Our History

Old picture of Henderson hall


In the 1850s, D. Pat Henderson and other Disciples of Christ leaders were interested in creating an institution to educate young men and women. In 1853, they were granted a charter by the State of Missouri to establish Christian University, the first coeducational college west of the Mississippi River. Dr. James Shannon became the first president and classes began in 1855.

During the Civil War, classes were suspended while federal troops occupied the college’s only building, Old Main. Under the leadership of Ben H. Smith, the College reopened in 1865 but made little progress until Dr. Carl Johann became president in 1902. When Old Main burned in 1903, the building was replaced by Henderson Hall.


In 1917, Christian University officially changed its name to Culver-Stockton College to honor its benefactors Mary Culver and Robert Stockton.  Culver and Stockton were staunch supporters of the College, helping to keep operations going several times over the years.

Christian University President Carl Johann met Stockton on a fundraising campaign. Stockton later became a generous donor, giving money to help repair the college after a fire, to build cottages for married students, support teachers’ salaries, paying off college debt and more.

Culver made generous donations to Christian University, guided by the advice of Robert Stockton, who her husband’s business partner. She donated to help the College advance teacher salaries, improve library and laboratory facilities and build L.L. Culver Gymnasium in honor of her late husband.


Most of the buildings currently on campus were built after 1937. Since 1980, many of the major buildings have been renovated and others built.

The newest building, the Carolyn L. and Robert W. Brown Residence Hall, opened in 2017. 

In May 2003, a tornado struck campus and the city of Canton. Henderson Hall was damaged, and the landmark dome (used by river captains for navigation) was ripped off. The Field House was leveled and Zenge Hall, a fraternity house, was damaged beyond repair. Other buildings received minor damage, and 300 trees were brought down on the hill behind Henderson Hall. Fortunately, no one was injured. The dome was replaced, and the buildings were repaired or replaced.