Cabarrus Connections: Clingman’s Dome

21 Oct 2014

The tower atop the sloping ramp at Clingmans Dome affords an
unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo: Britannica Online.

At first glance, Clingman’s Dome, a mountain on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line has nothing to do with Cabarrus County genealogy. At 6,642 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is named for Thomas Lanier Clingman, a member of the first expedition to measure the mountain in 1858. In addition to his interests in mountain climbing and geology, Clingman was a North Carolina congressman and senator. The last southern senator to leave the U.S. Congress in 1861, Clingman served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

An interesting debate involving Congressman Clingman about North Carolina’s highest mountain developed in the 1850s. Clingman debated his former professor, Elisha Mitchell, on the location of the highest point in the North Carolina Black Mountains. Clingman believed Mitchell was wrong in his calculations, but in 1857, Professor Mitchell died after falling from what became known as Mount Mitchell. After Mitchell’s death, the debate faded away.

Thomas Lanier Clingman, 1859. Photo: Library of Congress.

Although he lived most of his adult life in Asheville, Thomas Clingman had a Cabarrus background. His parents were Jacob Clingman of Rowan and Jane Poindexter of Yadkin (then Surry) County. His grandparents were Alexander Clingman, who arrived in Rowan from Germany, by way of Pennsylvania, and Elizabeth Kiser, who was the oldest daughter of Peter Kiser from what is now Cabarrus County. Peter Kiser operated a mill on a branch of Rocky River near Little Meadow Creek. Thomas Clingman, who never married, died in Morganton. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.

Additional information on Thomas L. Clingman and his family may be found in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, North Carolina Troops, North Carolinaa Gazateer, and the Will of Peter Kiser.