1875 was not such a long time ago; yet the world was smaller and there were still undiscovered lands east of the Rockies for adventurers eager to make a name for themselves. Two of these men, Samuel Kelsey and Clinton Hutchinson sat at their kitchen table one night, defiantly took out a straight-edge and drew a line from New York to New Orleans and another from Chicago to Savannah.
"There!" one said to the other, "There! The intersection of that point will some day be a great center of commerce! We shall build a town on that site!" So they settled here in the North Carolina Mountains and waited for civilization to catch up. Surely their fortune would follow. It should be obvious here Kelsey and Hutchinson never took a geography class. If they had they would have known there are other, more important factors than the intersection of two points that facilitate commerce. Like navigable waterways (the Cullasaja does not qualify), or railways (the Rockefellers did not sleep here), or passable roads (even today, motoring in Highlands is an adventure!), or a temperate climate. Yet they set out, determined, to build their town.
The erroneous assumptions that made the settlement a disaster as a transitory colony eventually made it a success as a destination retreat! People didn’t just pass through Highlands, they stayed. Since its incorporation in 1876 Highlands has been far removed from the bustle of city life and civilization. Travelers return to rest, relax with friends, recharge their batteries, and go home – only to return the next year. The same geographic restrictions that prevented Highlands from being the trading Mecca Kelsey and Hutchinson envisioned has combined with the farsightedness of the Town Council and the possession of lands surrounding the town by the U.S. Forrest Service to practically guarantee the quality of life will not diminish.
For those who need the excitement of a bustling center of commerce that Kelsey and Hutchinson envisioned need only to take Highway 64 about 100 miles West from Highlands to Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of the Tennessee River, intersection of several major highways and one Interstate highway, and the most famous train in America, the Chattanooga Choo- Choo.