Pioneer Hall sits proudly on Main Street, reminding all of the rich history of Pleasant Hill, TN. The building dates back to 1887 when construction began on a dormitory for Pleasant Hill Academy students. The American Missionary Association sent the Reverend Benjamin Dodge to Pleasant Hill in 1885 to begin a school and a church. Now Pioneer Hall is a museum that tells the stories of the Academy and the medical work of Dr. May Wharton, the Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands.
The building itself is the museum’s largest artifact. And one of the most surprising artifacts stands in the gazebo next to Pioneer Hall. This is a bell cast by Paul Revere and Sons in 1817. It’s Number 199 in the list of Revere bells. One of Rev. Dodge’s benefactors, J.J. Gregory, bought the bell from the North Congregational Church in Marblehead, MA when the church was renovated. Mr. Gregory shipped the bell to his friend in Tennessee and it was placed in the belfry of the Academy’s first building in 1887 where it called students to class and rang out to warn of fire.
The history of the Academy and the medical work of Dr. Wharton are closely entwined. Dr. May came to Pleasant Hill when her husband was appointed principal of the Academy in 1917. She and her colleagues and benefactors built a hospital and tuberculosis sanitorium while they cared for folks all over this area. When the hospital moved to Crossville, she built a nursing home and began a retirement community which lives today as Uplands Village.
Pioneer Hall Museum keeps alive the history of the Academy and the work of Dr. May through a collection of items like Rev. Dodge’s desk and Dr. May’s medical bag. The Revere bell links local history with Colonial American history. This remarkable history is a legacy from the past and an inspiration for the future.