The school was established as a male academy in 1852 by the Board of Trustees of the New Providence Presbyterian Church to serve grades first through 12. It was named in honor of the first elder of the church, George Maxwell, who fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain.
By 1877 Maxwell Academy had become coeducational and the female students actually outnumbered the males at that time. The school was operated by the church until 1907 when the Hawkins County School System took over operations until 1942. In 1919 the school became an elementary school.
The original building cost approximately $1,200, a portion of which was paid in cash and the rest in "good trade". When the structure burned in 1901, it was replaced by the present structure using many of stories with one 24'x 40' room on the first floor and a second room on the upper story 18'x 24' which was partitioned off for use by the Masonic Lodge in return for their covering one third of the construction costs.