By the 1820s, clergy of the Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church had recognized a need to educate prospective clergymen in the fields of English, history, and geography, so that they could pass required examinations for entrance into the ministry. This growing need, coupled with the rise of more cities with more learned congregations, called for the establishment of a liberal arts college where prospective ministers could study and learn the art of communication with urban townspeople.
In 1830, the Virginia legislature approved a charter for Randolph-Macon College to be located in Boydton, Virginia near the border of North Carolina. The names of John Randolph (left), a Virginia statesman, and Nathaniel Macon (right), a North Carolina statesman, were given to the college to dispel the notion that the school was to be only a sectarian one. Neither man was Methodist.
The college was moved to Ashland, Virginia, in 1868 after the railroads to Boydton were destroyed during the Civil War. The move to Ashland challenged the college's spirit and stimulated new growth. The students themselves raised most of the funds for the first major building constructed on the new campus — Washington and Franklin Hall, a national historic landmark that was completely renovated in 1987. In this century, Randolph-Macon's campus has grown to more than 60 major buildings on 105 acres.