. He explained that his group had been working on a model for 20 years.
Joe Fendley, a representative for the granite company, thought the stranger was crazy. He presented him with a price much higher than the actual cost. “I have to hire additional men and obtain special tools,” was Fendley’s excuse in hopes that Mr. Christian would go away. However, the quote was accepted without discussion. Four months later the five-acre parcel of land was purchased by Christian from a local farmer, and he presented a scale model and numerous pages of astronomical features and specifications. This included a channel through the stone indicating the celestial pole, a horizontal slot marking the annual trajectory of the sun and a sunbeam through the capstone marking noontime throughout the year.
Six months later, on March 22, 1980, the structure was unveiled in the presence of a few hundred guests who were impressed, delighted or horrified by the monument. After the ceremony, all documents pertaining to the construction and origin of this multi-stone mystery monolith were destroyed. Later, under total secrecy, the ownership was transferred to Elbert County.
The monument was constructed 750 feet above sea level, 19 feet and three inches high and was made from six granite slabs at an approximate total weight of 238,000 pounds.
Another smaller granite stone was placed flat in the ground nearby and provided information about the structure and the languages used on it. There also was reference to a time capsule under it. However, the space for the inscription of the date the capsule was put in the ground and an opening date were left blank.
The extremely controversial message, painstakingly chiseled into the huge granite pillars, read:
- Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
- Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
- Unite humanity with a living new language.
- Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
- Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
- Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
- Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
- Balance personal rights with social duties.
- Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
- Be not a cancer on the Earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
Over the years Elbert County leaders often discussed and disagreed upon the wisdom of owning the property and thus being responsible for the maintenance of such an extreme expression of opinion and leading many to conspiracy theories. Graffiti and damage to the monument had to be taken care of on a regular basis. Eventually, the county invested in CCTV cameras to protect the Guidestones, but on the early morning of July 6th, 2022, one of the pillars was destroyed by a bomb.
The cameras recorded a car driving away and later that morning county officials in cooperation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation decided that the remaining pillars of the monument should be demolished as well. It seems to me a convenient and fast way to get rid of a headache for county officials. But according to Mayor Graves, the granite of the remaining structure indeed had dangerous cracks.
Back after my visit to the intact monument in 2020 I asked Christopher Kubs, Executive Vice president of The Elberton Granite Association, why no one had ever checked if a capsule was indeed there under the flat granite stone. At that time, he could not give me a clear answer but did say and I quote: “Often, the mystery is more interesting than the reality.” After the demolition the ground under this granite tile was finally dug up an impressive seven feet down, but nothing was discovered leaving the mystery Mr. Kubs had suggested without knowing what would happen two years later.
At a recent visit to the area, it all seemed so empty. Bare land and the only signs of the former monument were the CCTV cameras still there and a bouquet of wilted flowers stuck in the fence. Despite clear photos of the car, it seems local police, nor the Georgia Federal Bureau of Investigations have any clues about the culprit. Or perhaps they are gladly putting the investigation on a backburner as there is no longer any controversy. For now, and perhaps forever the Georgia Guidestones might remain a mystery.