A dramatic remnant of prehistoric North America, the Pilot Mountain has been used for centuries as a landmark for Native Americans, explorers, settlers, and travelers. Native Americans called the mountain Jomeokee, which means “Great Guide” or “Pilot.”
The mountain was mapped by Joshua Frye and Peter Jefferson (father of Thomas Jefferson) in 1751. Geologically, the mountain is a quartzite monadnock, which began forming nearly a billion years ago when this area was a lonely, stormy beach.
There has been a settlement along Tom’s Creek, near the Pilot Mountain, for well over 200 years. Records dating back to 1761 document the existence of early settlers. The hamlet was called Hollows, Hog Wallow, Tom’s Creek and Pilotville, before the name Pilot Mountain was adopted.
The year 1880 brought the completion of the railroad which ushered in a period of growth and prosperity. The Depot and Depot Street were the center of business and social life at that period in time. The first school was established on the first floor of a two-story frame building located on the corner of Depot Street and Main Street. The establishment of Trinity Academy, in 1882, a missionary effort of Trinity College (Duke University), drew more families to town. Some of the newcomers established businesses while others bought land for farming. The town, which incorporated on March 9, 1889, bought the Academy from Trinity College in 1900.
A number of businesses and homes were destroyed by fires in 1899 and 1919, but the town rebuilt and continues to prosper. Around 1912, Jobe Hiatt, who ran a grist mill on Tom’s Creek, began selling electric power to the citizens between the hours of 4:00 am and 10:00 pm. A whistle would sound early in the morning to indicate that power was on, and again in the evening to signal that it was off.
The Pilot Mountain has a combination of geological, botanical, ornithological, and scenic attributes which make it of exceptional interest. It became part of the North Carolina State Park system in 1968, and was dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1976.