On October 16, 1882, Reverend O. C. Clark (pastor of Fargo's First Congregational Church) and Reverend H. C. Simmons (from the Home Missionary Society) called a convention of pastors and laymen to explore the idea of high education in northern Dakota Territory. The convention members unanimously decided to explore the establishment of a Christian academy. Little progress was made over the next year except to substitute the name "college" for "academy." In 1885, a special meeting was held to investigate possible locations for the college. Cleveland (Dakota Territory), Valley City, Fargo, and Jamestown made generous offers of cash and/or land.
In a meeting in September 1886, in Grand Forks, the General Congregational Association chose Fargo as the College location and Fargo's old fairgrounds were proposed as the site of the school. In July 1887, a board of trustees was elected and an incorporation charter was established that named the school "Fargo College."
Fargo College opened its doors in September 1887. On opening day, the school had no students and one professor (F. T. Waters) who sat alone in an empty classroom for three weeks. On the fourth week, Fargo College enrolled its first student: Walter F. Lorong. Will and Charles Adams followed soon after.
Because the College had no buildings of its own yet, classes were held in the Masonic Building at 9-11 8th Street South (later home to the Dakota Business College). Andrew McHench had built the building in 1884. It is reported that the college relocated three times during its first two years. Although the city of Fargo had offered $10,000 and the old Fairgrounds if chosen as the school's location, the college trustees were not satisfied with the land. In the end, the trustees chose a ten acre site just south of, and overlooking, Island Park. The trustees purchased the land for $6,000.
The next problem was providing buildings for the school. The first building, completed in 1890, was Jones Hall (pictured above).