AUTHOR: JC Knowles; edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter and Laurie Jones
Before 1857, despite Dr. Elisha Mitchell’s earlier research that claimed otherwise, North Carolina’s school children were taught that Mount Washington in New Hampshire was the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River. Dr. Mitchell consistently maintained that there were several peaks in North Carolina higher than Mount Washington. He set out in 1857 to validate his claims.
Dr. Mitchell explored and measured a peak that was called Black Dome in the Black Mountains of Yancey County and found it was 250 feet taller than Mount Washington, thereby proving that it was the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River. In 1857, while he was engaged in measuring various peaks and making other explorations, he lost his footing and fell to his death. His body was discovered several days later and was taken to Asheville for burial.
One year later, the body of Dr. Mitchell was exhumed and carried to the top of Black Dome and reburied. A monument in memory of Dr. Mitchell was erected there, and that peak was renamed in his honor: Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River.