April 15, 2014. Grandfather Mountain celebrated the legacy of André Michaux on Sunday by welcoming a sixth-generation descendant of the famed French botanist and explorer.
Régis Pluchet of Le Mans, France, a great-great-great nephew of Michaux, visited the Mountain as part of an eight-day tour of historic sites in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Michaux, who lived from 1746 to 1802, traveled extensively in eastern North America in the late 1700s, discovering and naming hundreds of new plant species familiar to us today. Flora attributed to him includes the Catawba rhododendron, flame azalea, crabapple, muscadine and the rare Oconee bells.
After climbing to the peak of Grandfather Mountain on Aug. 30, 1794, Michaux wrote a jubilant but exaggerated account of the summit in his journal. He declared: “Reached the summit of the highest mountain of all North America, and, with my companion and guide sang the Marseillaise and shouted, ‘Long live America and the Republic of France! Long live liberty!'”
Grandfather Mountain recreated that mountaintop moment Sunday, with members of Appalachian State University’s Le Cercle Français and adviser Lynn McNeil present to sing “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, at Linville Peak.
Flanked by volunteers from the Southern Appalachian Historical Association dressed in 1700s-style attire, Pluchet accepted a certificate of recognition from Catherine Morton, secretary of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Board of Directors.
SAHA representatives Dave Davis, Al Ernest, Brian Fannon and Travis Souther delighted visitors with a musket firing from the peak to end the celebration.
Pluchet was accompanied by Michaux scholar Charlie Williams of Charlotte, interpreter Eliane Norman and Randy Johnson, a local author who orchestrated the event.
Through his interpreter, Pluchet noted his happiness to visit the Mountain where his ancestor walked 220 years ago.
“It’s a type of scenery that he loves the most, high in the mountains,” Norman said.
Jesse Pope, director of education and natural resources for Grandfather Mountain, led a guided hike earlier in the day on the Black Rock Trail to examine some of the unique plants that excited Michaux generations ago.
He said it was thrilling to walk with Pluchet along Linville Peak. While they didn’t speak the same language, they found common ground in the Latin scientific names of plants they observed along the way.
“It’s as close as I’ll ever get to walking with André Michaux, and Michaux is one of my heroes,” Pope said.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest and participate in educational research activities. For more information, call 800-468-7325 or plan a trip at www.grandfather.com.