A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.
Elbert County’s Georgia Guidestones may be gone, but the mystery surrounding their destruction has managed to nearly eclipse that of their conception.
To this day, no one has divulged who paid to have them erected, the name of the group he claimed to represent or if the reasons given for the installation of the granite slabs were truthful.
Now the question is why they were blown apart on July 6. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues seeking information about the incident, which brought down one of the monument’s four massive panels.
“(An) explosion was reported around 4 a.m.,” the AJC’s Chris Joyner reported. “The remainder of the monument was removed later in the day due to excessive damage and for the protection of investigators who were working the scene, officials said.”
Atlanta Journal reporter Suzanne Dolezal detailed quite a different scene in her Jan. 18, 1980, feature on the then-nascent Guidestones, which weren’t completely installed.
“On a hill in a pasture eight miles north of (Elberton), a slab of granite, 16 feet high and 6 feet wide, sits upright amid grazing cows and red clay roads,” Dolezal wrote. “One side of the slab is covered with engravings in English and the other side with Spanish.”
“Three similar columns will soon join it,” Dolezal continued. “The same messages will be on the columns in eight languages — English, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, classical Hebrew, Swahili and Hindi. Across the top a capstone will read ‘Let These Be Guidestones to an Age of Reason’ in Sanskrit, Babylonian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics and classical Greek.”
The tale of how the Guidestones came to be is practically legend now. A man calling himself “R.C. Christian” requested an estimate for a monument from Joe Fendley, owner of Elberton Granite Finishing Co., before then opening an escrow account at Granite City Bank to pay for the monument. Christian told bank president Wyatt Martin his true identity on the condition Martin never reveal it.
Martin died Dec. 15, 2021, taking the secret with him.
Christian claimed to represent “a small group of ‘conservation-minded people’ who wanted to erect a monument comparable to England’s mysterious Stonehenge,” the Journal reported. Fendley told the paper Christian returned to his office only once more, bearing a wooden model of the Guidestones and “expertly written specifications.”
“The last thing he said to me,” the builder said, “was ‘My name is not Christian, and you will never see me again.’”
Locals, however, viewed the coming monument with a healthy dose of skepticism, mainly where Fendley was concerned.
“The big question in Elberton, it seems, is not what the messages mean, or who the donors are,” Dolezal wrote, “but why Joe Fendley got the job.”
“Some people in Elberton hint at a hoax,” Dolezal wrote. “Giving fuel to their theory is the fact that the effusive Fendley is chairman of the Elberton Granite Association’s advertising committee.
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Farmer Wayne Mullenix, who sold part of his land for the monument site, said if the project, slated to cost over $50,000 at the time, was indeed fake “it’s an awful lot of money to invest in a hoax. I really don’t believe (Fendley) would try to pull my leg about something like this.”
An anonymous competitor of Fendley’s was less charitable in his assessment of the Guidestones.
“It’s not a monument as far as I am concerned — it’s advertising,” the man told Dolezal. “I don’t know anything about it, but it seems designed for publicity more than anything else.”
Fendley, who died at age 70 in May 2005, appeared to take the small town murmurings in stride.
“Everyone from my wife to my enemies is asking why he picked us,” he told the Journal. “I don’t know. I may have been the only one in the office that late on a Friday afternoon.”
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In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you original articles and update the story. If you have a story you’d like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know.