After The Herald shared information on Facebook about a planned U.S. Forest Service controlled burn, one commenter questioned the specified location.
Quoting the Forest Service, The Herald indicated the prescribed fire would be in the “Round Mountain area south of Cashiers on the state line with South Carolina.”
One puzzled Facebook user replied, “Round Mountain is in the Canada area next to the Transylvania line. Or is there another Round Mountain?”
Yes, in fact there is. Canada community’s Round Mountain, which is on the Jackson/Transylvania county line, tops out at 4,220 feet above sea level and is shown on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sam Knob quadrangle. The other Round Mountain – the one in the area of Jan. 26’s controlled burn – is 3,700 feet tall and located in the Cashiers quadrangle.
“Round” is not the only name shared by more than one mountain in the county. The Facebook commenter’s question reminded me that I’ve written about this before after finding an online list of Jackson County’s named summits. If you’ve ever wondered how many of our mountains have official names, the answer is 185 or so, depending on how well I counted. The information used here is from the U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System Database and was “extracted” in November 2000. A note indicates the database is subject to “continuous change,” so be forewarned that anyone who looks it up now might discover different data.
From Wikipedia we learn that the GNIS database contains name and location information about more than 2 million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States and its territories. The system was developed by USGS in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to promote the standardization of feature names.
Studying the local list, it’s immediately obvious that the 911 folks weren’t consulted when these peaks were christened – a number of names identify more than one summit. Both Greens Creek and Tuckasegee quadrangles have a Black Mountain, with the Tuckasegee contender taller by almost 500 feet. We also find Brown Mountains in both Glenville and Tuckasegee. Glenville’s wins the height contest, 3,680 to 3,400.
Our tallest mountain (as well as the highest point along the Blue Ridge Parkway) is Richland Balsam at 6,410 feet. Jackson County’s other 6,000-plus summits are Waterrock Knob at 6,292 feet; Browning Knob, 6,260; Mount Hardy, 6,140; Reinhart Knob, 6,100; and Yellow Face, 6,032. All of those peaks, with the exception of Yellow Face, are on the Jackson/Haywood county line.
Looking at the girls’ first names category, we see Jenny Knob (Sylva South, 2,939 feet), Lizzie Mountain (Big Ridge, 3,840 feet) and Polly Mountain (Cashiers, 3,040).
Guys’ first names enjoy a similar level of popularity. A quick look reveals three: Jacks Knob (Cashiers, 3,040), Joe Mountain (Sylva North, 3,478) and Jonas Fields (Sylva North, 4,700).
Animal-derived names may be the most numerous category, with popular ones used for more than one peak. Alphabetically we find two Bears, two Bearpens, four Buck Knobs, Bull Pen, Buzzard Roost, Cow Mountain, Eagle Knob, Fox Knob, Goat Knob, Hogback, three Panther Knobs, two Rattlesnake Knobs, Rattlesnake Mountain, Raven Knob, Sheep Knob, Sheep Mountain, Sheepback Mountain, Terrapin Mountain, two Wolf Knobs and two Wolf Mountains.
Plant-inspired names are plentiful as well. We find Cedar Cliff, Cedar Cliff Mountain, Cherry Knob, Chestnut Knob, two Chestnut Mountains, Dryland Laurel, Fern Mountain, Grassy Knob, Grassy Top, Hickory Flat Knob, Hickory Flats, Hickory Mountain, two Laurel Knobs, Moss Knob, Pine Knob, Piney Cliff, Piney Knob, Piney Mountain, Piney Ridge Knob, Poplar Mountain, Potato Knob, Prickly Ash Mountain, Rye Mountain and two Sassafras Knobs.
Some appear to have been named according to their shape, size or other characteristics: Awl Knob, Big Knob, Big Mountain, Chimneytop Mountain, Coldsides Mountain, Cove Hill, Double Knob, Double Top, two Doubletop Mountains, Flat Mountain, two High Knobs, High Point, two High Tops, Lone Bald, Pinnacle, Pump Mountain, three Rocky Faces, both Round Mountains, View Rock and Whiteside Mountain.
We also find quite a few “little” Mountains, including Little Bald Rock Mountain, Little Cow Mountain, Little Green Mountain, Little Hogback Mountain, Little Panther Knob, Little Pilot Mountain, Little Sheep Cliff and Little Terrapin Mountain.
Our mountains are mostly in the 4,000- to 5,000-foot range, but we do have nine below 3,000 feet. Thomas Rock and O’Dear Knob, both in Whittier, are the shortest at 2,200 feet.
Reading the list, it’s apparent that many of the mountains received their names from physical characteristics, animals once found there or people who may have lived nearby. One name that caught my interest is Tuckasegee’s Lost Knob.
Since it’s not easy to misplace a mountain that stands 5,467 feet above sea level, I’m guessing that someone or something, or perhaps some livestock, went missing there. Does anyone know the story of Lost Knob’s name?
If so, please share the information with me at email@example.com and I’ll pass it along to Herald readers.
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years. She is the author of two books on local history.