Blinn College, originally Mission Institute, was founded in Brenham in 1883 by the Southern German Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to train ministers for the mission conference. President Carl Urbantke and the original class of three students met in the German Methodist Church. After four years of operation the struggling school received a boost when Christian Blinn of New York pledged financial support, including funds for a two-story building. In gratitude, the Methodist annual conference for 1889 changed the name of the institution to Blinn Memorial College. In its early years the college served as an academy, with preparatory, normal, theological, and music departments and instruction beginning at the third grade. The school became coeducational in 1888. Through the fifty years that it was sponsored by the Methodist Church, the institution enrolled more than 7,000 students and trained nearly 100 ministers. The highest enrollment was 239, in the 1907–08 school year. In 1906 the building now termed Old Main was erected, with Andrew Carnegie contributing almost half of the $28,000 cost.
With the growth of public high schools, academies declined, and Blinn was made a junior college in 1927. In 1930 the college was merged with Southwestern University. In 1933 the Methodist Church discontinued its support, and in 1934 Blinn Memorial College was again a separate institution. From 1934 to 1937 the residents of Brenham operated the college as a private institution. In the latter year Washington County voters established a junior college district, and Blinn College became the first county-district junior college in the state. Charles Frank Schmidt was its first president after it became tax-supported. The 1907–08 enrollment figure was not surpassed until after World War II. In 1950 the college received additional funding from Washington County voters and began a construction program that included a library and fine arts building. By the early 1950s the enrollment had risen to over 1,100 students, as veterans enrolled in twelve evening schools, eleven of which were off campus.
By 1957, when James H. Atkinson assumed the presidency, the off-campus program had dwindled to one school, but construction continued on the fifteen-acre main campus as school officials anticipated the effect of the post-World War II baby boom on enrollment. Students numbered 1,350 by 1966–67. By 1974–75 additional dormitories had brought housing capacity to over 750, and the enrollment was 1,642. The school offered both vocational-terminal and academic-transfer programs. In the 1970s the college again began extending its programs, with off-campus operations in Bryan, College Station, Grimes County (at the Texas Department of Corrections), and Bastrop (at the Federal Correctional Institute). By 1983 the main campus had grown to over 100 acres, and the physical plant was valued at over $11 million. In 1990 the student enrollment was 7,098. In 1997 the college established a 75-acre campus for its Brazos County operations and opened a campus in Schulenburg. In the fall of 2000 the Brenham, Bryan, and Schulenburg campuses had a combined enrollment of 12,012.