Viewers of the 60s sitcom Mayberry RFD often heard references to nearby Mount Pilot. This fictional place was based on the town of Pilot Mountain, which is near Mount Airy in the North Carolina mountains.
Both a town and a state park, Pilot Mountain, known familiarly as “Pilot,” has been settled for more than 200 years. The first residents arrived about 1761 and some of the earlier town names are quite descriptive. They include Hollows, Hog Wallow, Tom’s Creek and Pilotville.
Prosperity arrived in Pilot Mountain in 1880, along with the railroad. Depot Street was not only the main street, it also served as the center for activity. The first school was established shortly followed by Trinity Academy, a branch of Duke University, which enticed newcomers to town. Many of them stayed and opened new businesses as the town continued to grow.
Life was not always idyllic, however. Two fires, in 1899 and 1919, destroyed more than a few of the homes and businesses, but the plucky citizens rebuilt each time.
Perhaps the most imposing place is Pilot Mountain itself, which became a part of the North Carolina Park System in 1968. An exceptional combination of geological and botanical attributes makes the mountain particularly interesting. A quartzite monadnock, the mountain formed a billion years ago at a time when this area was a beach.
Early Indians referred to the mountain as Jomeokee, a word that means pilot. Through the years, many have used this landmark as a guide. Today, the mountain and state park draw hikers and others who enjoy the mountain breezes and the great outdoors. Main Street is still the place to hang out and enjoy life in a small Carolina town. And when you need a bit more excitement, why, Mount Airy is just down the road.