Big Tom Wilson Plaque, Big Tom Mountain, Burnsville
The simple, square bronze plaque is dedicated to “Big Tom” Wilson for whom Big Tom Mountain was officially named in 1947. Wilson is North Carolina’s most famous mountain man and is best known for finding the body of University of North Carolina Geology Professor Elisha Mitchell who fell to his death while trying to determine the tallest mountain in the state. The 14 by 16 inches plaque is cut into stone on Big Tom’s and secured by four bolts. The plaque is accessible only by foot after a “hard hike.” Big Tom is the eight highest mountain in North Carolina.
BIG TOM / ALTITUDE 6,595 FEET / NAMED FOR / THOMAS DAVID (“BIG TOM”) WILSON / (1825-1909) / FAMOUS GUIDE AND BEAR HUNTER / OF THE BLACK MOUNTAINS WHO / FOUND THE BODY OF / DR. ELISHA MITCHELL JULY 7, 1857
United States Forest Service
October 24, 1958
Horan, Jack. “Hiking on States Highest Mountains,” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), September 23, 2015, (accessed December 15, 2016) Link
Reed, Doug. “Mt. Craig Found 18 Feet Higher Than Was Claimed,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), November 23, 1958
Simpson, Jr., Marcus B. “Wilson, Thomas D. (Big Tom),” NCPedia.org, (accessed December 16, 2016) Link
“Details for Benchmark: AC7620,” Geocaching.com, (accessed December 16, 2016) Link
Carolina Mountain Club. Plaque casting funded by the State Division of Parks
Setting of this plaque and one to Governor Locke Craig on the same day took place in sub-freezing temperatures.
Big Tom Wilson was a legendary hunter and mountain guide who was born and lived most of his life in Yancey County. He first became known through his association with Dr. Elisha Mitchell for whom Mt. Mitchell is named. In 1857 Mitchell went missing while looking for the state’s tallest mountain and it was Wilson who discovered Mitchell’s body. After serving in the Civil War as chief musician for Confederate General Robert Vance’s brigade Wilson returned to Yancey County. Until his death he was popular as a guide and leader of scientific expeditions and a repository of southern Appalachian folklore. To read more about his life (Link to either NCPedia or Wildlife Magazine article)
Big Tom Mountain and Mt. Craig were once known as the “Black Brothers” until renamed in June 1947. Both lie along the Black Mountain range.
The plaque can be reached by hiking 1.2 miles north along Deep Gap Trail, accessible from the Mt. Mitchell picnic area. The plaque is located is 9.7 miles South-Southeast from Burnsville and 1 mile north-northeast of Mt. Mitchell.
Rugged, forested mountain terrain.