Manataka American Indian Council





Standing Stone

A Memorial to Old Indian Times


Standing Stone State Park covers nearly 11,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau of north-central Tennessee. The quaint and rustic park is noted for its outstanding scenery, spring wildflowers, fossils and other natural diversity.


The park takes its name from the Standing Stone, an eight-foot tall rock standing upright on a sandstone ledge, which was supposedly used as a boundary line between two separate Indian nations. When the rock fell, the Indians placed a portion of it upon an improvised monument to preserve it.  The actual stone is not located inside the Standing Stone State Park.


The stone is still preserved in Monterey, Tennessee, outside Standing Stone State Park.


The park takes its name from a twelve foot "dog shaped" monolith. The  stone was used as a boundary line between separate Indian Nations. The Cherokee called the monolith "NEE YAH KAH TAH KEE" which is interpreted "Standing Stone."


In probing the depth of this curiosity it  becomes imperative to discover what the structure was. First of all, the term monolith (a common term in geology): the term lithos comes from the Greek word Stone, the term mono meaning one.


The individual sandstone which the monolith was made of and the rock in which the monolith is found are argilaceous, ortho quartz sandstone, which means they are pure sandstone; they are made from quartz. They have little clay in them. The rocks are held together  with iron oxide cement. We call this rust. This is what gives the different color to the sandstone. Most of the monolith is a dark brown and the reason for that is because of the iron oxide staining. This sandstone is very loosely  cemented. You can actually break the stone with your hands. The monolith itself probably the inside part of a boulder because that is the hardest part. The rocks are very massive sandstone and can be shipped or carved. If it was formed naturally, it would form without lines. Which leads us to believe the "dog shape" was carved.


Over the years the monolith became victimized by the weathering process and possibly by passing pioneers who would chip off souvenirs to take home. So severe the destruction, by the late 19th century the curious animal-like appearance had virtually disappeared and the stone stood half its original height. In 1893 a group of concerned Cookeville citizens picked the smaller fragments that existed and took them to Cookeville for inscription and returned it two years later to be mounted on a pedestal of the Standing Stone.


The Cookevillians that saved the last fragments of the monolith were members of the Narragansett tribe of a fraternal group named "The Improved Order of Redmen," an organization that had gained notoriety during the Revolutionary War period when they were known as "The Sons of Liberty."


The ground where the monolith is now located was donated by the Cumberland Mountain Coal Company and the monument itself was constructed by the Cookeville Marble and Granite Works. A tomahawk and  the words "NEE YAH KAH TAH KEE" were inscribed on the monolith which now rests atop the monument. The monument was dedicated on the 17th day of October, 1895.


GSD404 means 404 years after the Great Sun of Discovery. The  Improved Order of Redmen used 1492, the date of the discovery of America by Columbus, as the beginning of their dating system. There is much symbolism to be seen in this monument, not only is it a link to our heritage, but the  designers' of the irregular shaped stone cemented them together at that time with red cement symbolizing the linkage of the irregular patterns of men's lives through the motto of the Improved Order of Redmen of freedom, charity, and friendship. A link which, according to the Improved Order of Redmen, should always exist not only around the entire world, but especially around this monument.


It was a cold, crisp day as nearly 3,000 people gathered in  Monterey, Tennessee to dedicate the only genuine relic of Aboriginal origin in Tennessee.




The Standing Stone - More History


A huge animal-shaped monolith standing beside the Avery Trace in Putnam County mystified the eighteenth-century travelers who first encountered it. McClain's History of Putnam County (1925) describes the figure as a "sphinx-like sculpture which may have belonged to a cultured people long antedating the wild and roaming Indian." McClain recorded one early pioneer's description of the figure as "a big gray dog in a sitting position, head and ears up, looking straight out west." Native Americans venerated the monolith to such a degree that it became a religious icon. Settlers referred to the statue as the "Standing Stone," a name that was applied to the nearby town until 1901, when it was incorporated as the town of Monterey.


By the early 1890s only four feet remained of the monument that once stood over twelve feet in height. Railroad workers, blasting a roadbed across Monterey mountain, reduced the remainder to a scattering of various sized stones. In 1895 a patriotic fraternity, the "Improved Order of Red Men," incorporated one of the stones into a monument in Monterey. The passing of generations all but erased the memory of the Standing Stone from the minds of the local people, but the efforts of one young girl, Nannie Ellen Buckner, preserved its significance in Tennessee history. In 1939 the State of Tennessee named Standing Stone State Park after the monolith. An annual celebration is held each October in Monterey to commemorate the Standing Stone mystery.







More Standing Stone History...


Native Americans were living in substantial semi-permanent villages and rock shelters in Northern Overton County as early as the Archaic period (c. 8000-1000 B.C.).[1] According to Native American legends, the Overton area was part of a vast region long disputed by Algonquin-speaking tribes (such as the Shawnee) and Iroquoian-speaking tribes (such as the Cherokee. [2] By the time the first Euro-American explorers arrived in Overton County in the mid-1700s, the Cherokee were in control of the area. The Cherokee chief Nettle Carrier operated out of a camp located along the creek that now bears his name a few miles east of the park.[3]


Long hunters, who were among the first Euro-Americans to explore the Middle Tennessee region, were active in the Standing Stone area as early as the 1760s.[4] These hunters were drawn to the region by the Cumberland River, the headwaters of which they followed westward from Virginia. Daniel Boone and Richard Callaway are believed to have camped at the mouth of Mill Creek around 1763.[5] A few years later, a long hunting expedition led by Kasper Mansker camped in the Oak Hill area, near modern Livingston. While at Oak Hill, a member of Mansker's expedition named Robert Crockett was ambushed and killed by hostile Cherokees.[6]


The park's namesake was a mysterious stone which according to the region's earliest pioneers was revered by Native Americans. William Walton discovered the stone at what is now Monterey (appx. 20 miles (32 km) southeast of the park) in the late 1780s while building the Walton Road. The stone originally stood around 10 feet (3.0 m) tall and was shaped like a dog sitting on its hind legs. The purpose of the stone, if any, remains unknown. Some accounts claim that the stone marked the boundary between the territories of the Cherokee and Shawnee, or other Native American tribes. Others say it was a guidepost used by Cherokee hunting parties. Whatever its original purpose, the stone was a well-known landmark for migrants travelling between East and Middle Tennessee in the early 1800s. A community known as "Standing Stone" (later renamed Monterey) developed along the Walton Road in the stone's vicinity. The Standing Stone was dynamited in 1893 to make way for railroad construction. Shortly after it was destroyed, a local society known as the Improved Order of the Redmen retrieved and preserved several pieces of the stone. In 1895, the order placed one of these pieces (which they had engraved) atop a monument at Monterey City Park, where it remains today.[7]

  1. ^ Tennessee Archaeology Net, "Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology Annual Meeting Abstracts, 1994-2007." Retrieved: 18 July 2008.
  2. ^ John Roy Dillard, Monterey, Early History (Nashville, Tenn.: Harris Press, 1989), 107-108.
  3. ^ Albert Goodpasture, Overton County (Nashville, Tenn.: B.C. Goodpasture, 1954), 6. Printed version of an address delivered by Albert Goodpasture in Livingston, Tennessee, July 4, 1876.
  4. ^ Michael Birdwell, "Overton County." The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2002. Retrieved: 19 July 2008.
  5. ^ Robert Eldridge and Mary Eldridge, Bicentennial Echoes of the History of Overton County, Tennessee, 1776-1976 (Livingston, Tenn.: Enterprise Printing Co., 1976), 5.
  6. ^ Goodpasture, 5.
  7. ^ Dillard, 107-114. 









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