The earliest known use of Georgia marble dates to 1400, when effigies, bowls, projectile points, and other necessities were carved out of native marble. These early artifacts, found in Pickens County, are part of the permanent exhibit at the Etowah Mounds near Cartersville.
The area's marble industry began after the mid-1830s, when Henry T. Fitzsimmons, an Irish stonemason, was traveling through north Georgia and discovered outcroppings of surface marble in the Long Swamp Valley of what was then Cherokee County. He immediately obtained the land, opened the Long Swamp Marble Company, and quarried the marble by very crude means. He then carved monuments and memorials that were sold throughout the area.
Georgia's next entrepreneur in the marble industry was Samuel Tate, who in the 1830s purchased land lottery tracts in north Georgia, much of which included large marble deposits. In 1845 Tate signed an agreement with James Ferrel, James C. Holmes, and Gideon Roberts, all from Alabama, that allowed for quarrying on his land. There is no evidence, however, that this agreement was ever enacted. In 1850, while continuing to farm, Tate became a partner in a marble company that opened a quarry in the vicinity of the present Georgia Marble Company in the town that later became known as Tate.
Georgia Marble Company
In the late 1880s Samuel Tate's sons, Stephen Clayton Tate and William Tate, increased their landholdings in the area and assumed a more direct role in the management of the marble industry. The family signed a twenty-five-year lease of the marble quarries with an option for renewal. Other companies attempted to capitalize on the industry with limited success, but the Tate family successfully expanded the markets for its Georgia Marble Company stone. In addition, Stephen and William Tate were on the board of directors of the Etowah quarry, which opened in 1890 and provided the first truly pink marble.
Fortunately for the industry, Samuel Tate, Stephen's son, was named president and general manager of the Georgia Marble Company in 1905. With the help of family and friends, he acquired 6,791 shares of the stock. He immediately added equipment, changed procedures, cleared quarries, and built additional houses for the workers. By 1906 the company's profit had risen to more than $120,000.
In 1909 the twenty-five-year lease on the quarries expired and was renegotiated with the Tate family.
During the marble boom of the 1930s, Georgia marble was utilized for the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C., the Puerto Rican capitol, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank and Public Library in Ohio. The value of the Georgia Marble Company was reported to be more than $3.7 million. The company's success continued through 1932. In 1933 losses were reported to be $225,000, and an attempt to sell the company for $3 million failed. By the time Colonel Sam Tate died in 1938, the company was struggling for solvency again.
Between 1940 and 2003, the Georgia Marble Company changed hands several times. The Jim Walter Corporation purchased the company in 1969 for $23 million. Succeeding owners were Kolberg, Kravis,
Timothy J. Crimmins and Anne H. Farrisee, Democracy Restored: A History of the Georgia State Capitol (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007).
Pickens County Heritage Book Committee, Pickens County, Georgia, Heritage, 1853-1998 (Waynesville, N.C.: Don Mills, 1998).
Luke E. Tate, History of Pickens County (1935; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1978).
Mimi Jo Butler, Tate
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.