Located in the village of Lancaster, Indiana, Eleutherian (derived from the Greek word eleutherous, meaning "freedom") College was founded by Reverend Thomas Craven.
Craven’s goal was to build an institution attended by students regardless of gender or race. Aided by many in the Lancaster community, the College opened in 1854. In 1856 there were eighteen African American students and by 1860, fifty of the two hundred students enrolled were African American.
The town of Lancaster was an antislavery stronghold in the pre-Civil War era, and the Underground Railroad thrived in and around the school and town before and during the Civil War.