Todd DeFeo

Elberton Granite Museum highlights how industry shaped town, monuments

Dutchy on display at the Elberton Granite Museum (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

ELBERTON, Ga. — Granite, one could readily argue, is the foundation of society. Particularly here in Northeast Georgia, where it supports the town in more ways than one.

This small hamlet of about 4,700 located just a few miles from the Georgia-South Carolina state line built its reputation as a granite producing city in the decades following the Civil War. The area, according to the Elberton Granite Association, is home to an estimated six million tons of granite, giving credence to the small town’s claim as of “Granite Capital of the World.”

But far beyond Elberton, granite is just about everywhere in today’s world. It’s found in buildings, in cemeteries and in monuments in the center of town.

The Elberton Granite Museum in Elberton, Ga. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

The Elberton Granite Museum in Elberton, Ga. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

As a tribute to this rock solid industry that defined a town, the Elberton Granite Museum opened in 1981. The free museum is dedicated to telling the story of how granite is produced and its impact on this small town is on display.

The museum’s many exhibits include artifacts, photographs and whimsical anecdotes. While the tools of the trade show how granite is carved from the earth, it’s a seven-foot-tall granite statue tucked away in a backroom of the museum illustrates a lighter side of the granite industry — and people’s feelings for the monuments produced.

Dutchy, as he’s affectionately known, was erected in 1898 as a monument to Confederate soldiers and the Civil War. But, after about two years on its perch above the Elberton town square, city residents had enough.

The statue’s crime?  Apparently, it looked too much like a Pennsylvania Dutchman (read: Yankee).

Carved by an Italian sculptor who had apparently never spied a real life Confederate soldier, Dutchy is wearing a U.S. Army overcoat. The fact that he was the first example of a sculpture created from Elberton granite was not enough to save Dutchy from his date with destiny.

Tired of this unacceptable appearance, action-oriented townsfolk late one night toppled Dutchy. As a final show of disrespect, the townsfolk buried Dutchy where he fell, his disposition forgotten for more than 80 years.

In 1982, some local residents decided to exhumed Dutchy from his grave. Realizing he was in great shape, apart from his broken legs sustained during his fall, the locals decided to give him a good cleansing by running Dutchy through a local car wash.

Oh, how time heals all wounds. Dutchy was given a second lease on life, and this former blemish on the town square is today a local oddity that draws tourists from near and far.

About Todd DeFeo
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.