The Methodist church established four colleges in Texas prior to the Civil War: Rutersville College (1840), Wesleyan College (1844), McKenzie Institute (1848), and Soule University (1856). The Rev. Dr. Francis Asbury Mood (1830-1884) was named president of Soule University in Washington County in 1868. Soon after he took office, plans were begun to relocate the school and develop a centralized Methodist university.
About the same time, city leaders in Georgetown began plans to establish a college. This site was donated for that purpose by John J. Dimmitt and G. W. Glasscock, Jr., and a community school, instead of a college, opened in 1870.
Georgetown was among the cities competing for the site of the planned Methodist university. In 1873 this property was chosen as the site of the new institution, which was granted a union charter (with the four earlier colleges) in 1875 as Southwestern University. Dr. Mood served as president until his death.
Buildings added to the campus after 1873 included a young ladies school, a chapel, a boys dormitory (Giddings Hall), and a gymnasium. Southwestern University moved to its present site in 1900 but continued to operate a preparatory department here until 1916.