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HISTORY: 134 Years & Counting


The King’s Academy’s roots draw from rich East Tennessee soil in the mid-nineteenth century. Farmers who settled in the scenic and fertile foothills between the Tennessee River Valley and the southern Appalachian Mountains desired a good education for their children. In the spring of 1880, their passion spawned a log-cabin school near the headwaters of Boyds Creek in Sevier County not far from the Blount County and Knox County lines.

A school of sorts, called Owl College by locals, had been operating in the area as far back as 1840. But the effort took on new meaning when a charter with the State ofTennessee was drafted, and students formally enrolled in the fall of 1881.

The first name given to the school was Boyds Creek Academy. In 1884, to honor the donation of land to the campus by Harrison Ellis, the school was named Harrison Seminary. Churches of the nearby Chilhowee Baptist Association began to provide financial support to the academy in 1887, and the Board of Trustees changed the name to Harrison-Chilhowee Institute.

A revised state charter in 1932 cemented the academy’s affiliation with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and established the academy’s identity as Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy. This continues to be the official name of the not-for-profit corporation today.  The TBC elects the academy’s Board of Trustees and, through the Convention’s Cooperative Program, supplies approximately 12% of the school’s annual operating budget.

During the first few years of the academy’s existence, it was seen primarily as a “community school.”  Documents indicate the academy stressed Christian principles throughout its curriculum and activities. Although it had distinct Baptist connections, an early brochure made it clear that “the school excludes none but rather invites all.” The academy mission is evangelistic in that non-Christian students are invited to attend, provided they meet all criteria for admission and are open-minded to considering a commitment to Christianity.

In 1979, the academy became the first school in SevierCountyto achieve accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Since then, the academy has maintained an excellent accreditation record, undergoing a thorough review process with a visiting SACS (now AdvancED) team every five years.

The academy has always prepared students to go to college. Today, from the kindergarten curriculum to the advanced calculus course high school students take for college credit, the academy prepares students for further study.

From the beginning, facilities were provided for students who had to travel considerable distance to go to school. By 1889, a girls dormitory and several cottages were constructed.  The first boys dorm was completed in 1908. Boarding students from several states and foreign countries represent one of the academy’s most distinct current characteristics.

Before the advent of the GED high school equivalency program, many older students, particularly married ministerial students with families, returned to school after sensing God’s call on their lives and earned their diplomas here.  A campus cottage community, “Preacher Street,” developed where some of these families lived as they prepared for college and seminary training.

In the earliest years, a specialized program was also available to those who desired to become teachers. The school uniquely served the needs of hearing impaired students in the 1970’s and 1980’s, until public school mainstreaming efforts for special education students reduced the demand.

Boarding students from over 80 nations and most states in the U. S. have studied here. Graduates frequently comment on interacting with such a diverse student body as one of the most valuable experiences in their lives.

The Sevier County Board of Education did not have a public school in the community until the mid 1900’s.  Through a unique public/private school partnership, the Sevier County school board paid the academy to take the county students under its wing. Elementary students ceased to attend the academy in 1947 when the local public primary school was constructed adjacent to the academy. A public high school was built across the road from the academy in 1961 and the county’s subsidy to the academy ceased at that time.

Sixty-one years later, in 1993, the Board of Trustees reorganized the academy and gave distinct names to three operations under the Harrison-Chilhowee corporate umbrella. Since that time, HCBA’s elementary and secondary day and boarding school division has been doing business as The King’s Academy.  The Bible Training Center is an adult education program for bi-vocational ministers. The Chilhowee Retreat Center offers academy facilities and services to churches and schools for retreats, music camps and sports camps, primarily during summer months.

Today the academy is enjoying its highest enrollment in history.  In 2012, the academy projects to infuse $5 million into the local economy.