August 19: Rev. Elisha Mitchell

How Would You Like to Have a Mountain Named After You?
by Rev. David T. Myers

Our title is more of a discussion starter, yet the subject of this post did have a mountain named after him.   Yes, he climbed it often in North Carolina, and further, he measured it as the tallest mountain in that range of mountains.

Born in Connecticut on August 19, 1793,  Elisha Mitchell graduated from Yale. A brief theological course at another institution enabled him to be licensed to preach by the Congregationalist Western Association of New Haven, Connecticut.  However, he was not going to remain  a Congregationalist.  In 1821, after his move to North Carolina, he turned Presbyterian and was ordained by the Presbytery of Orange, even while he began to teach chemistry, geology and mineralogy for the next thirty-two years at the University of North Carolina.

We are interested in him in this post, primarily, as a Presbyterian teaching elder.  In 1822, he founded Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in his new adopted state along with eight other men.  That church still continues to exist.  His ministerial duties also included a campus ministry at the University of North Carolina, which culminate in preaching in the chapel daily and on the Lord’s Day to the students and faculty.

A controversy with the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina enabled him to enunciate clearly his belief in  Calvinistic doctrine, arguing that Scripture was the only source of religious truth, while  rejecting tradition as a means to religious interpretation.

It was with his habit of mountain climbing however that he came to be recognized in the secular world.  He measured Black Mountain in the Blue Ridge mountain range as the highest point in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.  That claim was disputed by  some who claimed the description for other peaks.  In June of 1857, he climbed it again to verify his claim.  Tragically, on this occasion,  he fell down a sixty foot drop and died.  That mountain today is named Mount Mitchell after him.   Further, he is buried on that site.

Words to Live By:   
While secular sources may exalt a person to positions of importance, far more importance is found in spiritual qualities.  Our subject today put Christ first in his place of influence.  He communicated that priority to those under his spiritual oversight.  Whether it be in the home, or the neighborhood, or your  place of employment, a self examination  question is in order.   Do others know that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of your life?   Do you really worship and serve King Jesus?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *