by Paul Goddard
Apart from Robert Wallace Officer’s efforts, a second school was established at Silver City [Oklahoma] on September 8, 1889. Silver City was a cow town located on the Old Chisholm Trail.
New arrival, Miss Meta Chestnutt described the church there by stating:
“A Sunday School was organized on the fifth Sunday of August, 1889, by Mrs. W.J. Erwin, which grew into a church and did not fail to meet every Sunday for thirty years and long after she had gone to reward. Members of the church moved to Minco, then others of that church to Chickasha, Tuttle, and other places, setting up the Altar of the Lord as they went. These churches still live and grow but have forgotten their origin, Silver City on the Old Chisholm Trail.”/1
Seeing the mistreatment of local inhabitants, Miss Chestnutt, who received her Licentiate of Instruction diploma from Peabody College in 1888, started a school for Indian children./2 In 1890, the school was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and moved to Minco. Here it became known as El Meta Christian College./3
Futhermore, Chestnutt described the new location:
“The school, with all of Silver City, moved to the Rock Island railroad the next year and, on July 4, 1890, formally founded Minco, celebrating the event with a dance by the Indians from the reservation west of town, a barbecue, with plenty of black coffee made in a big washpot. Pickles, bread, and homemade cake were added by the good pioneer women of the time. People came from the Kansas line to the Red River, and there was plenty of grub, and to spare. The pioneers brought food to a picnic in washtubs and clothes baskets. The school continued to grow, and its doors were kept open by its founder for thirty consecutive years. Four cowmen, a bank cashier, a clerk in a store, the proprietor of a pool-hall, and a cowboy contributed four hundred dollars and built another house 24 by 36 feet in Minco to house the school. That was a creditable little house with good lighting and patent school desks. It was the custom in those days to open every new house with a big dance. But because the house was to be used for church purposes, as well as for a school, the teacher (Chestnutt) and Mrs. W.J. Erwin, in whose home she lived, pleaded that the dance might not take place. The guests had all been invited, and it was then only a few hours before they should begin to arrive, but finally the committee capitulated and handed over the key and the building to the teacher as a gift. The house was dedicated the following morning with a Sunday School service and the Lord’s Supper…”/4
Twenty-five hundred students were educated at Miss Chestnutt’s school. Its yearly enrollment peaked at 200, and $119,000 was raised to construct the major building on campus. In 1894, El Meta Christian College was renamed El Meta Bond College, in honor of rancher Jimmie Bond. “Uncle Jimmie” was a prominent supporter of the school./5
Because there was a lack of schools in the territory, white settlers sent their children to El Meta Bond College. R. W. Officer referred to Miss Chestnutt as a “whole state meeting in herself”/6. Likewise, he described her school:
“Ten acres of land, well located, are set aside for the College, and enclosed. In the southeast corner of the lot is a splendid chapel. Miss Meta Chestnutt, from North Carolina, has been instrumental in the growth and interest in the education of the coming men and women of our country. The boarding department is good. There are no other subscription schools for the white children: no school system in our country; no public funds for white children so that they are, many of them growing up in poverty and ignorance. What we want is for churches of Christ, as well as individuals, to give $200 to this department of our work, and so provide for twenty children in school for a year.”/7
The following year, a Texas preacher mentioned the school in a report that he sent to Nashville, “I found it successfully managed by Sister Meta Chestnutt. I learned from her that this school has passed the danger mark of failure, and the prospects of a fine school are now brighter than ever.”/8
It was about this time, that J.A. Sager came to teach music. Sager was from Anadarko, and he conducted the school’s band. After his arrival, he became engaged to Miss Chestnutt, and they were married on May 8, 1906.
When the school closed on May 28, 1920, Mrs. Meta Chestnutt Sager moved to Chickasha, Oklahoma, where she died on January 8, 1948. Today a city park occupies the grounds of the old school, and a large bronze plaque reads:
“This memorial, erected by students of the El Meta Bond College, 1889 To 1919, is dedicated in loving memory of the founder, Mrs. Meta Chestnutt Sager, whose undaunted courage, interest in education and love for mankind live anew in every individual who reflects the ideals and principles of that noble Christian Character. 1889 – 1939.”
1/ Chronicles of Oklahoma 17, No. 2 (June, 1939), 184.
2/ Peabody College (Nashville: Alumni Directory,1875-1909), 98.
3/ Pictured above. Ralph Marsh, “Minco College History Deep,” Chickasha Daily Express (June 3, 1958).
4/ Chronicles of Oklahoma, 187.
5/ Stephen J. England, Oklahoma Christians (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1975), 109-110.
6/ Robert Wallace Officer, “Indian Territory,” Octographic Review 33 (August 7, 1890), 2.
7/ Robert W. Officer, “El Meta Christian College,” Christian Standard 33 (March 20, 1897), 354.
8/ J. D. Tant, “Oklahoma,” Gospel Advocate 40 (July 1898), 427.