Mitchell county was formed in 1861 from parts of Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Watauga, and Yancey Counties. The county was named after Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was the first scientist to prove that a peak in this region of the Black Mountains was the highest point [6,684 feet] east of the Mississippi River. In 1857, he fell to his death at a waterfall while collecting data to verify his studies. In his honor, the county, waterfall and mountain were named Mitchell.
The mountainous county is 222 sq. miles and divided into 10 townships with Bakersville [est. 1868] as the county seat. The 10 areas include:
Bakersville - Bradshaw - Cane Creek
Fort Mnt-Little Rock Creek - Grassy Creek
Harrell - Poplar - Red Hill
Snow Creek - Spruce Pine
Mitchell County is well-known for its scenery. It is home to Roan Mountain, which has the largest naturally-occuring rhododendron gardens in the world. Bakersville is home to the North Carolina Rhododendron Festival in June, which is held at Bowman Middle School. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the southern sections of the county, with many places to stop off and admire the beautiful scenery of the area. Mitchell County is bounded by the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell, which is located in neighboring Yancey County and by one of the oldest mountains in the world, Grandfather Mountain, located in adjoining Avery County. The North Toe River flows through the county and joins with the South Toe at Toecane to form the Nolichucky River, one of the best whitewater rafting rivers in the eastern U.S.
Mitchell County is also known for its abundance of gems and minerals. The world-famous North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival, one of the oldest festivals of its kind, is held in Spruce Pine each August. Rockhounds from around the world come to the region to explore the vast treasures stored underground.