Salado College began on October 8, 1859, when a tent meeting was held at Salado Springs to discuss the project of establishing a first-class educational institution in Bell County. The Salado Joint Stock Company was organized. Col. E. S. C. Robertson donated 100 acres of land to the enterprise, and the charter of the company was approved by a special act of the legislature on February 8, 1860. The cornerstone of a large two-story stone building was laid on July 4, 1860. Attendance increased from seventy-five students in the first short term of 1860 to 124 the next year. The average enrollment was 250 from 1866 to 1872. In 1871 a two-story addition was built onto the college building. Enrollment dropped sharply after the panic of 1873. The charter of the Salado Stock Company expired by its own terms on February 8, 1880. The school continued, but the faculty issued no diplomas between 1880 and 1884. Miriam Amanda Ferguson attended the college. In 1885 the college property was turned over to the officials of the Salado public free schools. The school is unusual in that it operated for a twenty-four-year period with tuition as its sole source of income.