By Kelsey Johnson
When people here the word granite, they may think of pretty countertops in nice houses, or of monuments and headstones in cemeteries. Not many people think of where this granite may come from. There is a small town in Georgia about 45 miles from Greenwood, which prides itself on being “the granite capital of the world.” Elberton, GA is where granite is mined, and turned into headstones and countertops.
Once granite is mined from a quarry it is brought into granite sheds on big trucks. The big blocks of raw granite are taken off the trucks with cranes and forklifts. Greg Johnson, a working Foreman for Eagle Granite Company, explains the process of granite going from its raw state to finished form.
As a foreman, Johnson is in charge of six employees and a lot of machinery. Within the shed there are many jobs. The shed Johnson works at is a saw and polishing shed so there are jobs like polisher (the person who uses a polishing mill to polish the granite), crane operators (the people who use cranes to load and unload trucks and move granite), and truck drivers (the people who move granite between shed and quarries and from one shed to another).
Many machines are used to cut down the large granite blocks into smaller, easier to work with pieces. There are block saws and joint-saws. Block saws are used to cut the granite blocks down into smaller and more manageable pieces. After that a joint saw may be used to create more detailed cuts. From there the granite is placed onto a polisher, which polishes it to make the pieces look shiny and smooth.
The granite may then be loaded onto a truck to be taken to a finishing shed. There it will be cut down into specific shapes, polished more, and turned into monuments and headstones. The process is very similar for granite countertops, although those are done at a different granite plant.
Once the monuments are finished they will be shipped out and sent all over the country. “The thing about granite is that it’s a business that’s always needed. People die everyday and their loved ones purchase headstones and mausoleums for them. For that reason it’s an industry that never dies,” Johnson rationalized.
Although the finished products may be glamorous, working in the shed is not. Johnson explained how dangerous this job can be, “It’s very dangerous, whenever you have people working with overhead cranes and big blocks of rock that can weigh nearly a ton. Everyone has to make sure that they are paying attention and doing their job correctly.”
Overall, granite is an industry that has been supporting Elberton, Georgia since the early 1900s. They have been producing more monuments, headstones, and countertops than anywhere else in the world. This small town is very proud of their history and their title as “granite capital of the world.”