The story of Uplands Village really begins with a school called the Pleasant Hill Academy, established in 1884 by the American Missionary Association of the Congregational Christian Church. Created to provide education to rural students on the Cumberland Plateau, the Pleasant Hill Academy was a boarding school dedicated to liberal arts, sciences, agriculture and vocational training. The school was accredited by the University of Tennessee; all graduates were automatically accepted to UT. It remained active until 1946, when the Cumberland County school system acquired the property for a public school.
In 1917, the Rev. Edwin Wharton came to the Academy to be its principal. His wife, Dr. May Cravath Wharton, came with him to become the school doctor. As “Dr. May” began her work, she became acutely aware of many medical needs – not only of the children of the Academy, but of the people in the surrounding area as well – many of whom lived in small, isolated mountain cabins. When summoned, Dr. May would grab her bag without hesitation and head off into the woods to minister to those in great need.
Sadly, in 1920, while Dr. May was away on a fundraising tour for the Academy and the people of the Cumberland Plateau, her husband Edmund, became gravely ill. He lived just long enough for her to make her way back to the school and be with him as he passed. Before he died, he charged her to remain here with the mountain people who needed her. But with her husband gone, Dr. May’s position at the Pleasant Hill Academy was gone as well. And so, grieving, she planned to return to her New England roots. As she was preparing to leave, several members of the community presented her with a petition, signed by 50 families, begging her to stay and be their “doctor woman.” She did, and for the next 42 years she remained a dedicated and determined physician, winning the trust and changing the lives of the people of the Cumberland Plateau.