Our History

A Long and Honorable Inheritance

Tracing its history to the 1868 founding of the "Junior Department" of the University of the South, St. Andrew's-Sewanee School is the result of the 1981 merger of St. Andrew's School (est. 1905) and Sewanee Academy (est. 1971). These schools were preceded by the Junior Department of the University of the South (1868-69), the Sewanee Grammar School (1869-1908), St. Mary's School (1896-1968), and Sewanee Military Academy (1908-1971).

St. Andrew's-Sewanee has much of the character prescribed for the University of the South by its Board of Trustees in 1857: a close relationship with the Episcopal Church; a location in the central South (the Sewanee location was said to meet the requirement of "easy and speedy access" by train); a student body drawn from a wider area than the immediate community; distance from any city in order to create its own environment; and a location in a region considered healthy because of its height above sea level, and thus freer from the yellow fever, malaria and cholera prevalent in the lowlands. These factors were principal reasons, along with munificent gifts of lands, that Sewanee was chosen as the site for the parent schools of St. Andrew's-Sewanee.

Collectively, the predecessors of St. Andrew's-Sewanee provided more than 250 years of education to Sewanee, to the South, and to the nation.

Sewanee Grammar School


A preparatory department at the University of the South was authorized by the Board of Trustees in 1861. Seven years of civil war and reconstruction passed before the University could open on September 18, 1868, one week short of a 10-year deadline imposed by the Sewanee Mining Company's gift of land in 1858. The nine students who presented themselves at the little frame St. Augustine's Chapel ranged in age from 12 to 19. All were taught that first year in the Junior Department. By the summer of 1869 there were enough students to organize the Sewanee Grammar School for younger boys. From 1902–1908, Quintard Memorial Hall served as the home for the Sewanee Grammar School.

St. Mary's School


The next school to appear on the scene was St. Mary's, operated by the Community of St. Mary, an order of nuns headquartered in New York. In the 1870s, the Sisters came to Memphis , but found the summer epidemics so devastating that a rest house was sought. Two St. Mary's Sisters spent the winter of 1887 at Sewanee in the first Hodgson Hall. Soon a training school was opened for the mountain girls who did not have ready access to public schools. In 1926-1927, the Sisters began high school classes at the present site of St. Mary's Sewanee: The Ayres Center for Spiritual Development. In 1967, the Community of St. Mary withdrew from the school and, shortly after, St. Mary's School closed.

St. Andrew's School


At the turn of the 20th century, nearly 20 Episcopal mission churches were operated in the territory surrounding Sewanee. In 1902, Archdeacon William S. Claiborne brought members of the Order of the Holy Cross from New York to preach at the missions. He persuaded the Order to establish a school to provide an education for deserving mountain boys and purchased the Colmore farm for the school's location. On September 12, 1905, St. Andrew's School opened with four pupils. By the end of the school year there were 14 boarders and seven day pupils. The monks taught, farmed, and cooked. There was work in the morning, an hour and a half of school after lunch, supper at 5:30 and prayers at 7:00.  In 1971, the Order of the Holy Cross, wishing to become more mobile in its ministries, gave St. Andrew's School to an independent board of trustees.

Sewanee Academy


With the demise of St. Mary's School, in 1968 the University opened the Sewanee Military Academy to girls. These students wore uniforms, but did not participate in military exercises. In 1971, as military schools were closing across the nation, the military was abandoned altogether, and the school became Sewanee Academy, a co-educational, college preparatory school, still housed on the campus of the University of the South. 

Sewanee Military Academy


The Sewanee Grammar School changed its name in 1908 to Sewanee Military Academy, continuing the military influence that had disappeared from the University of the South. In 1902, the school moved to Quintard Memorial Hall, named for the Vice-Chancellor under whom the Sewanee Grammar School opened. It was the major building at the Academy until Gorgas, Cravens, and Hamilton Halls were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Over the years, SMA's headmasters included three generals: Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordinance of the Confederacy; William R. Smith who was superintendent at West Point; and George R. Allin, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Army.

St. Andrew's-Sewanee School


A strong move in the 1960s towards the establishment of parish day schools in the areas traditionally served by St. Mary's, St. Andrew's and Sewanee Military Academy and the growing popularity of co-educational schools affected enrollment on the Mountain. During the 1970s, Sewanee Academy and St. Andrew's School became more alike–one no longer military, one no longer operated by a religious order, both coeducational. Consolidation was discussed as early as 1977. Merger came in 1981 on the St. Andrew's campus.