In 1852 George Gaston, S.A. Adams, and Rev. John Todd came to Iowa for the purpose of establishing a Christian college like the one at Oberlin, Ohio. The three founders' first choice was a location at Civil Bend, which is in the Percival area. After two seasons of floods, mosquitoes, and malaria, however, they turned their attention to higher ground. Their choice was a plateau between the Nishnabotna and Missouri Rivers. They were impressed with this high location and mutually selected the name "Tabor" after the Biblical name of Mount Tabor, a mountain near Nazareth, the town of Jesus' childhood. Each family selected a quarter section of land for themselves, bordering on which was to become the Tabor College.
One of the first things they did was conduct church services and hold school classes, later erecting a building for both. In 1853 they incorporated the Tabor Literary Institute: "the object of which shall be to harmoniously develop the moral, mental, and physical powers of those who enjoy its privileges. The privileges of the Institution shall be alike free to both sexes and all classes." In 1860 the Institute moved into its first building, the frame structure always called "the Chapel".
Six years later the Institute became Tabor College. From the beginning money was a problem. G.B. Gaston, whose property was worth possibly $9000, gave $2000 in cash and $2000 in notes. The pastor, with a salary of $800, pledged $1000 and taught three years without compensation. The teachers each pledged more than a year's salary; therefore, the work was able to go ahead. The first brick building was ready for use by the summer of 1869 and was used as a dormitory. The college advertised, "Students may find large pleasant rooms at the Hall, furnished with bedstead, straw tick, table, washstand, chairs, and stove. They will supply what other furniture they need, by special arrangement. Cordwood, $5.00 per cord."
Four-year courses were offered in classical, scientific, and literary departments.
In 1887 Gaston Hall was dedicated. In the center of the 6-acre college grounds, Gaston Hall had offices, recitation rooms, and the library.
In 1898 plans began for a third brick building, Adams Hall, to serve as the Music Conservatory.
In 1911 the students proposed to erect a new gymnasium if the trustees would furnish materials. They excavated the basement, tore down an old building for materials, and had the gymnasium ready for use that school year.
Although Tabor College offered an excellent education and in spite of the generosity of students, teachers, and townsfolk, the college continued to struggle financially. At commencement in 1927, the president announced that the college would not open in the fall.
In the late 1930's there was a brief unsuccessful effort to reopen the college.
During World War II the college grounds were fenced, and German POW's were housed in the buildings.
The buildings have been torn down except for Adams Hall which is now an apartment building.