Midland College and Western Theological Seminary was founded in 1887 in Atchison, Kansas, by the Board of Education of the the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The name Midland College was selected because of the college’s location midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Atchison was booming at this time, and everything rushed along at a tremendous pace. The location of Midland College was mainly due to the efforts of Reverend Diven and his congregation, supported by the public-spirited citizens of the city. In February 1885, the church was incorporated as St. Mark’s English Lutheran Church. Reverend Diven resigned in 1887 and was succeeded by the Reverend Rentz in April.
It was easy to access to and from the territory that students would most likely come. The offer from the city to give $50,000 in money for buildings, 20 acres of land for a campus and professors’ houses, a half interest in the sale of 500 acres of land, and to furnish 200 students the first year was a tempting offer. Owing to some difficulties, this offer was not entirely fulfilled, but the 20 acres of ground were donated, and about $33,000 was put into buildings.
Midland College opened on September 15, 1887, with 101 students registered. Reverend Jacob A. Clutz was elected first president and served efficiently for fourteen and a half years. In 1888, the main building, known as Atchison Hall, was begun and turned over to the board of trustees in the spring of 1889. It was formally dedicated on September 30 of the same year.
In 1891, Oak Hall, a dormitory for girls, was erected, to which, about ten years later, the annex was added, giving accommodations for 30 young women. In 1893, the gymnasium was built with money solicited by the students.
The Western Theological Seminary was organized in 1895, and its first president and professor, Reverend F.D. Altman, was inaugurated. The German department of the seminary was added a few years later, with Dr. J.L. Neve as dean of the department.
Through the solicitations of Dr. Clutz, a splendid six-inch telescope was donated, and an observatory was built in 1899.
In 1904, Reverend M. F. Troxell, pastor of the English Lutheran church of St. Joseph, Missouri, was elected president and was succeeded by Dr. Rufus B. Peery.
The home owned by ex-Senator John J. Ingalls was secured in 1908 for seminary purposes and was admirably adapted to that purpose.
Through the efforts of Dr. Troxell, a proposition was secured from Andrew Carnegie to donate $15,000 towards the building of a library, provided the same amount could be raised for its upkeep. More funds were secured from the churches in the territory, alumni, and friends of the college. The handsome library building was erected during the winter of 1910-1911 and formally dedicated on May 30, 1911. A legacy of $5,000, given several years before, was added to the building fund to have a public hall. A memorial tablet was placed in the hall to the memory of the generous donor, Reverend J.G. Griffith. On the retirement of Dr. Clutz, his home was bought by the college board for the president’s use.
In 1919, St. Mark’s held Jubilee Services to celebrate the retirement of the last of its debt. In the same year, due to inadequate facilities and dwindling community support, the Midland board recommended moving the college to “a more favorable locality.” Fremont College, a teacher’s college in Fremont, Nebraska, was for sale then. Soon, the city of Atchison and St. Mark’s suffered a loss when Midland College and the Western Theological Seminary were relocated to Fremont, Nebraska, to the former Fremont Normal School and Business College site. The move included 19,000 library books, 11 faculty families, and 39 students from Atchison. Midland’s relocation was eased not only by the reputation that President William Clemmons had built for the former Fremont College but also by the rapport he had with the Fremont Community.
In 1962, Midland merged with Luther Junior College, founded in Wahoo, Nebraska, in 1883. Midland College then became Midland Lutheran College. Today, it is Midland University.