Friday, October 25, 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Frazer Cemetery and Bitter Creek, SW Oklahoma

On Friday, October 18, I submitted final grades for the first 8-week Fall semester at Amarillo College and headed east to Oklahoma. My mother was in the hospital at Altus. Over the weekend, my dad and I took turns staying with her. She's doing better now and has been discharged from the hospital.

Before leaving Altus on Sunday, going back west toward Amarillo, I stopped by a few places of interest to me.

One of the earliest white settlements in the area was a place called Frazer (alternately spelled Frazier), a forerunner of present-day Altus. A post office was established at Frazer in February 1886. That was ten years before the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the U.S., not Texas, owned the territory south and west of the North Fork of the Red River. So, from the time people began living at Frazer, until the settlement was destroyed by a flood in June 1891, it was always a part of Greer County, Texas. Today, the same region (which comprises Jackson, Greer, and Harmon Counties, and part of Beckham County, Oklahoma) is known as "Old Greer County."  

Residents of Frazer buried their dead in a cemetery that lay perhaps to the north and east of the settlement (and to the west of present-day Altus). I visited the Frazer Cemetery and took a few photos:

According to online sources I found, there are approximately 63 graves in Frazer Cemetery. The cemetery is located west of Altus, on County Road 202, about a half mile south of U.S. Route 62. 
On Sunday afternoon, October 20, the big sky was quite a scene looking to the north and east.
If gravestones like this one date to the time the person died, then they must have been crafted somewhere else in Texas and brought to Frazer by wagon.
Frazer was located near the confluence of Bitter Creek and the Salt Fork of the Red River. These two streams flow south-southeast towards the Red River, and are located west of Altus. When heavy rains flooded both streams in June 1891, flowing water covered all of the land in and around Frazer. Residents made their way north and east to a place that came to be called Altus, a Latin term that when used as an adjective means "high."

This sign greets travelers on U.S. Route 62 heading east.
Under the bridge, I was surprised to find a good bit of water. The creek was flowing and frogs were jumping. After a minute or two, I smelled a skunk and got out of there. My shoes and jeans were covered with stickers.

Friday, September 20, 2019

From North Carolina to Indian Territory

The train traveling west from Greenville, North Carolina, left the station three hours late. But Meta Chestnutt didn't mind. The only thing that mattered to her was that she was going to Indian Territory and the challenges awaiting her there. The conductor eventually made his way to her row.

"What city, Miss?"

"Silver City, Indian Territory."

"I beg your pardon."

"Silver City," she repeated.

"You must be mistaken. There is no such place."

"Oh, but there is and I am going there."

"I will have to let you off at the next stop and you can talk with the station agent."

After looking at his map, the agent repeated what the conductor had said: there was no Silver City, Indian Territory. The best the agent could do was to send Meta some forty miles further west, to Goldsboro, North Carolina. Perhaps the people in the station office there could help her.

The agent at Goldsboro gave her no more help. He suggested that she take the next train to Richmond, Virginia. By that point, Meta was exasperated. She had letters with her, sent by Annie Erwin and postmarked "Silver City, I.T."  She insisted that there was such a place, and that she had to get there. But her only choice was to go to Richmond. Maybe someone there could help her.[1]

Thanks to the nineteenth-century's transportation revolution, by 1889 the United States had been knit together by an ever-expanding network of railroads. From 1850 to 1870, massive investment in railroad construction created a web of tracks totaling 53,000 miles. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in May 1869. By the end of the 1880s, the decade when of construction reached a fever pitch, there were 164,000 miles miles of track in operation.[2]

Still, for all of that, no railroad ever reached Silver City, Indian Territory. Meta Chestnutt knew the place was there. But judging from a map of the nation's railroads, it wasn't. She must have felt anxious as she rode the train 165 miles from Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Richmond, Virginia, following the path of present-day Interstate-95. If she was ever going to make it to Silver City, she would need to travel west-southwest. At this point, she was going north-northeast!

At Richmond, the agent encountered the same problem, but had the presence of mind to ask, "Do you know of any town that might be near where you want to go?" Looking at the map, the only place Meta could suggest was Oklahoma City. So the agent sold her a ticket to Oklahoma City and suggested that she send word to her friends in Indian Territory to pick her up there. She was starting her trip to the west all over again. This time, she was further away.

It would be difficult to trace the exact route that Chestnutt followed from Virginia to Indian Territory. It appears, however, that she eventually traveled west through Missouri and into Kansas before heading south into I.T.

At some point in Kansas, she had a brief encounter she would remember for the rest of her life. A black man boarded the crowded train and looked for an empty seat. He noticed the spot next to Meta and sat down. Immediately, the white woman from North Carolina, born during the Civil War, the grand-daughter of slave owners, reacted. Not once in her life had she been that close to a black man. In fact, the only time she could remember seeing an African-American beside a white person, it was a servant girl sitting next to her white mistress.

Meta concealed her anxiety and disgust as best she could, but her emotions much have shown. Soon, a white man spoke up and asked the black man sitting next to Chestnutt to move and sit next to him instead. With no apparent surprise or indignation, the black man stood up, walked to the seat next to the white man, and sat down.

Telling this story years later, Meta insisted that the black man who sat next to her that day was someone whose photo sometimes appeared in the newspapers: George Washington Carver. When recalling the episode, she would add, "I would be proud to have him sit beside me today."[3]

The available facts support Meta's story. For example, the train that brought her to Oklahoma City in 1889 ran on the Southern Kansas Railway, a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, traveling south out of Kansas.[4] Also, as a young man, George Washington Carver left his home in Diamond, Missouri, and moved to Kansas. For several years until 1890, Carver spent much of his time in Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa "seeking an education while supporting himself doing laundry, cooking, and homesteading."[5]

Notes

[1] Eva Heiliger, "Born to Meet Adversity (and Rise Above It)," 31-32. The unpublished book typescript is located in box 1, folders 6 and 7, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. The spoken words here do not come from a transcript. Instead, they represent what appears to be Heiliger's imaginative recreation of what could have been said--and might likely have been said--at a certain point in Meta Chestnutt's story. Heiliger was Sager's great niece as well as biographer. As the Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection reveals, the two women corresponded with one another for many years.

In a work that contains several examples of reported dialogue, William F. Buckley wrote, "The reader is entitled to ask if the material here is factually reliable. Reliable is the perfect word in this context. The book is not strictly factual, in that conversations are reported which cannot be documented as having taken place word for word. Yet it is reliable in that these words might well have been spoken. There are zero distortions here--no thought is engrafted in anyone that alters the subject's character or inclinations, or even habits of speech." William F. Buckley Jr., Flying High: Remembering Barry Goldwater (Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2008), xi-xii. It is in the spirit of Buckley's apology that I occasionally report dialogue taken from Eva Heiliger's manuscript.

[2] Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 532.

[3] Heiliger, Born to Meet Adversity, 32-34. Chestnutt's emotional reaction in this instance might be compared to a story Melton A. McLaurin tells in his memoir, Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South, 2nd ed. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 27-41. McLaurin's chapter titled "Bobo" is named for a black childhood acquaintance of the McLaurin's. The two boys had gone to a store where they used an air compressor to inflate a leaky basketball. Bobo put the air needle in his mouth first. The first attempt at airing up the basketball didn't work. So McLaurin, without thinking, put the needle in his own mouth. Instantly, he recognized what he had done. For a moment, he imagined that Bobo's blackness was somehow already infecting him. Still, he managed to conceal his distress. Part of his assumed white superiority meant that he could not visibly react. Later, though, he went by himself to an outdoor spigot where he repeatedly rinsed out his mouth.

[4] See Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., "Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=AT001, and Linda D. Wilson, "Oklahoma City," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=OK025.

[5] Linda O. McMurry, "Carver, George Washington," in American National Biography, ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 4:513.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

R. W. Officer Reports on Stone-Campbell Churches in I.T., 1890

During the second half of 1890, only a year after Meta Chestnutt first arrived in Silver City, R. W. Officer reported on the state of Stone-Campbell churches in Indian Territory. There were, he said, about 2,200 disciples in 54 congregations (an average of approximately 41 members per church). Fourteen of those congregations met in homes. Thirty of the churches met in community school houses. Only ten worshiped in a building owned by the congregation. There were a total of nineteen preachers in I.T. Virtually all of them, "by the work of their own hands," supported themselves and their families.[1]

Officer seems to have had mixed feelings about an entire region made up of congregations whose preachers were bi-vocational. On the positive side, those preachers followed in the footsteps of Paul, the apostolic missionary who worked to support himself. Officer noted that to the church at ancient Thessalonica the Apostle wrote, "Ye ought to follow, [imitate] us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you; . . . "

Still, Officer knew from experience that strong financial support for missionaries and their ministries led to success:
The different religious communities (denominations) sent missionaries to this country with the Indians when they came years ago, sustained them by their missionary societies through their boards, sent men to assist them when the interest demanded, sent teachers, and helped to sustain them. They sent money to aid in building institutions of learning, and had the assistance of the Church extension funds to aid in building church houses.[2]
What might the Stone-Campbell churches in I.T. have been if they had received the same kind of support? What was more, Officer said, when he first came to I.T. ten years earlier, he could not build on the work done by others who had come before him. J. J. Trott had worked among the Cherokees some twenty years before. But after his death, the mission outpost Trott had established "went down," so much so that his own children "took membership with the denominations in their communities."[3]

In the mid-1880s, the Disciples' American Christian Missionary Society had sent Isaac Mode to evangelize the Creek Indians living in and around Wetumpka, I.T. Various hardships, especially Mode's difficulties with the Creek language, "were of such a nature that he did but little, and from some cause resigned."[4]

Besides those failures, Officer had always known a variety of "religious neighbors" in I.T. who collaborated in "a kind of a union of action to spoil our efforts." Sabotage by outsiders was compounded by "men claiming to be Christian preachers who seemed not to care for the cause." The progress that Officer and his colleagues witnessed had not come easily. He and other Stone-Campbell missionaries had overcome difficulties that were, said the Civil War veteran, "hard to imagine."[5]

Notes

[1] R. W. Officer, "Indian Territory," Octographic Review 33 (December 18, 1890), 6. The date of Officer's report is uncertain. The article appears after an editorial preface: "The following document had the misfortune of being delayed in Bro. Officer's hands before it was sent to us, and of being delayed in our hands after reading this office. Publisher."

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. For a brief discussion of Mode's failed mission, see Stephen J. England, Oklahoma Christians (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1975), 42.

[5] Ibid.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

R. W. Officer Writes from Minco about Meta Chestnutt

Part of R. W. Officer's report from Indian Territory in the fall of 1890 includes the following, written at Minco, I.T.:

Miss Meta Chestnutt of Nashville, Tenn., formerly from N. C. is teaching. I said once that she was a whole state convention by herself. I am not going to take it back. With brother and sister Erwin to co-operate with her I would not take a national convention for them, with the Y. M. C. A. thrown in, for the work needed in this country.

R. W. Officer, "Indian Territory," Octographic Review 33 (November 20, 1890), 2.

Clearly, Officer mixes his admiration for Miss Chestnutt and her educational mission with his objection to para-church organizations and religious societies, none of which are the church described in the New Testament.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Protestant Dominance in 19th-Century America and Stone-Campbell Churches

During the nineteenth century, Americans could hardly fail to notice that although Protestant Christianity was officially non-established, it was the unofficially-established religion of the United States. Most American Jews and Roman Catholics simply tolerated its dominance.[1] The supremacy of Protestantism showed up at every turn. Buildings that belonged to Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Methodists could be seen on street corners in virtually every town in America. Members of these and other sizable Protestant groups, like Lutherans and Episcopalians, participated in countless inter-denominational and non-denominational voluntary associations. These included the American Bible Society (established in 1816), the American Sunday School Union (1824), and the Evangelical Alliance (formed in the U.S. in 1867). In addition, a wide variety of educational and journalistic institutions served to reinforce the cultural influence of Protestantism. For example, from the 1636 founding of Harvard, America's first college, until the late nineteenth century Protestant higher education was nearly synonymous with American higher education. Even state universities operated much like Protestant schools. Finally, extended networks of business owners, ministers, educators, government officials, and benefactors created a sort of Protestant fabric that covered the entire country.[2]

Nineteenth-century Christian Churches and Churches of Christ--congregations affiliated with of the Stone-Campbell Movement--were part of that tapestry. It is true that some of these churches were prone to a sectarian spirit, and that the strict independence of all those churches created a situation in which congregations were so autonomous the movement was nearly anonymous. Yet they still made up a part of American Protestantism.

Notes

[1] William R. Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America: The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 59-60.

[2] Ibid., 61. See also W. C. Ringenberg, “Higher Education, Protestant,” in Dictionary of Christianity in America, ed. Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 530-32.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

J. Alba and Meta Sager at the Lake Mohonk Conference 1910

In late October of 1910, Meta Chestnutt and J. Alba Sager traveled from Oklahoma to New York to attend the annual Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian. No evidence suggests that Mrs. Sager delivered a speech to the participants. In fact, her name never appears anywhere in the published report for that year. It simply lists "Sager, J. A." of the "Indian Service, Minco, Okla." as one of the conference participants. Ironically, only an asterisk next to Mr. Sager's name indicates that he was "accompanied by his wife," the president of El Meta Bond College.[1] It appears this was the only Mohonk Conference the Sagers ever attended.[2]

Five months later, on March 20, 1911, William Arthur Jones, a former commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, wrote a letter from his Mineral Point Zinc Company in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Jones addressed his letter to "Mrs. M. C. Sager, Minco, Oklahoma."

Dear Mrs. Sager: --

I am just in receipt of a postal card of the cut of your college building. The picture shows that you have made wonderful improvement in the building and grounds since I last saw a cut of it. I congratulate you heartily on the success of the school, and only regret that the federal or state government is not more liberal with you in the way of appropriations. It was too bad you were unable to get a more extended hearing at Lake Mohonk last fall, as I am firmly of the opinion that the endorsement of the conference would have helped you materially in bringing out your plans for the future.

Please remember me kindly to Mr. Sager, and believe me

Sincerely yours,

W A Jones[3]

Although short, Jones's letter points to development at El Meta Bond College, and to a plan of Mrs. Sager's. Early photos of the school house at Minco show the three-story building towering over a stark landscape. During those early years, Meta, who had grown up in North Carolina surrounded by trees, saw to it that dozens were planted on the property. At least some of them survived and flourished so that later photos reveal a school house surrounded by trees.

The letter also indicates that Meta Sager had gone to Mohonk hoping to gather support for a plan. It would be something new, at least at her school, and that would require government funding. The specifics of her idea are unknown.

Notes

[1] Report of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Lake Mohonk Conference of the Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples, October 19th, 20th, and 21st, 1910 (N.p.: Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples, 1910), 187. The explanation of the asterisk next to Mr. Sager's name appears on page 185.

[2] See the annual Reports or Proceedings of the Lake Mohonk Conference. So far, I have been able to scan the following years: 1885-87 and 1894-1916.

[3] W. A. Jones to Mrs. M. C. Sager, March 20, 1911, box 3, folder 34, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society. The William A. Jones Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society contain no correspondence between Mr. Jones and Mrs. Sager. Susan Krueger, e-mail message to author, September 5, 2019. My thanks to the archivists at the WHS who conducted the search of the collection.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Historic Conferences at Lake Mohonk, NY

Beginning in 1883, Albert and Alfred Smiley, twin brothers and devout Quakers, hosted the "Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian." These annual gatherings met at the brothers' Mohonk Mountain House, a 259-guestroom resort nestled in the mountains west of the Hudson River in upstate New York. There, white middle-class Protestant reformers delivered speeches, shared ideas, refined their plans, and issued recommendations. Their goal was to lift up and civilize the American Indian. Their plans always assumed the necessity of education and the importance of schools.

Many of the attendees held membership in the Indian Rights Association, the greatest such organization of the time, founded and led by William Welsh. Many of them had read Helen Hunt Jackson's 1881 book, A Century of Dishonor, which sought to do for Indians what Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, had done for slaves. In the words of historian Francis Paul Prucha, the conferences at Lake Mohonk "had tremendous impact on formulation of federal policy."[1]

Note

[1] Francis Paul Prucha, ed., Documents of United States Indian Policy, 3rd ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 161. For an excellent overview of the origins, activities, and legacy of the conferences at Lake Mohonk, see Robert M. Utley, The Indian Frontier, 1846-1890, rev. ed. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003), ch. 7. Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, North American Indians: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), ch. 5, esp. p. 90, note the significance of the Mohonk conferences to the period that emphasized assimilation and allotment.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Mrs. Sager on Modern Translations of the Bible

On Sunday night, April 28, 1935, Meta Chestnutt Sager wrote to her sister-in-law, Clara Dixon Chestnutt, and complained about preachers and the modern translations of the Bible she heard in the Christian Church at Chickasha, Oklahoma:

 . . . the New Testaments the preachers read from, that is when they do read a little squib, they have so much of their own stuff to say the Bible has little place, that these new translations do not sound like the Bible. Tonight, I tried not to listen, the blessed words had been so garbled into modern language that I just despise to hear it. When I do listen I say it over to myself in the old New Testament language. The Bible as it was translated by the old masters is beautiful and charming in its old form, but these modern smart "alicks" have made a mess of that wonderfully beautiful book.[1]

Note

[1] Meta C. Sager to Clara, April 28, 1935, box 3, folder 26, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society. One notes that Mrs. Sager placed alicks in scare quotes and also underlined the word, suggesting that she perhaps thought and wanted to say something else instead.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Meta Chestnutt Sager on the Christian Church's Neglect of the Poor and the Social Sources of Denominationalism

The long, rambling letters that Meta Chestnutt Sager sent to her sister-in-law, Clara Dixon Chestnutt, include reflections on religion in America during the Depression era. Here, a bit of context will help. In a 1929 book entitled The Social Sources of Denominationalism, H. Richard Niebuhr wrote at length about "churches of the disinherited." These Christian sects emerged partly because they provided religious homes for people whose poor grammar and shabby clothes didn't fit in at the established, middle-class denominations.[1]

Along this line, in a letter to Clara dated April 28, 1935, Meta wrote about the Christian Church in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where she attended:

I tell you the church does not care for the downright poor and uneducated. I'm glad there is a Holiness Methodist Church, a Nazarene Church and other little squads of poor people who worship God in some way. I'm sorry that Christian people have made it necessary for such to exist, but they have so much society doings in the churches that the poor and uneducated have no place in their midst, they are lost, and seldom go long, even if they start. The church is just so many cold storage stations. The most they think of is what they can have next. I tell you I get more joy out of going down to the jail and trying to lead those poor despised skeletons of humanity upon higher ground than I do at all the church services except the Communion service.[2]

According to Niebuhr the academic, and Meta Sager the keen observer, new sects in American did not strike out on their own because they were following some new doctrinal aberration or false teaching. It is tempting to conclude that heresy was not a source, so much as a consequence, of the proliferation of various Christian groups in the U.S.

Notes

[1] H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1929).

[2] Meta C. Sager to Clara, April 28, 1935, box 3, folder 26, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Meta Chestnutt Sager on the Depression, Roosevelt, Prohibition, and Repeal

Among the more interesting parts of the Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection is a small group of letters Mrs. Sager (1863-1948) wrote from her home in Chickasha, Oklahoma to her sister-in-law, Clara Dixon Chestnutt, who was born in 1865. When the letters were written, during the 1930s and 40s, Clara was living somewhere in the eastern U.S.

Clara was the widow of Isaac Lamar Chestnutt, Meta's only brother and the first of four siblings. Until he died in in 1907, Isaac served as a preacher and educational leader among the Disciples of Christ in North Carolina and Virginia. The Dixons, Clara's family of origin, also provided leadership among the congregations in North Carolina, almost all of which were located in the eastern part of the state, in places like Lenoir, Pitt, Greene, and Craven Counties.

In letters she sent to Clara, Meta Sager revealed much of her political as well as her religious outlook. In one dated March 19, 1933, Sager wrote the following to her sister-in-law:

I suppose you have all felt more or less the depression, and have had the bank "strike." And I suppose, too, that Democrats there as here feel that Roosevelt will turn the nation upside down and set things right again. Well, I hope he can do it, but I'm not so sure be we are nearing the end. There are strange happenings on every side.

How do you people take the position of the President on the liquor question? I believe in the West the people are glad of the repeal, at least we may call it a repeal, for can a man get any drunker on pure whiskey than he can on beer and wine? I think the church people are getting what is coming to them for the manner many of them have acted under the 18th amendment. The church people have not tried in any great material way to have the law obeyed.  They have simply passed by on the other side and let the violator be. For my part I will never vote to license the sale or manufacture of any strong drink, altho [sic] I do not belong to any temperance society and never did. The Church embraces everything that is good, and if one can not give his influence for temperance there no outside manmade [sic] organization can be more effective. They have Moses and the Prophets and Jesus Christ, and if they will not hear them, neither will they hear a W. C. T. U. I am nearly seventy years old, and I still believe that the body of Christ established comprehends every good work.[1]

Note

[1] Meta C. Sager to Clara, March 19, 1933, box 3, folder 26, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society. For a good overview of the history and developments connected to the Eighteenth and Twenty-first Amendments to the United States Constitution, see Norman H. Clark, "Prohibition and Temperance," in The Reader's Companion to American History, ed. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), 871-75.

Monday, August 19, 2019

R. W. Officer's Letters to Meta Chestnutt 1890

Sometime in June of 1890, the evangelist R. W. Officer sent a handwritten letter addressed to "Miss Meta Chestnutt, Silver City, I.T."

Dear Sister:

Yours to Bro T. B. L. was sent to me by him. Enclosed I send you his. Please, let me know where Silver City is, on or near what R. R. I will try to get to you as soon as I can after I learn where you are. I was near Silver City, New Mex. during the massacre a few years ago, but I am almost sure that is not the place. I am 60 miles N. of Denison, Tex on the M. K. and T. R. R. I hope I hear from you at once.

Your Bro
R. W. Officer
Atoka, I. T.
June, 90

P.S. Since I came to look I can't find Bro L's letter, but will say he requested me to fill his promise to you. R.W.O.

What seems clear enough is that Meta Chestnutt had sent a letter to her mentor and favorite preacher, T. B. Larimore, who lived in northern Alabama. Could Larimore, the popular traveling evangelist, come to Silver City, I.T., to preach to the community there?

In response to her request, Larimore, writing from Alabama, had contacted Officer, already in Indian Territory, to pay a preacher's visit to Miss Chestnutt and her fledgling church. Neither Larimore's letter to Officer, nor Chestnutt's reply to Officer survive. But when she wrote back to Officer, Miss Chestnutt no doubt told him that, already, she and many others at Silver City had moved seven miles west of there to a new settlement the founders called "Minco," a Chickasaw and Choctaw word meaning "chief."

Officer wrote her a second time in letter dated July 3, 1890, the day just before the official founding of Minco, I.T.:

Dear Sister: Yours of June 30th in hand. In reply I will say I start on next Saturday for your place. I think I will be there by Monday or Tuesday anyway. And will remain as long as I can. I will come in a buggy and the roads are not good, I will be bound to guess my way more or less, but I will get there as soon as I can.

Your Bro. R. W. Officer
Atoka, I. T.

Perhaps Miss Chestnutt complained in her letter to Officer about the lack of news in her remote locale. On the back of the foregoing note, he added a postscript: I will send you our town paper. R. W. O.

The correspondence reveals how religious leaders used the postal service and their personal networks in order to advance far-flung ministries in places like Indian Territory.

Source

The letters quoted here are located in box 3, folder 33, Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.