Telling a story in pictures is Mount Mitchell, the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The book by local authors Jonathan Howard Bennett and David Biddix was released on August 3, 2015. The book boasts many vintage images that have never been published, and showcases memories of days gone by.
The highest peak in the eastern United States, Mount Mitchell towers 6,684 feet over its home in Yancey County, North Carolina. It has borne silent witness to great scientific and personal achievements, tragic loss of life, heated debates, and a host of controversies both great and small. Once considered forbidding and remote, it claimed the life of its namesake, Elisha Mitchell, when he fell to his death in an attempt to firmly establish the mountain’s height.
In the early 1900s, entrepreneurs constructed a railroad, opening its old-growth forests to massive deforestation. This devastation stirred some of the earliest notions of environmentalism that led to Mount Mitchell’s establishment as North Carolina’s first state park. Today, it is a playground for tourists from around the world, offering some of the best hiking and views in the nation. Mount Mitchell showcases the rich history of the mountain along with the events and colorful characters that have shaped its story.
Highlights of Mount Mitchell include:
The fog that shrouds the mountain has been measured at times to
be as nearly acidic as battery acid.
Thirteen years before he accidentally fell to his death, Elisha
Mitchell remarked that the mountain would be “a comfortable
place to die.”
Mount Mitchell played a surprising role in the Battle of the
Atlantic during World War II.
The first commissioner of NASCAR set a speed record for racing
to the top of Mount Mitchell.
As Mount Mitchell approaches its centennial as North Carolina’s first state park, two local historians have chosen to celebrate the occasion by sharing the history of mountain, including the events, structures, and colorful characters that have graced its slopes over the years. Images of America: Mount Mitchell is the result of their efforts to tell the story of the mountain that newspaperman Bill Sharpe called “the old mountain of mystery and death.”
Jonathan Howard Bennett is a national park ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He grew up in the shadow of Mount Mitchell and has long held an interest in the mountain’s history. He graduated from Wake Forest University, where he studied history and archaeology. He has years of experience in the field and enjoys sharing with others his findings on topics as varied as local history, genealogy, folklore, and the region’s plant and animal life. He hopes to inspire a love of these topics in others through his presentations.
David Biddix is the webmaster and instructional technologist with Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, North Carolina. He is a native of the region near Mount Mitchell, being born and raised in nearby Spruce Pine where he currently lives. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Western Carolina University, and Appalachian State University, David has co-authored two other Arcadia Publishing Images of America books: Spruce Pine and Little Switzerland. He has had an interest in local history for many years and has worked with others to preserve the culture and heritage of the Toe River Valley in various projects. He has an interest in using technology to record and share these projects with others and preserve them for future generations.
Jonathan and David hope that readers of Mount Mitchell will discover that the mountain’s history is richer than imagined. From tales of U-Boats to UFOs, political intrigue, blatant exploitation and rampant commercialism, tragedies, early efforts at conservation, and protection for future generations, the book gives an introduction to Eastern North America’s highest peak that will inspire the reader to learn more about the mountain and make a visit themselves.