Been to any good cemeteries lately? I rank "exploring cemeteries" right up there with "reading the dictionary" on my list of most fun things to do. Way up there. Really.
Just the other day, we took a stroll around the Bryson City Cemetery on Schoolhouse Hill and discovered something quite remarkable about the place. I don’t know of any other cemetery from which you can view, not one, but two mountain peaks named after people buried in the cemetery.
Both individuals so recognized played significant roles in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "The Apostle of the Smokies", Kelly Bennett (1890-1974) was a local pharmacist, a mayor of Bryson City and an enthusiastic booster when the Park was proposed in the 1920s. Looking toward the west from his grave, you’ll see Kelly Bennett Peak.
Just a few feet away lies Horace Kephart (1862-1931), a Saint Louis librarian and writer who came to the mountains more than a century ago. His story of life in the Smokies, Our Southern Highlanders, is a classic of Appalachian literature.
If you look toward the high ridge of distant mountains northeast of town, you can pick out Mount Kephart, named in his honor just a couple of months prior to his death in 1931.
For an impressive online exhibition, check out Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma, presented by Hunter Library Special Collections and the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University.