When Tabitha Brown came to the Oregon Territory in 1846, she was sixty-six years old. In 1847, she asked Rev. Harvey Clark to help her start a home for orphans there. Rev. Clark agreed to help, and in April 1848, they opened the orphanage in a log cabin on Rev. Clark's land.
In the summer of 1848, the local men built a new, larger house for her orphanage on land that is part of the Pacific University campus. In September 1848, Rev. Clark and other ministers and settlers agreed to start a school in the log cabin Congregational Church building, also on this campus. The new school was chartered Tualatin Academy in 1849. In 1854, a new charter was granted to the trustees of Tualatin Academy for both the academy and Pacific University.
In 1853, Sidney Harper Marsh, was hired in New York by George H. Atkinson, a trustee of Tualatin Academy, to come to Oregon to be President of the academy and the university. Marsh guided the development of Tualatin Academy and Pacific University until his death in 1879.
The academy grew rapidly in prestige and number of students; the university grew more slowly. The town of Forest Grove grew around the central campus, in part because many families moved here from other areas so that their children could be educated in the academy and university. Tualatin Academy served as an important grade school and high school until 1915.
As Pacific grew, so did its rich history. In 1898, a long standing tradition began; Boxer was given to the university as a gift and later became the official mascot.