Randolph-Macon College was founded in 1830 in Boydton, Virgina, near the North Carolina border and about 85 miles southeast of Lynchburg. The College was founded by the Virginia Conference of the Methodist Church. The names of John Randolph, a Virginia statesman, and Nathaniel Macon, 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 a Methodist.
During the Civil War, the railroad lines to Boydton were destroyed. Looking for a site that would be more accessible to potential students, the trustees of Randolph-Macon College found that the Ashland Hotel, which was adjacent to a major north/south rail line, was for sale, and they purchased the defunct resort. They moved the struggling college to Ashland and began the first classes in the new location on October 1, 1868. That first session had an enrollment of 67 students and a faculty of five.