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.