Mount Mitchell Declared Highest Peak in Eastern U.S.

Mount Mitchell signOn November 3, 1835Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, announced that a peak in the Black Mountains of North Carolina was the highest in the eastern United States.

The news aroused considerable interest. He estimated the mountain’s height at 6,672 feet, only twelve feet short of the present official height of 6,684 feet. A “controversy of major proportions” ensued in the 1850s between Mitchell and U.S. Rep. (and later Sen.) Thomas L. Clingman, who called into question the accuracy of the earlier Mitchell’s observations and measurements.

On June 27, 1857, Mitchell slipped and fell to his death in a deep pool at the bottom of a sixty-foot waterfall while exploring the Black Mountain range in an effort to prove his claim.

Initially interred in a cemetery in Asheville, Mitchell’s remains were later moved in 1858 to the top of the mountain which was named in his memory at that time. Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park in 1915. The modern observation tower at the summit is adjacent to Elisha Mitchell’s gravesite.

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