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Steve Stone working on the memorial carving at his Marble Hill studio.

Indian removal monument for Mt. Oglethorpe a ‘spiritual’ undertaking

BY WAYNE TIDWELL
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Cherokee girl being depicted on the 2 ½-ton memorial carving.

Steve Stone, sculptor, poet and songwriter, decided he wanted to create a marble Indian removal memorial in his hometown of Waterloo, Ala. where Cherokee Indians were forcefully marched in 1838 on one of the infamous “Trail of Tears” routes to a holding area. Here they were loaded onto boats on the Tennessee River for part of their evacuation to Oklahoma.

Twenty-three years later his dream will come true on top of Oglethorpe Mountain in Pickens County Georgia. Thanks to the chance befriending of Clardy Schwarz who knew Don Wells of Mountain Stewards and Ken Rice of the Oglethorpe Mountain Foundation, Stone’s dream was perfect for a memorial atop Oglethorpe Mountain.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 called for the voluntary or forcible removal of all Indians from the eastern U.S. to the state of Oklahoma. General Winfield Scott ordered the roundup of over 17,000 Cherokees who refused to leave. So began the “Trail of Tears” that included the collection of Indians forced to march over Oglethorpe Mountain, according to Wells.

With the support of his new Georgia friends, Stone began his renewed project by visiting members of the Cherokee nation in Western North Carolina, looking for models for his proposed carving depicting soldiers removing Indians from their homes for the march to Oklahoma. He ran an ad in the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper and received responses form professional models. What he wanted were native Cherokees, preferably a child and adult. After modifying the ad, he received a response from a Cherokee grandmother and her granddaughter.

“The grandmother was excited about the project and plans to attend the memorial dedication ceremony,” Stone said.

The granddaughter wasn’t as excited about it and on the day of the photo shoot for the image that would eventually be created in stone, she was in a foul mood. The result was the exact facial expression Stone had hoped for.

The Georgia Marble/Polycor Company donated a 2 ½-ton slab of marble for the memorial and delivered it to Stone’s home in Marble Hill. He began carving the memorial, using a drawing that included the Cherokee girl and her grandmother.

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Drawing depicting soldiers forcing Indians from their homes.

Carving skills began by accident

Stone began his stone carving skills literally by accident.

“I broke my foot while diving for muscle shells in the Tennessee River,” Stone said. “I couldn’t work and my kids brought me a rock out of the creek we lived on. For some reason I carved a face on it. That was the first time I had done it. The kids kept bringing me rocks and I kept carving them. The local newspaper wrote about it and I got excited about it because everybody liked them so well.”

Stone moved to Georgia about seven years ago. Schwarz said the chance meeting of the three spearheading the project has a somewhat spiritual component.

“Steve is a spiritual man and so am I,” Schwarz said. “You see so many different elements coming together from so many different places that had to connect in a certain sort of way for this to even happen. I know Steve and I know Don Wells from working with Mountain Stewards on Mt. Oglethorpe. I had conversations with Steve because I knew he was interested in doing something and had conversations with Don. He and Ken Rice had interest in doing something as well. So I spoke with all of them and said we should all get together so we met at the Huddle House one day and got everybody on the same page. I think that is a pretty amazing story that’s taken place here and we would like to share it with as many people as we can so they can participate in it.”

Plans are for the sculpture to be in place atop Mt. Oglethorpe this fall with a memorial ceremony, featuring music and Stone’s reciting of a touching poem he has written about the Cherokee plight.

Funds are needed for the completion of the project. Donations can be made to the Indian Removal Memorial Fund, Box 10619 Big Canoe, Big Canoe, GA. 30143.

Those who would like a permanent memento of the event can donate $100 or more to receive a 12-by-16-inch artist quality print of the memorial. Donations over $250 will receive a 16-by-20-inch numbered print signed by the artist and sculptor. Donations over $500 will receive a 20-by-24-inch numbered print. Persons donating over $1,000 will receive a 20-by-24-inch numbered print and have their name placed on the monument sign.

Learn more about the history of the Cherokees in and around Big Canoe in an article, “Trail of Tears Memorial being added to Eagle’s Rest Park” by Don and Diane Wells at bigcanoenews.com, April 16 2019.

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