Uncovering History at Stone Mountain

People have been engraving their names and other words and pictures into the surface of Stone Mountain for well over a century. Most of these engravings require no more than brushing off of pine straw in order to be clearly visible. But over time, some of them have become covered by soil, moss, and/or lichen to the point where they are illegible. In the following cases, I have sought to reverse this.

Remember Now...
Charlie Gholston
The Bealors
Charlie Bradfield
Elias Nour

Remember Now...

An engraving found near Buzzard's Roost is one of the most interesting of all those at Stone Mountain. At about six feet wide and ten feet high, it's the second-largest engraving on the mountain (other than the Confederate Memorial Carving). It's also the second-longest in terms of number of characters engraved.

When I discovered this engraving, it was covered with thick lichen to the point of illegibility. In this view, which has excellent lighting, it's nearly invisible.

A closer view of the engraving as found.

The lower part of the engraving as found, six months later.

After researching non-destructive and environmentally friendly techniques, I decided to remove the lichen from the engraving using an opaque cover. This small cover was used for a test.

The small test cover was held in place with stones. No loose stones were in the immediate area so they all had to be carried in.

After five months, it seemed that this technique was working well but needed more time.

Closer view of test area.

Detail view of test area.

A larger cover was installed and the smaller one was re-used alongside, requiring many more stones.

Another view of the second cover.

After five more months, the second cover was ripped due to the windy environment, so another, larger, more durable cover was installed. It was held in place with even more stones.

Another view of the third cover.

Overview of the third cover.

After the third cover was in place for eight months, much of the lichen was loose and after cleaning with a brush the engraving was much more visible. But I wasn't done yet as a lot of lichen still remained.

The fourth cover, a heavier-duty tarp and still more, larger stones to resist the wind.

The fourth cover was destroyed. Not sure how much time went by before this was noticed via satellite image. Here's the progress at that point.

Yet another tarp after the previous one was destroyed. Three more large stones to go with it.

About six weeks later I added another large stone and fixed the displaced tarp. Some fierce wind up here sometimes.

Wide-angle view from June 2020.

Charlie Gholston

Charlie Columbus Gholston was a quarry worker who carved his name near a few of the quarry locations.

This engraving is located along Connecting Trail 6. Unfortunately the stone on the right side has broken away and the date is lost.

This one is located near a quarry on the south side. It is the largest engraving on Stone Mountain (other than the Confederate Memorial Carving) at about fourteen feet wide and seven feet high, and one of the southernmost as well. It's unfinished; he completed only the date and his first and middle names. That's not surprising considering the size. It is dated 1924. As you can see, Charlie could spell his first name but wasn't so good with his middle name. But he seems to have overcome the backwards S by this point.

When I found this one near the Flag Terrace in 2016, just a few tantalizing letters were visible, but the name was immediately recognizable. This photo was taken after it was quickly cleared of sticks and pine straw by hand. However, a lot of lichen, moss, and soil remained.

Another view.

The engraving is located upon a large, rectangular, quarried stone. It took quite a while to carefully uncover the entire stone.

And it took several tries to get it reasonably clean. I repeatedly left it to be rained on then returned to brush it off.

A nighttime flash photo.

Another cleaning, this time with a mild biodegradable soap solution and a soft bristle brush.

After washing.

Another view. I'm sure cleaning with something more aggressive such as a wire brush would be more effective, but my approach is gradual, non-destructive cleaning, which I like to think Charlie would appreciate.

Engraving highlighted for easier reading:

Summertime photo showing how quickly nature reclaims these engravings:

Another cleaning operation, completed at night and photographed with a flash:

Nature taking its course.

It's not long before the entire piece would be invisible.

2020 view

The Bealors

The Bealors picked an unfortunate location to carve their names and date. Over time, it became deeply covered with soil.

A.F.BEALOR.
L.E.BEALOR.
1926
NJ

When I first found this engraving, only the letters OR were visible and the bottom two lines were completely obscured.

Although the quality of the carving work was attractive, over three years went by before I could no longer resist investigating.

Some cursory digging made it clear that the job would have to be done bit by bit to protect the nearby pine tree.

Soon I could read the name Bealor but knew not what else was there.

After further cleaning, I figured out the best time of day to photograph without shadows.

After another incremental excavation.

A third line began to emerge.

After the next excavation, the date was revealed along with a fourth line.

After further cleaning.

I wasn't willing to dig further and risk harm to the tree, but I did peek beneath the soil to read the bottom line.

Less than a year later and it's apparent that soon the Bealors will again be nearly invisible, and that the tree is still thriving.

Nature continues to take its course.

Charlie Bradfield

Charlie Bradfield has carved his name into Stone Mountain in more places than almost anyone else.

C.L.B.
C L BRADFIELD
JULY.2 1911
IN GOD
I TRUST
PLEASE DON'T STEP ON MY HEART

Some of his engravings are elaborate and well-known. They are located along the Walk-Up Trail.

One of his engravings is located off the Walk-Up Trail and was largely covered with soil. Shannon Byrne pointed this one out to me.

I found it was surrounded by a giant heart and featured his initials in large cursive script letters.

On the outside of the heart is inscribed PLEASE DON'T STEP ON MY HEART.

Uncovering the beginning of the word HEART.

Elias Nour

Elias Nour was one of the most famous and most interesting people in the history of Stone Mountain. He is the reason I have to say "almost" about Charlie Bradfield.

Elias Nour carved his name into Stone Mountain in three places near the base of the Walk-Up Trail.

at 33°48'36.70"N 84°9'29.90"W...

...and at 33°48'38.02"N 84°9'40.30"W.

The signature of both Elias and his brother Tony can be found together at 33°48'36.50"N 84°9'31.70"W

And he carved his initials in three more places higher up on the trail.

This one originally said EN and someone later tried to change it to EA.

All of his engravings are located in clearly visible loccations along the Walk-Up Trail. So why are we discussing him on this page? It's because of one of his engravings, which I have nicknamed "the shield".

The shield is located precisely where most people step on a relatively narrow part of the walk-up trail, meaning it has been stepped on millions of times. For this reason, the granite is very worn, especially on the right side of the engraving.

As a result, the engraving is hard to see at all and even more difficult to actually read. The above photo is taken in optimal conditions and digitally enhanced. You can see the shape of the shield and the E on the top and the N on the bottom. The rest is difficult to read. Viewed in person it is even more difficult to read.

I used several non-destructive techniques to help decipher the engraving. Many rubbing techniques can be harmful, but a wet sponge on thin foil works well and is harmless. The stone is rough here, but the 11-14-61 was unmistakable.

In addition to photography with artificial lighting from various angles, I also used several image processing techniques to help read the engraving. As a result I have concluded the first line says Nour, the middle line possibly says Elias, and the last line reads 11-14-61.