Barclay College traces its beginnings to 1917 when the Friends Haviland Academy founded the Kansas Central Bible Training School in a new building near the academy. The academy had opened in 1892 and was the first secondary school in Kiowa Couanty, Kansas. Born out of a desire for a strong evangelistic emphasis, the college immediately became a center for the training and preparation of pastors and missionaries.

In 1925, a two-year junior college course was added, and the name was changed in 1930 to Friends Bible College to more fully reflect the growing mission of the institution.

By 1968, supporters felt the purposes of the college would best be served by emphasizing the four-year institution. They consequently closed the academy and junior-college programs and embarked on a vigorous effort to secure necessary faculty and facilities. This effort resulted in widespread support from the community and the college constituency and received general recognition in 1975 with the granting of full accreditation by the American Association of Bible Colleges (now the Association for Biblical Higher Education).

In the Spring of 1990, the college adopted its current name in honor of the first Quaker theologian, Robert Barclay. For a more detailed description of Barclay's rich history, contact the college to receive a copy of "Lighthouse on the Prairie", written by Haviland resident and former president Sheldon Jackson.