Trail of Tears memorial to be on Georgia’s Mount Oglethorpe
Stone carver Steven Stone, of Pickens County, Georgia, carves on a slab of marble that will be a memorial to the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from Georgia in 1838. COURTESY
This image created by artist and stone carver Steven Stone is being carved onto an 8-foot-by-5-foot slab of marble and is meant to be a memorial to the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from Georgia in 1838. COURTESY
A Trail of Tears memorial currently being carved has a young Cherokee girl carrying a doll in the foreground. The memorial will be placed atop Mount Oglethorpe in Pickens County, Georgia, this fall. COURTESY
Artist Steven Stone signs copies of one of his pieces that is also being carved into an 8-foot-by-5-foot slab of marble to be placed on top Mount Oglethorpe in Pickens County, Georgia, near his home. COURTESY
JASPER, Ga. – For 24 years, Steven Stone wanted to carve a Trail of Tears memorial to honor the Cherokee people who were moved from their southeastern homelands 181 years ago.
He is now getting his chance as he works on a monument that will be placed at Eagles Rest Park atop Mount Oglethorpe in Pickens County.
“It all started when I lived in Waterloo, Alabama, my childhood home. It was the second year of the ‘Trail Of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride’ from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Waterloo that things started happening that were to me undeniably spiritual in nature. I carved my first stone that year, wrote my first poem, ‘Lost Lake Cherokee,’ and held a prayer vigil on my property to protest the desecration of a Native American burial ground,” Stone said. “Many more unexplainable things happened that year that led me to believe I was being called by a power greater than myself to do what I am finally doing today, build this memorial.”
Mount Oglethorpe was a central part of the Cherokee Nation at the time of the removal in 1838. Though it is not a documented portion of the Trail of Tears it would likely have been a trail the Cherokee people used and a place they built their homes, according to the Mount Oglethorpe Foundation website.
The memorial is an 8-foot-by-5-foot marble slab that Stone started carving in March. Stone drew the image on the marble as it depicts a Cherokee family being forced from its home. He hopes to finish carving the memorial in November.
When completed the memorial will be placed at Eagles Rest Park. The Mount Oglethorpe Foundation has raised most of the funds needed to move and shelter the memorial when completed. A dedication ceremony may be held late this fall.
“I met one of the Mount Oglethorpe Foundation board members, Don Wells, through a mutual friend, Clardy Schwartz. Clardy, knowing of my past efforts to build a TOT memorial and my renewed interest in doing so, introduced me to Mr. Wells. Mr. Wells went to the board of trustees, and they were happy to provide a place and raise the funds needed and I would carve the stone,” Stone said. “To be doing what I truly feel called to do is beyond words to express. I feel grateful, and I am humbled to feel that I am of use to a purpose that I do not fully understand but believe will touch the hearts of many.”
According to the Mount Oglethorpe Foundation, Cherokee and Creek people were marched across the Oglethorpe Mountain in the spring of 1838 on their way to a temporary collection fort in what is now Ellijay, Georgia. They remained a short while at the fort before being marched to Charleston, Tennessee, where they began the 835-mile journey to Oklahoma.
For many citizens of Pickens and Dawson Counties, the events of 1838 when the Cherokees and Creeks were forcibly removed from the area are “out of sight, out of mind,” the foundation states.
It also states that few people know the history of the removal of Cherokee people from north Georgia, and “little of this history is taught in our school system anymore. Further, what is taught about Indian cultural history is often wrong.”
Stone said he studied the Indian Removal Act of 1830 brought forward by President Andrew Jackson to Congress to move all southeastern tribes west of the Mississippi and visited other Cherokee sites to gather information.
“I’ve visited the gold fields of Dahlonega and went to New Echota (Georgia) and the Cherokee Reservation in Cherokee North Carolina. I’ve read (the) Rev. Butrick’s Journal and many more historical publications. The more I learn the more I’m shocked at the cruelty and injustice suffered by the Native American at the hands of those leading the United States at that time,” he said. “Unfortunately I see a similar disregard for our laws occurring today. The timing is right for a sobering look at the ugly truth.”