Founded in 1899, Elizabethtown College is a 'centennial college', one of dozens of institutions of higher learning founded in the 19th century by churches or church members interested in the educational advancement of their denominational membership. Elizabethtown College was founded by the Reverend Jacob G. Francis and members of the Church of the Brethren. During its first two decades, Elizabethtown College functioned as a college and as an academy for high school students to bolster its teacher training program.
In 1921, the College became accredited by the State Council on Education, and bestowed its first baccalaureate degree. The success during the 1920s was soon replaced by the hardships of the 1930s. Despite calls to close down the facility, the spirit of perseverance at the College carried it through those trying times. After World War II, Elizabethtown College again saw prosperity, and became accredited by the Middle States Association in 1948 and the American Council of Education in 1949.