The mystery surrounding the pink elephant grave stone located in Mary Love Cemetery in Hamlet continues to unfold.
Charles Scott of Laurinburg read “The Legend Behind the Pink Elephant” in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Journal and decided to come forward with what he knows about the unusual sculpture — including the possibility that it was created by a man who worked on Mount Rushmore.
“Elizabeth Beacham Mitchell was my half sister,” said Scott. “We grew up in Hamlet, and she left when she married Joseph Mitchell.”
Mrs. Mitchell erected the pink elephant gravestone on her husband’s grave in 1970 — one year after his death.
“Her grandmother is buried in that cemetery too,” said Scott.
For years stories have swirled around the meaning of the headstone, and who carved it out of the unmistakable pink granite. Some lore spoke of Mr. Mitchell’s alleged drinking problem, and hinted that the pink elephant was a monument to the supposed pink elephants he saw when he was on a bender.
The legend with the most credentials pointed to the elephant as a testament to Mr. Mitchell’s conservative Republican politics.
“Well, it’s true that Joe was a drunk, and he did used to joke about seeing pink elephants,” said Scott. “But that’s not why Elizabeth chose that elephant. They were both Republicans, and active in their local governments. They started a Republican party in Catawba County, in fact.”
Scott confirmed that the stone choice, pink granite, was chosen because his sister believed it to be the hardest stone available for the headstone sculpture.
Other legend surrounding the headstone includes the sculptor. Most available references point to an artist named Cohen Ludwig, who is best known for his contribution to the completion of the confederate memorial carved into the side of Stone Mountain, in Georgia.
“I have seen that printed several times over the years — that Ludwig was the sculptor,” said Scott. “I’m not sure where that story started. My sister told me the sculpture was made in Chicago by Gutzon Borglum’s son.”
Meridith Holt, who works for Walker Marketing and promotes tourism in Richmond County, found that most documents pointed to Ludwig being the sculptor.
“I don’t know why there are all these documents and articles that say Ludwig was the sculptor,” said Scott. “It was Borglum. My sister told me that herself.”
Lincoln Borglum was famous for carrying on his father’s work on the Mount Rushmore sculpture, and his father Gutzon worked on the same Stone Mountain carving as Ludwig.
“Perhaps, over the years, people have become confused because of the connection of the headstone artist to Stone Mountain,” said Holt.
No mention of Lincoln Borglum creating small sculptures or headstones could be found, nor could he be connected to Chicago — although that is where his father died in the ’40s.
“Cohen Ludwig, on the other hand, lived in Salisbury, and though he worked on Stone Mountain he mostly was known locally and regionally for his work on headstones and small monuments,” said Holt.
If anyone has more information about this mystery, contact Staff Writer Mallory Brown at the Daily Journal. Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.