In June, 1886, the townsite of Bartley was platted on land owned by the Reverend Allen Bartley, a minister of the Methodist Church. The previous year, Methodist Bishop Mallalieu had proposed this site as the location for a church-affiliated institution of higher education, and in April, 1886, the Reverend Bartley was authorized to establish a University here. By July, some 27 buildings had been erected in the new town.
The University, named for Bishop Mallalieu, was opened in September, 1886, with an enrollment of sixty students. Courses were taught in the liberal arts, music, and business. The first class was graduated in the spring of 1888, and that summer, construction began on the first of the permanent University buildings, Haddock Hall, which was located a short distance north of this point.
The Hall was not completed, however, as drought and adverse economic conditions soon forced the University to close its doors. The school never reopened, and the bricks from Haddock Hall were later used in the construction of the Methodist Church of Bartley, the only reminder of this early attempt to bring higher education to southwest Nebraska.