Temporary Elisha Mitchell Marker, Mt. Mitchell, Burnsville [removed]
Contemporary photos show that a wooden marker to Elisha Mitchell stood roughly five feet high and was cut in shape of a grave marker. It was painted white with black lettering. The marker stands at the head of the cairn which marks Mitchell’s grave and is held in place by the stones that make up the cairn.
IN / MEMORIAM / ELISHA MITCHELL, D.D. / WHO LOST HIS LIFE / EXPLORING THIS MOUNTAIN /
WHOSE ALTITUDE HE / FIRST DETERMINED. / BORN AUGUST 19, 1793 / DIED JUNE 27TH, 1853 /
“HE REACHED THE HEIGHTS TO REST IN PEACE” / THIS TABLET IS A TEMPORARY / TRIBUTE TO A
MAN WHO LOVED AND / KNEW THE MOUNTAINS OF / WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA. /
PERMANENT MONUMENT TO BE ERECTED / BY THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA / AND
VARIOUS CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS
Bottom: MCRARY AND SON / ASHEVILLE, N.C.
National Park Service
35.766350 , -82.265430 View in Geobrowse
0008: Mount Mitchell (Yancey County, N.C.): Camp Alice, temporary Elisha Mitchell marker, observation tower, circa 1910s-1920s: Scan 2, in the John Wallace Winborne Photographic Collection #P0039, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed October 31, 2015) Link
0008: Mount Mitchell (Yancey County, N.C.): Camp Alice, temporary Elisha Mitchell marker, observation tower, circa 1910s-1920s: Scan 3, in the John Wallace Winborne Photographic Collection #P0039, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (accessed October 31, 2015) Link
Blythe, John. “The Short Lived Monument to Elisha Mitchell,” North Carolina Miscellany, (accessed September 16, 2015) Link
Lewis, Jamie. “Mt. Mitchell, Where Mystery, Intrigue, and Forest History Meet!” From Peeling Back the Bark, Forest History Society, (accessed September 30, 2015) Link
Mewborn, Suzanne. "Elisha Mitchell," NCPedia.org, (accessed September 30, 2015) Link
Watson, Elgiva D. "Elisha Mitchell, 19 Aug. 1793-27 June 1857," Documenting the American South (from Dictionary of North Carolina Biography edited by William S. Powell), (accessed October 27, 2015) Link
“Statue For Mitchell,” The Siler City Grit (Siler City, NC), January 24, 1917, 4
“The Grave Is Despoiled,” Salisbury Evening Post (Salisbury, NC) September 14, 1916, 4
“Towers of Mt. Mitchell.” From Vanished Places of the Southern Appalachians, April 12, 2008, (accessed September 30, 2015) Link
The earliest mention of the temporary marker is September 1922.
The 1888 12 ft. tall memorial to Mitchell had been destroyed by strong winds in 1915
leaving his grave marked only by a stone cairn. The site was acquired by the State of North
Carolina in 1915 and a wooden observation tower constructed in 1916. Stones from the cairn
had been removed to form the observation tower base. This, combined with previous acts of
vandalism by tourists, created an uproar and in 1917 former Governor Julian Carr was chosen
to lead a committee to erect an appropriate memorial. Carr’s plan which called for a monument
that copied the Washington Monument was never carried out. The temporary marker was
replaced by a bronze plaque in 1928.
Mitchell, a professor at UNC had fallen to his death near a waterfall that now also bears his name. The UNC professor was in Yancey County to measure the altitude of the mountain then known as Black Dome. Prior to his death Mitchell had come under attack from a former student at UNC and then Congressman Thomas Lanier Clingman for his claim that Black Dome was the tallest peak in the eastern United States. Clingman had claimed that another mountain in the Black Mountain range was taller. The dispute involved who had first identified what is now known as Mt. Mitchell. Clingman claimed that Mitchell had identified another mountain that was later named Clingman’s Dome. Mitchell’s claim to have identified the tallest mountain was later bore out.
Originally buried in Asheville, Mitchell’s body was re-interred at the top of Mount Mitchell in June 1858. The burial site was marked by a simple cairn until 1888.
Summit of Mt. Mitchell near Burnsville