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Pisgah National Forest

Established in 1915, Pisgah National Forest remains the oldest national forest in North Carolina. Originally a forest owned by the Vanderbilts, the federal government bought 500,000 acres of forest land from the wealthy family. Today, Pisgah National Forest continues to attract tourists to the western mountains of North Carolina in Buncombe County.

The Reverend James Hall is attributed as the first person to call the region “Pisgah.” During General Griffith Rutherford’s march to eradicate the Cherokee in 1776, Reverend Hall remarked about the mountains of Buncombe County. In reference to the Biblical peak where Moses viewed the promised land, Hall called the place Mount Pisgah, and the area retained the name ever since.

When George Vanderbilt constructed his iconic Biltmore home in the 1890s, he sought to create a forest reserve as part of the estate. Vanderbilt enlisted Carl A. Schenck and Gifford Pinchot to foster the reserve at the Biltmore. Despite efforts to establish a forestry school, Schenck’s Biltmore Forest School, founded in 1898, failed to survive past the 1910s.

On March 1, 1911, the United States Congress authorized the Weeks Act, allowing the National Park Service to buy up land on the eastern seaboard for conservation and public use. By the mid-1910s, George Vanderbilt had passed away and upkeep of the Biltmore Estate fell in the hands of his widowed wife. Four years after the Weeks Act, Mrs. Vanderbilt sold about 500,000 acres of land to the federal government. Mrs. Vanderbilt could have sold the land at a much higher price but according to William S. Powell, she “realized that only the federal government could preserve the forest, which became the Pisgah National Forest and remains roughly the same size” (p. 889).

At 500,000 acres, Pisgah forest encompasses 15 North Carolina counties, and due to its large size, the park is divided into three separate districts: the Grandfather District, the Appalachian District, and the Pisgah District.

Sources:

“Pisgah National Park.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).


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Related Categories: Places
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Yonaguska (1760?-1839), Juan Pardo Expeditions, Moyano's Foray (1567), Joara, Grandfather Mountain, Tuscarora War, Yamasee War, Henry Berry Lowry (1845 - ?) , Montfort Stokes (1762 1842), Davidson County (1822), Stanly County (1841), Gaston County (1846), Burke County (1777), Haywood County (1808), Ashe County (1799), Surry County (1771), Yadkin County (1850), Transylania County (1861), Orange County (1752), Perquimans County (1668), Avery County (1911), Alexander County (1847), Robeson County (1787), Greene County (1791), Pamlico County (1872), Currituck County (1668), Iredell County (1788), McDowell County (1842), Macon County (1828), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1779), Mitchell County (1861), Columbus County (1808), Jackson County (1851), Wilson County (1855), Judaculla Rock, Rutherford's Campaign, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Catawba College, Pilot Mountain, Uwharrie National Forest, Cherokee Indians, Catawba Indians, Town Creek Indian Mound, The Tuscarora, Lake Mattamuskeet, Saponi Indians, The Pee Dee Indians, Catawba Indians, Chowanoac Indians, Waccamaw Indians, Manteo, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mount Mitchell, Plott Hound: The State Dog, Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Catawba County (1842), Watauga County (1849), Graham County (1872), The Walton War, Yancey County (1833), Thomas Wolfe (1900 - 1938), Sam Ervin (1896 - 1985), Earl Scruggs (1924 - ), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , North Carolina Resorts, Appalachian State University, Highland Games, Vance - Carson Duel of 1827, Madison County (1851)

Timeline: 1866-1915 , 1916-1945 , 1946-1990 , 1990-present
Region: Mountains

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