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Kearney Military Academy

Kearney, Nebraska



The Kearney Daily Hub, source of the 1897 ad (right), was among newspapers that covered news from the Kearney Military Academy campus. has a good short history of the school. The library of Congress has some of the photos of campus and students.

Platte ad_edited.jpg


Under the auspices of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Anson R. Graves opened Platte Collegiate Institute in 1892.  Enrollment open to both males and females, P.C.I. enrolled 147 students in the second year.  Though it offered a preparatory curriculum, most graduates were in either a normal or commercial course of study.


Female enrollment declined, so in 1898 Reverend E. P. Chittenden leased the campus and opened Kearney Military Academy.  K.M.A. was a small school, finally reaching one hundred students after the completion of its new building.  Students were between the ages of 10 and 18, with a junior academy for boys in grades 5-8.  Initially, a few girls attended as day students.  By 1913 the Hub noted that K.M.A. was “a strong college of learning in the ordinary branches of education, in sociology, in agriculture and manual training.” In 1916 physical training was added to the curriculum.


Student activities included music and drama.  At different times the Hub mentions a guitar and mandolin band, a military company band, and an orchestra.  “An evening of music and literary exercises” was a regular occurrence.  Cadets did “Pyramus and Thisbe” in 1899 and, with help of area schoolgirls, “Charley’s Aunt” in 1901.   


Major school activities came from the military focus.  Cadets participated in weekly competitive drills and dress parades.   


Cadets were offered numerous social opportunities as the school calendar was filled with balls, dances, proms, and  hops—often accompanying other school celebrations such as Founder’s Day.

Bricks and Mortar

As a site for his school, the city of Kearney offered Bishop Graves a 25-acre campus with a three-story brick building.  Kearney Hall, completed in time for classes to begin in 1892, was intended only for recitation rooms.  A 39’ x 108’ frame building, built with funds provided by Mrs. Eva Cochran, housed 80 male students.  Lewis Hall, a matching structure, housed the female students.   In 1913 Lewis Hall was converted to a 2,000 square foot gymnasium/assembly room, a chapel, a chemistry lab, and a shop for manual training.

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In 1907, again with the help of Mrs. Cochran, a new three-story structure, named Cochran Hall, was built to be the main building on campus.  In addition to housing the headmaster and faculty, it had dormitory space for 80 cadets.  It also contained a study hall, a chapel, a library, and a hospital.  Kearney Hall then housed the junior students. 

After the college closed, Cochran Hall sat empty until 1942, when the government purchased it to house German prisons of war.  It served as St. Luke’s hospital from 1950 to 1958 and later as a nursing home.  In 1978 the first floor was used for Rhyme & Reason Community Day Care.  The building was razed in 2011.

Cochran Hall with Kearney Hall in the background.  Image from Cardcow.


            Team Name: Cadets or Soldiers

            School Colors: Black and Red


Kearney Military began playing football in 1898 when the team suffered a 32-0 loss to Kearney High School.  For the most part football opponents were central Nebraska high schools.  In addition to Kearney, these included Grand Island, Hastings, Lexington and North Platte.  However in 1901 the Cadets played the University of Nebraska Sophomores and they played Kearney Normal (now Nebraska Kearney) yearly until 1911; Grand Island Business College also appeared on the schedule.  Since the new air field in Kearney adjoined the K.M.A. campus, the football team flew to a game at Cambridge in 1921.


The Cadets played baseball against the same opponents.  Despite the size of their gymnasium (40’ by 50’), they developed a basketball team, playing in the Kearney City League against teams from the high school, the normal school, and the state industrial school.


Probably the school’s best sport was track.  As early as 1899 K.M.A. had held an annual Field Day in connection with commencement.  It featured regular track events mixed with esoteric events such as a potato race.  School track teams won Central Nebraska championship in 1909 and 1912 and won the state championship in 1913.

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The 1909 Kearney Military Academy track team.  Solomon Butcher photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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