Gillespie Gap Monument, Spruce Pine
The monument is currently located on the grounds of the Museum of North Carolina Minerals. A bronze plaque is jointly dedicated to the passage of the Overmountian Men through Gillespie Gap on their way to participate in the Revolutionary War battle fought at Kings Mountain, to Francis Marion and the Battle of Etchoe Pass, and to the men of the 30th Infantry Division who broke the Hindenburg Line in World War One. The plaque is attached to a sloped rectangular structure made of small granite blocks. Stone benches extend from either side. The monument has been relocated and much modified since dedicated in 1927. Old photos show that the plaque was originally attached to an obelisk made of irregular shaped rocks (photo dated August 15, 1935.)
Wording on the plaque is confusing regarding the story of Francis Marion and a battle from the French and Indian War in 1761 that took place at Etchoe Pass near the Georgia border. The exact location of Etchoe Pass was not known in 1927. Some researchers believe the sponsors of this marker thought the location of Etchoe Pass and Gillespie Gap were the same. It is not clear that was the case as others think it was simply commemorating a separate event in a different place in the manner of the 30th Division part of the inscription.
Plaque | Monument at the original location, at intersection of NC Route 26 prior to the Blue Ridge Parkway construction, near Gillespie Gap | Photo dated August 15, 1935
GILLESPIE GAP / ON FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 1780, A LARGE PART / THE AMERICAN ARMY PASSED THIS SPOT, UNDER COMMAND / OF COLONELS WILLIAM CAMPBELL, ISSAC SHELBY AND
/ JOHN SEVIER ON THEIR MARCH TO THE BATTLE OF KINGS / MOUNTAIN WHERE THE BRITISH AND TORY FORCES, NUMBERING / 1187, ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN UNDER COLONEL PATRICK / FERGUSON WERE CAPTURED OR KILLED AND THEIR LEADER / SLAIN ON OCTOBER 7, 1780. THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER / PATRIOTS UNDER COLONEL WILLIAM CAMPBELL, BENJAMIN / CLEVELAND, ISSAC SHELBY, JOHN SEVIER, JOSEPH MCDOWELL, / EDWARD LACY, JAMES WILLIAMS, SAMUEL HAMMOND, / JOSEPH WINSTON, FEDRICK HAMBRIGHT, AND OTHER / DARING LEADERS IN THE WAR FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE / SURROUNDED AND WENT UP THE MOUNTAIN AND THUS / DEFEATED THE BRITISH AND TORIES. WITH THE DEFEAT OF / KING’S MOUNTAIN BEGAN THE DOWNFALL OF BRITISH / RULE IN AMERICA
THE ONLY REGIMENT INTACT IN THE CAROLINAS, / EAST OF KINGS MOUNTAIN AT THIS TIME WAS THE MARION / BRIGADE, FAMOUS IN SONG AND STORY, COMMANDED BY / GENERAL FRANCIS MARION IN THE WAR WITH THE CHEROKEE / INDIANS IN 1761. 30 MEN UNDER THE COMMAND OF MARION / WERE SENT TO DISLODGE THE INDIANS IN ETCHOE PASS, / SO THE MAIN ARMY COULD GO THROUGH. 21 OF THE MEN / UNDER MARION WERE KILLED BY THE FIRST FIRE OF THE / INDIANS. MARION WAS UNHURT. THE HEROISM OF THE EARLY / PATRIOTS SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN. THE CONDUCT OF / MARION AND HIS MEN IN ETCHOE PASS ALMOST EQUALLED / THE HEROISM OF LEONIDAS AND HIS BRAVE BAND OF / SPARTANS AT THE PASS OF THERMOPYLAE.
THIS HIGHWAY LEADING TO MARION IS NAMED IN / HIS HONOR ETCHOE PASS.
IT WAS THE NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTH CAROLINA / AND TENNESSEE TROOPS – THE 30TH DIVISION – IN THE / WORLD WAR THAT BROKE THE HINDENBURG LINE.
ERECTED BY NORTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL COMMISSION / HERIOT CLARKSON / AND W.C. NIVEN / REID QUEEN / COMMITTEE
National Park Service
July 4, 1927
"General View from NC Route 26, August 15, 1935," in “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/. Photograph courtesy of National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
"Over Mountain Victory Trail - September 29, 1980 - 200th Anniversary, September 29, 1980," in “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/. Photograph by C.E. Westveer, courtesy of National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
"Unveiling of Monument at Gillespie Gap, July 4, 1927," in North Carolina Postcard Collection (P052), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
Anderson, William L. “Etchoe, Battle of,” NCPedia.org, (accessed September 5, 2015) Link
Hollifield, Chris. Little Switzerland (Arcadia Publishing, 2010), (accessed September 5, 2015) 46-47 Link
Jones, Randell. "Gillespie Gap Monument" in "A Guide to the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Gillespie Gap (Museum of North Carolina Minerals, National Park Service),” Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, http://bythewaywebf.webfactional.com/omvt/items/show/17, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
Marshall, R. Jackson, III. “Old Hickory Division,” NCPedia.org, (accessed September 5, 2015) Link
“4000 Attend Celebration AT Gillespie Gap,” The Asheville Times (Asheville, NC), July 4, 1927, 1, 3
“Monument - Gillespie Gap, August 1971,” in “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/. Photograph by Robert G. Bruce, courtesy of National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
“Monument Plaque - Gillespie Gap, August 1971,” in “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/blueridgeparkway/. Photograph by Robert G. Bruce, Courtesy of National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
“The Overmountain Men and the Battle of Kings Mountain,” in North Carolina History: A Digital Textbook, http://www.learnnc.org/lp/projects/history/, Learn NC, (accessed September 5, 2015) Link
“Unveiling of Monument at Gillespie Gap, July 4, 1927,” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (PO77), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed October 7, 2015) Link
North Carolina Historical Commission and Heriot Clarkson (Associate Justice, NC Supreme Court)
An estimated 4,000 were in attendance for the July 4th celebration and unveiling ceremony. Judge Thomas M. Pittman, Chairman of the NC Historical Commission, presided over the day’s events that featured former Governor Cameron Morrison speaking on the heroes of Kings Mountain and Adjutant General J. Van B. Metts giving praise to the 30th Infantry Division (link to #337). Morrison gave tribute to the men who left their homes in the cause of independence. Metts noted the strange coincidence that September 29, 1780 was the day a large body of the Overmountain Men passed through the spot where the monument was being dedicated and 138 years later on September 29, 1918 the 30th Infantry Division had gained fame for breaking the German defenses on the Hindenburg Line.
The Reverend James Thomas of Chestnut Grove Baptist Church gave the invocation for the ceremony and the Rt. Reverend Joseph Blount Cheshire; Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina gave the benediction. The monument was unveiled by a group of young ladies that included Anna Jackson Preston, great-granddaughter of Stonewall Jackson and Angela Morrison, daughter of the former governor. Music for the day was provided by the Spruce Pine Band.
The Overmountain Men were backwoods men living west of the Appalachian Mountains from parts of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In September 1780 they passed through the Gillespie Gap on their way to join forces with Patriot militiamen from the Yadkin Valley and Piedmont of North Carolina and from South Carolina and Georgia to surprise the British Army at Kings Mountain. For more on the Overmountain Men read "The Overmountain Men and the Battle of Kings Mountain."
The 30th Infantry Division was named in honor of general and seventh president Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. At the beginning of World War One it was formed from North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina National Guard units. Although draftees from other states were soon added to its ranks, there were more men from North Carolina than any other state. Read more about the “Old Hickory Division.”
The Battle of Etchoe Pass took place the Cherokee War of 1760-61; a sub-conflict of the French and Indian Wars. It began when whites murdered a number of Cherokees returning home from Virginia in support of French forces. Read more about the "Battle of Etchoe."
The marker is on the grounds of the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, 79 Parkway Maintenance Road in Spruce Pine, at milepost 331 in section 2L of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The monument is surrounded by trees and mountains.
The monument was originally located nearby in McDowell County where the Overmountain Men camped on September 29, 1780. It was relocated in 1955 during construction of the Museum of North Carolina Minerals. The museum was dedicated on June 17, 1955 by Governor Luther Hodges.
Photographs documenting original location and look of the monument:
Intersection of NC Route 26 prior to the Blue Ridge Parkway construction, near Gillespie Gap
Photo dated August 15, 1935