Hiwassee College’s early history is linked very closely with the founding in 1826 of Tullagalla Academy, a school for boys, located in the Fork Creek Community some five miles from the site of the present campus. At about this same time a group of Methodist settlers set aside land near a bubbling spring for a camp meeting place that eventually came to be called Bat Creek Campground. Over the years, a church and other structures were erected and used by persons who assembled annually for “camp meeting services.” By 1845, the enrollment of the academy exceeded its capacity to accommodate the students so the school moved to Bat Creek Campground and utilized the facilities available there. This area is located across the road from the present location of the Hiwassee campus.
When the academy director left in 1848, a group of five local Methodist leaders worked to continue a school at the campgrounds, but at the college level. Thus, in 1849, the College was organized, replacing and expanding the academy’s program. The new institution was named Hiwassee, taken from the Cherokee word “ayuwasi,” which means “meadow place at the foot of the hills” and is reflective of the beautiful region at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains where the campus is located. They selected as their first president, Dr. Robert E. Doak, a twenty-five year old Presbyterian scholar. This act proclaimed to the entire region that the emphasis at the College was to be on Christian education and not on denominationalism.
Hiwassee College was chartered by the State of Tennessee in 1850 and thus, began a long history of meeting the educational needs of young men and, later on, young women of the area. For many years Hiwassee College offered training beginning with elementary school and continuing through the Bachelor’s degree. At some periods in its history, the College granted the Master’s degree. Currently, Hiwassee College offers programs of study leading to both Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees.
Although closely tied to the Methodist Church since it’s founding, it was not until 1908 that the Trustees of Hiwassee College and the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church-South entered into an agreement for joint operation of the institution. At the time the College was leased to the Holston Conference a new charter was issued, and the College reorganized as a junior college. Hiwassee College came under the complete control and ownership of the Methodist Church-South in 1937. Prior to 1980, the three United Methodist-related colleges in the Holston Conference (a geographic region that includes east Tennessee and small parts of southwest Virginia, and north Georgia) were governed by a unified Board of Trustees. In 1980, the Board of Trustees established a separate Board of Governors for each institution, and by 1990, each of the three colleges operated under a separate, independent Board of Trustees.
Hiwassee College is a co-educational, residential, liberal arts college affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Its campus has grown from the original seven acres donated by Reverend Daniel B. Carter to start the College to a campus comprised of eighteen buildings situated on sixty acres of a four hundred acre tract of land located just one mile north of the town of Madisonville. The College awards the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Associate of Arts, and Associate of Science degrees, and the Associate of Applied Science degree in a limited number of career/vocational fields.