Hiwassee College is a two-year coeducational liberal arts institution located near Madisonville in Monroe County. Originally a Methodist campground school known as Bat Creek, the college was established in 1850 as one of Tennessee's oldest educational facilities. A typical school of its era, Hiwassee was designed to provide local young males with an affordable education, and although it was church-affiliated, the college did not have rigid denominational restrictions. Hiwassee's first president, Reverend Robert Doak, a Presbyterian, also served as its senior professor. The only college-educated staff member, he was accompanied by only one mathematics instructor and a school administrator. Students entered the college around age fourteen and graduated in their late teens or early twenties. David M. Key, Hiwassee's first graduate, went on to become the postmaster general under President Rutherford B. Hayes. Future governor Albert H. Roberts was a graduate in 1889. Hiwassee's literary societies, Eromathesian and Erolethian, were an important and popular part of campus life as the primary source of recreation. Each had a designated room in the school's original building where it held weekly debates on a variety of political, philosophical, and social issues.
By 1893 Hiwassee had six buildings on ninety-five acres to accommodate its one hundred students. In the late nineteenth century, Hiwassee came under the control of the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and has remained so to the present. Today, the campus occupies sixty of the school's four hundred acres. The newest building is the Rymer Student Life Center, dedicated in 1998. The college has five hundred students.
James X. Corgan, “Toward a History of Higher Education in Antebellum Tennessee,” East Tennessee Historical Society Publications 60 (1988): 39-66