Friday, July 06, 2018

El Meta, Lockney, and Hereford: Comparing Three Christian Colleges

One idea I have is to compare the brief careers of three Christian colleges:

El Meta Christian College (later, El Meta Bond College, 1889-1920)
Lockney Christian College (1894-1918)
Hereford Christian College and Industrial School (1902-1912)

Why were these colleges established? How did they get their start? And, why did all they have such short lifespans? Three factors combine to make these schools good candidates for comparison.

Religious Connections

In the first place, all three were private institutions founded by Christians with strong ties to the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. This movement, a powerful impulse on the American religious scene growing out of the Second Great Awaking, eventually gave rise to the Disciples of Christ denomination, the independent Christian Churches, and the Churches of Christ.

Because of their connection to the Restoration Movement, the founders of these schools shared the same vision regarding the purpose and goals of formal education. They inherited this outlook from their religious ancestor Alexander Campbell. Far more than any other person in Restoration history, it was Campbell who shaped the movement's philosophy of education.[1]

For Campbell, education was not an end in itself. Rather, it was a means to an end. The true goal of education was a knowledge of God which, in addition to its eternal benefits, would lead to a morally-sound, well-ordered society, one that would promote human flourishing. According to Campbell's educational philosophy, a person's intellectual growth went hand in hand with his religious and moral development. Ideally, all of these accompanied and aided the other. Education was vital.[2]

For example, writing in the pages of The Millennial Harbinger in 1836, Campbell asserted that whatever a person's natural capacities might be, "without education neither intellectual greatness nor moral goodness can be attained." He went on to say that "it is the primary duty of all parents to educate their children." Naturally, Campbell assumed that parents themselves would serve as their child's first teachers. But, he added, "schools, primary and secondary, or schools and colleges, are the most ancient and useful inventions for this purpose."[3] In an 1856 address, Campbell indicated the significance he assigned to teachers:
I have come to the conclusion that no class of men, in any department of society, have more of the good or evil destiny of the world in their hands and under their influence than the teachers of our schools and colleges."[4]
Campbell's commitment to formal education led him to establish Buffalo Seminary in 1818, the year he turned thirty. He conducted the boarding school in his house. Classes met on the ground floor. Students were housed upstairs. And Campbell and his growing family lived in the basement.[5] As one might guess, this experiment lasted for only a few years (1818-1823). But it must have provided several practical lessons that Campbell was able to put to good use when, in 1840 and '41, he planned and opened Bethany College. Sometimes called the mother of all Disciple colleges, nearly 180 years old, Bethany College is still there.

Time Frame

Another reason why El Meta, Lockney, and Hereford can be compared is that all three operated at roughly the same time. The school known for many years as El Meta Christian College began at Silver City in the Chickasaw Nation in 1889. The next year, almost all of the tiny community of Silver City moved seven miles to the west to be near the railroad, the Chicago Rock, Island and Pacific, which was laying track, extending the line south out of Kansas. Meta Chestnutt and her schoolhouse made up part of of the migration and helped to start a new town they called Minco, which was home to the college until its closing in 1920.

Charles Walker Smith and St. Clair W. Smith, of no relation to one another, established Lockney Christian College in Lockney, Floyd County, Texas, in 1894. The school remained in operation until 1918.

Hereford Christian College and Industrial School in Hereford, Texas, opened its doors in 1902. Randolph Clark, the school's first president, was an eventual co-founder of what is now Texas Christian University. For a few years, the school at Hereford was known as Panhandle Christian College. After only a decade in operation, the college closed in 1912.

Regional Relations

A third factor that makes these three schools comparable is that they were located in what is essentially the same region. Whites who settled in Texas and Oklahoma were a nineteenth-century extension of a pattern of migration that began more than a century before. Around the year 1718, waves of migrants from northern Ireland and from the border regions of southern Scotland and the north of England began arriving at the ports of Newcastle, Delaware, and Philadelphia. Typically, these people, who represented a distinctive cultural type, moved past the cities of the American east coast to barren sections of the western frontier. Consequently, they were the white settlers of the backcountry, especially the lands that became the the American South [6] It would be hard to overestimate the significance of the size of this migration and its meaning for the future of the United States. For example, during the six decades leading up to the American Revolution, over 100,000 people from the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland alone had immigrated to British North America.[7]

Beyond the historic similarities between Texas and Oklahoma, one can say that far more than any other part of Texas, the Panhandle Plains region of the Lone Star state bears a close resemblance to Oklahoma. Historian Donald Worster takes note of this in his monumental study titled Dust Bowl. He observes that by the 1930s, especially in the area from Lubbock to Amarillo, "the cultural patterns were almost identical to those farther east." Worster mentions that this is not surprising because, for example,  in spite of the 100th meridian, the line dividing western Oklahoma from the Texas Panhandle, both sections were part of a regional cotton kingdom. He suggests that Woody Guthrie personifies this connection. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912, Woody "moved to Pampa, over in the Texas panhandle, in 1929 and remained there through the dust storms until he hitched a ride to California in 1937."[8]

Looking for links between Oklahoma and the high plains of Texas, students of Restoration history might point to R. W. Officer. At the turn of the twentieth century, Officer made his home in Atoka, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. But sometime after he buried his wife, Lota Venable Officer, he moved west to what is now Turkey, Texas in Hall County. He died and was buried at Turkey in 1930, having lived to the age of 85.


[1] John L. Morrison, "Education, Philosophy of," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 292-94; M. Norvel Young, A History of Colleges Established and Controlled by Members of the Churches of Christ (Kansas City, MO: Old Paths Book Club, 1949), 25-33. Significantly, Young's entire section on the "Attitude of the Movement toward Education" is an overview of the attitudes of Alexander Campbell. For more on this topic, see also the fine essay by Thomas H. Olbricht, "Alexander Campbell as an Educator," in Lectures in Honor of the Alexander Campbell Bicentennial, 1788-1988 (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1988), 79-100.

[2] Morrison, "Education."

[3] Alexander Campbell, "Remarks," Millennial Harbinger, 1836, 201.

[4] Alexander Campbell, "Address on Education," in Popular Lectures and Addresses (Philadelphia: James Challen & Son, 1863), 245.

[5] Leroy Garrett, "Campbell, Alexander," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 120.

[6]  David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). Fischer notes that the years 1718, 1729, 1741, 1755, 1767, and 1774 were peak periods. The decade from 1765 to 1775 witnessed two-thirds of the entire migration (605-08). For Texas and Oklahoma as two places where the descendants of these immigrants moved to during the nineteenth century, see 633-39.

[7] Patrick Griffin, The People with No Name: Ireland's Ulster Scots, America's Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 1-8.

[8] Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 61. Worster might have also mentioned that even before Woody moved to Pampa, his father, Charlie, broken by tragedy, moved there first.

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