I love learning about the history of many of the places we visit. Tim knows that no matter where we go, I’ll be googling who lived there and checking to see what cool tidbits of history I might find. One thing I always wondered was how mountains get named. After hiking so many trails along the mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, I started looking at how some of these mountains got their names.
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Who named the mountains in the GSMNP
Most of the mountains in the park were named by Swiss geographer Arnold Guyot and later the U.S. Geological Survey. Guyot measured many of the peaks he named and did so after people who helped establish the park. Once the USGS took over, they kind of followed suit and continued doing that.
Both Mount Collins and Collins Creek are named for Bobby Collins. Collins was a pre-civil war local guide and lead Guyot’s team on measurement expeditions. Many of these trips were up trailless peaks and required carrying delicate glass tools used to measure elevations.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This peak is named after North Carolina Senator Thomas Lanier Clingman. Clingman stated that without a doubt, Smoky Dome as it was called then, was higher than any mountain in New England. Guyot’s measurements proved the statement to be true and so the mountain was renamed in his honor. The view from Clingmans is one of my favorite of all the mountains in Tennessee!
If you think that Charlies Bunion is named in relation to a foot, you would be correct! This bare, rocky promontory got its name from Charlie Conner, a Smokies guide who had foot problems. This is also one of Tim’s favorite mountains in Tennessee to hike.
Thermo Knob has a little bit more of an anecdotal name but I love it none the less because it reminds me of being a little kid playing in the woods. This smaller peak is located beyond Charlies Bunion and is where one of Guyot’s thermometers was damaged and broken.
Mount Kephart is another peak near Charlies Bunion with a really cool story. It is named after Horace Kephart who was a huge park advocate and wrote Our Southern Highlanders. Kephart is the one who named Charlies Bunion after Charlie’s foot.
Mount Guyot as you can tell is named after Swiss geographer Arnold Guyot. The USGS named the second highest peak in the park after Guyot who was so instrumental in helping with the park.
Sequoyah is the Cherokee who developed and established an alphabet for the Cherokee in the 1820s. This was instrumental to bring literacy to the Cherokee Nation and is still taught today in Cherokee Schools.
This area was the inspiration for the book Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier who also wrote Cold Mountain. William Holland Thomas was a lawyer and Confederate war general and it is after him that the area is named.
Thomas was orphaned as a child and adopted by a Cherokee Chief. After the US established the Indian Removal Act in 1938, Thomas acted as an agent for the tribe. During this time, he purchased 50,000 acres of land that had been taken from the Cherokee. When Cherokees were allowed to own land again (because it had been outlawed, what?!), he returned the deeds to them. It is because of this that much of the Cherokee-owned land in the Qualla boundary was saved. In 1939 he himself was even elected to be chief too!
I actually think it is very upsetting that there aren’t more mountains named after or honoring the Cherokee – especially since the area is their home. I think it is telling of how we as a nation have historically taken native lands and erase history and culture from them.