The Presbyterian School for Girls (also known as "Minerva Home") was founded in Muskogee, Indian Territory to offer a primary education to Creek girls. In 1894, it was expanded to become Henry Kendall College, named in honor of Reverend Henry Kendall, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions. The first president was William A. Caldwell, who served until 1896. He was succeeded by William Robert King. Kendall College, while still in Muskogee, granted the first post-secondary degree in Oklahoma in June 1898. Under King, the college was moved from its original location in downtown Muskogee to a larger campus on lands donated by Pleasant Porter.
The opening of the new campus coincided with the start of the tenure of the third president, A. Grant Evans. Over the next ten years, Evans oversaw the struggling school. In most years, class sizes remained small and although the Academy, the attached elementary, middle, and high school was more successful; by the end of the 1906/07 year Kendall College had had only 27 collegiate graduates. At the request of the administration, the Synod of Indian Territory assumed control as trustees and began to look at alternatives for the future of the school. When the administration was approached by the comparatively smaller town of Tulsa and offered a chance to move, the decision was made to relocate.
The Tulsa Commercial Club (a forerunner of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce) decided to bid for the college. Club members who packaged a bid in 1907 to move the college to Tulsa included: B. Betters, H. O. McClure, L. N. Butts, W. L. North, James H. Hall (sic), Grant C. Stebbins, Rev. Charles W. Kerr, C. H. Nicholson. The offer included $100,000, 20 acres of real estate and a guarantee for utilities and street car service.
The school opened to thirty-five students in September 1907, two months before Oklahoma became a state. These first students attended classes at the First Presbyterian Church until permanent buildings could be erected on the new campus. This became the start of higher education in Tulsa. Kendall Hall, the first building of the new school, was completed in 1908 and was quickly followed by two other buildings. All three buildings have since been demolished, with Kendall the last to be razed in 1972. The bell that once hung in the Kendall Building tower was saved and displayed in Bayless Plaza.