Mount Mitchell State Park Centennial

Mount Mitchell State Park celebrated its 100th anniversary the weekend of August 27-28, 2016. Mount Mitchell is the first state park ever created in North Carolina and the highest mountain East of the Mississippi River. At the ceremony, local woodcarver David Boone presented two new sculptures he created for the anniversary: one of Dr. Mitchell, and one of Big Tom Wilson. David is a Yancey County native and a descendant of Big Tom.

Local artist Rolf Holmquist designed and created a centennial commemorative print.


The anniversary celebration on Mount Mitchell included a color guard and presentation of flags at the summit parking area. The event featured musical entertainment, interpretive programs, guided hikes and handmade crafts. NC Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson read an original composition he wrote for the centennial, and also presented poetry about Mount Mitchell written by Reagan Boone (left) and other local students.

Dr. Tim Silver, a professor at Appalachian State University and author of a 2003 book about Mount Mitchell spoke to an audience inside the park’s educational classroom. Interpretive programs and educational hikes were held throughout the two-day event.

One exhibit that attracted a lot of attention was the watch Dr. Mitchell had in his pocket the day he died in 1857. He was hiking alone at dusk on the western side of the mountain when he fell to his death in a waterfall. Big Tom Wilson later found Mitchell’s body at the base of the falls. The watch is permanently housed and archived in the UNC Collection in Chapel Hill.

Dr. Elisha Mitchell was a UNC professor from Chapel Hill who explored the Black Mountains on five separate occasions between the 1830s and 1850s. On his last trip, he lost his footing at the top of a waterfall and fell to his death. His watched was forever stopped at 8:19.

Mount Mitchell State Park staff and descendants of Dr. Mitchell and Big Tom Wilson came together at the summit to lay a wreath on Dr. Mitchell’s grave.

The 100th anniversary celebration featured music and entertainment throughout the afternoon, including the Bailey Mountain Cloggers from Mars Hill University (above), Broke Holler with Pete and Kim McWhirter (left), and the Mountain Laurel Band (below).