Friday, December 30, 2022

El Meta and the Church of Christ at Minco in 1919

In 1919, the newspapers in Minco were mostly quiet about El Meta Bond College. The local school system and business colleges in the area appeared to be in full swing. At the end of August, for example, the Minco Herald reported that local public schools would open on September 2 and that the teachers for the coming term had all been employed. The next page of the paper contained an advertisement for the Chickasha Business College, which had been operating for sixteen years.[1] In nearby El Reno, Oklahoma, there was another business school, apparently with wild aspirations. In a city of 8,000, it was called Metropolitan Commercial College.[2]

Finally, on September 19, a notice appeared in the Minco Herald: "Thirtieth Re-Union El Meta Bond College." That night, the college would host a community gathering at which the grounds would be "lighted and decorated." The faculty and students would provide entertainment. Locals were encouraged to "come and welcome the old students back, and to let the new ones know that you are glad to have them in your community." The notice concluded with a nod towards the near future: "This might be your last opportunity to attend such an occasion as no one can tell what a year will bring forth."[3] Meta would soon complete three decades of nearly non-stop work in Oklahoma, and it seems the Sagers were already thinking about closing the school the following spring.

Meanwhile, Minco public schools started the year with 229 students. Superintendent J. W. Morgan warned parents that a new law made it "compulsory for all children between ages eight and sixteen to attend school six months," and he was determined to enforce that law.[4]

Both the Methodist and Baptist churches in Minco held revivals at the end of the summer.[5] But the papers made no mention of the congregation that met on Sundays at El Meta Bond College.


[1] "Schools Opens September 2," Minco Herald, August 29, 1919, 4, 5.

[2] Minco Herald, September 5, 1919, 3.

[3] "Thirtieth Re-Union El Meta Bond College," Minco Herald, September 19, 1919, 1.

[4] J.W. Morgan, "The Minco Schools," Minco Herald, October 10, 1919, 1.

[5] "Baptist Revival to Begin Sunday," Minco Herald, September 12, 1919, 1; "Revival Meeting at the Methodist Church," Minco Herald, September 19, 1919, 1.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Alexander Campbell on the Biblical Tabernacle

Campbell published his four-part series on the biblical Tabernacle in the Millennial Harbinger 1861, the year he turned seventy-three. By that point in his life, Campbell was not nearly as sharp or focused as he had been when he was younger.

Perhaps his disappointments and heartaches, not to mention the distress of the unfolding war, were taking their toll. Whatever the causes, the articles in the series are rambling and disjointed. Lauding the glories of Creation, at other times chiding skeptics, Campbell sometimes writes several paragraphs that never mention his subject. At other points, he includes long quotes from other sources. In the second installment, Campbell quotes almost all of Psalm 72, again, without an obvious need or a necessary connection to his subject.

Nevertheless, the series contains a few particulars about Campbell's understanding of the Tabernacle. For example, regarding the three sections of the Tabernacle and its precincts, Campbell wrote:

"The outer court, at the proper angle of vision, represents the world, dead in trespasses and in sins; the holy place, the church; and the holiest of all, heaven itself." (No. 2, p. 151)

On the great significance of the Tabernacle and the rituals that took place there, Campbell said:

"Were we to enter into all the details of the Tabernacle and its worship, we should need a small volume rather than a short essay. We generally, in our college duties, deliver annually a series of lectures on this institution, and our opinion is, that the Tabernacle and its worship, thoroughly developed, is the best system of theology, properly so called, known to us in all the theologies of our country." (No. 2, p. 156)

Sunday, October 02, 2022

David Lipscomb on the Roles of Christian Women, 1892

In October 1892, David Lipscomb set out to define what Churches of Christ should teach and practice regarding the roles of Christian women in church and society. He began by quoting New Testament passages restricting the activities of women in Christian assemblies (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11), and passages that call on Christian wives to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; and 1 Peter 3:1-6). Lipscomb insisted that the teaching of these verses "does not degrade woman." He also insisted that, aside from contemporary influence to the contrary, the divine teaching must be obeyed. To see what can happen when women lead churches, one would need to look no further than the Congregationalists of New England who had drifted far from their staid Puritan past. Lipscomb concluded by referring to the Disciples' General Christian Missionary Convention, held that year in Nashville, where women had spoken from the stage in full assemblies. "That meeting," he said, "should be regarded a sin against God and an offense to the Christian womanhood of Nashville and of the South."[1]


[1] David Lipscomb, "Woman and Her Work," Gospel Advocate 34 (October 13, 1892), 644.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Reaction to Meta Sager's 1936 Speech in Minco

The reaction to Meta's speech that night was a fond memory of hers for the rest of her life. A few days after the event, she wrote to Clara:

"I sold the old College ground in Minco, and a United States Armory has been built on part of it. I was asked to make a dinner speech at the Dedication Banquet . . . I was on the program with all of the biggest Generals . . . in the state. I was given the last speech . . . and when I had finished the whole house stood to cheer, led by all of those high officials. I was surprised that my little speech was so well received by these army grandees. I had been introduced at the laying of the Corner Stone in the afternoon, and at night in the Armory exercises was introduced on the platform as the most honored guest of the evening."[1]


[1] Meta Chestnutt Sager to Clara Sager, December 20, 1936, MCSC, box 3, folder 26.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Meta Sager's 1936 Speech in Minco, Oklahoma

On Tuesday, December 15, 1936, Meta Sager spoke during a large banquet held in Minco. The occasion was the laying of the cornerstone for the U.S. armory, which stands to this day. It was built on the land where El Meta Bond College had stood not many years before. Local men, employed by the Works Progress Administration, a popular jobs program in Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, built the armory. Perhaps the organizers of the day's festivities decided that a speech from the president of the old school might give the place a greater sense of history. Whatever their reasons, they had asked her to speak. She delivered a gem of nostalgia, patriotism, and religion.

She began with a commonly-known couplet, the first two lines of "Rock Me to Sleep," an 1859 poem by Elizabeth Akers Allen: "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight. Make me a child again just for tonight!"[1] From there, she told of Silver City on the Chisholm Trail and the town's move several miles west, to the site of Minco, founded in 1890. This was where for thirty years she operated her academy, a school that "carried all the grades and some Junior College work." She decided to have a little fun. A number of the men in attendance had been her students, she noted, and they were not always well-behaved. In fact, she said, "in almost any audience I can look around and see men whose pants I tanned when they were little boys. Some were not so very little either."[2]

Meta recalled that during the Great War, "there hung in the window of El Meta Bond a flag with thirty white starts on a blue field. They were our boys . . . for all we knew, then asleep on Flanders Field." Yet, they all came back "from somewhere in France." Sometime in 1919, after their return, "under the shade of the trees of the college campus," the school had hosted a picnic for all sixty-five service men from Grady County and their families. The day's festivities had been complete with "a brass band, a big barbecue, and hearts full of love for our boys and gratitude to the Prince of Peace for their return." With great satisfaction, no doubt, she claimed that El Meta's 2,500 alumni were then sustaining "the better institutions of learning in the greater Oklahoma of today."[3]

She concluded with a toast: "So now with abiding love to that which was, and with all honor to that which has come to be, I lift my glass and drink to the last drop--then 'Fold my tent like the Arab, and silently steal away.'"[4]


[1] Allen's poem "Rock Me to Sleep [, Mother]" appeared in Hazel Felleman, ed., The Best Loved Poems of the American People (New York: Doubleday, 1936), 371-73.

[2] Meta Chestnutt Sager, "A dinner speech at the Banquet given in Minco at the Laying of the Corner Stone and Dedication of the U.S. Armory, Dec. 15, 1936," MCSC, box 5, folder 17.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Fracture and Division in the Stone-Campbell Movement

Judging by the views of David Lipscomb, long-time editor of the Gospel Advocate magazine, the ten-year period from 1897 to 1907 saw the Stone-Campbell Movement go from fractured to divided. In 1897, Lipscomb said there was “a radical and fundamental difference between the disciples of Christ and the society folks.” Society folks, he said, “desire to build up a strong and respectable denomination. To do it they rely on strong and moneyed societies, fine houses, fashionable music, and eloquent speeches, too often devoid of gospel truth.”[1]  A decade later, in 1907, Lipscomb was ready to declare that the Christian Church and the Churches of Christ were “distinct and separate” bodies.[2]


[1] David Lipscomb, "The Churches across the Mountains," Gospel Advocate 39 (January 7, 1897), 4.

[2] David Lipscomb, "The Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ," Gospel Advocate 49 (July 18, 1907), 450.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Dust Bowl: General Description

From 1909 to 1929, farmers on the Great Plains, many of them desperate to make a living as agricultural-commodity prices fell, plowed up for the first time some 32 million acres of sod. Immediately after that transformation of the land, in the 1930s the Plains set new records for heat, drought, and wind. The hardest hit region was made up of western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, the center of what came to be called "the Dust Bowl." In many parts of the region, 1934 through 1936 witnessed the most intense drought ever recorded. These conditions created wind erosion of topsoil never seen before or since.[1] "The wind lifted the surface powder into the skies, creating towering eight-thousand-foot waves known as 'black blizzards."[2] By 1938, at least ten million acres had lost five inches of topsoil. An additional thirteen million acres had lost at least two inches.[3]


[1] Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 30; Donald A. Wilhite, "Dust Bowl," EOHC, 1:424-25. 

[2] David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 194.

[3] Wilhite, "Dust Bowl," 425.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

The Viability of El Meta Bond College post-1920

Shortly after 1920, when Meta Sager sold El Meta Bond College to a con man, the school went out of business. Given the growth of public education in twentieth-century America, it is tempting to assume that the school was not viable anyway. However, in Oklahoma, as late as 1935 nearly 60 percent of public schools were conducted in one-room school houses.[1] In fact, there was a good chance that Sager's college might have survived in one form or another. For example, it might have been moved to a town with a larger population. Or, it might have been adopted by a larger school somewhere else in Oklahoma. Consider the destinies of two colleges in Oklahoma, both established around the same time as El Meta.

In 1895, the Congregational Church founded Kingfisher College in present Kingfisher, Oklahoma. The school fell on hard times when the U.S. mobilized for the Great War. By 1922, it closed its doors and became part of the University of Oklahoma. A vestige of the school survives to this day as the Kingfisher College Chair of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at OU.[2]

In 1894, William Robert King, a Presbyterian minister, established Henry Kendall College in Muskogee. In 1907, the school was moved to Tulsa during its oil-boom phase. And in 1921, it became today's University of Tulsa.[3]


[1] Danney Goble, "Education in the Young State," in Historical Atlas of Oklahoma, 167.

[2] Ibid.; Carolyn G. Hanneman "Kingfisher College," in Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, 1:801-02.

[3] Goble, "Education in the Young State," 167; Linda D. Wilson, "King, William Robert (1868-1951), EOHC, 1:799-800; Marc Carlson, "University of Tulsa," EOHC, 2:1543-44.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Meta Chestnutt "Spreading the Lord's Table"

On November 23, 1930, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Meta Chestnutt Sager, then sixty-seven years old, presented a collection of relics to the Christian Church in Chickasha, Oklahoma. These included a tablecloth made of fine Scottish linen, at that time "more than a hundred years old," and a set of Communion ware that she described "perhaps the oldest set used by the Disciples of Christ in Oklahoma between the Canadian and Red River."[1] 

She had brought the Communion ware with her when she moved from North Carolina to Indian Territory in 1889 to serve as a teacher. Not long after her arrival, Miss Chestnutt discovered that she and Annie Erwin, the matriarch of her host family and a Chickasaw Indian, were the only active Disciples of Christ for many miles around. In her typical, modest style, she describes how in those early years, she established and presided at Christian worship:

We taught the Bible and the Bible alone, and, almost from the beginning observed the Lord's Supper. There were no other Disciples of Christ there but Mrs. Erwin and myself, but we knew that when the Lord had said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," it meant us, too, tho [sic] away out here in Indian Territory.[2]

She was keeping the faith in her inherited, distinctively Stone-Campbell way. In their quest to rehabilitate what Alexander Campbell referred to as "the divinely authorized order of Christian worship in Christian assemblies,"[3] early leaders of the American Restoration Movement identified weekly communion as a central practice. For example, when Thomas and Alexander Campbell and like-minded believers established the Brush Run church in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in May 1811, "their first act of worship was the observance of the Lord's Supper, which they resolved to celebrate weekly thereafter." [4] And, in the emerging religious tradition over which the Campbells and others presided, this practice became, and still is, a standard.

So, it was no accident that every week, for years on end, Chestnutt lovingly prepared and presided over the Lord's Supper in the schoolhouse where she taught through the week. Reticent to describe what she did in those terms, Chestnutt typically called it "spreading the Lord's Table," an expression she borrowed from Communion hymns that were well-known at the time.[5]


[1] Meta Chestnutt Sager, "'Harvest Home Sunday,' Nov. 23, 1930," Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, box 5, folder 17.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alexander Campbell, "Order of Worship," Christian Baptist, Vol. II, July 4, 1825, p. 164. Along this line, another of Campbell's phrases was "the ancient order of worship in the Christian church." See Ibid.

[4] Paul M. Blowers and Byron C. Lambert, "The Lord's Supper," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 489.

[5] For example, Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), an important English nonconformist minister, writer, and educator, composed a hymn titled "The King of heaven His table spreads." The first stanza reads: "The king of heaven his table spreads, And dainties crown the board; Nor paradise with all its joys, Could such delight afford." The final stanza calls believers to participate: "All things are ready, come away, Nor weak excuses frame; Crowd to your places at the feast, And bless the founder's name." The song appears in The Christian Hymn-Book, 3rd ed. (Cincinnati: Looker and Wallace, 1815), 167-68, hymn number 187. This hymnal was edited by, among others, John Thompson, one of the signers of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, a founding document of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Meta Chestnutt in Tennessee, 1886-1889 (2)

Although there must have been some well-to-do members in Disciples churches in Nashville at the time, most of the people Meta Chestnutt worshipped with there were not the city's elite. According to research conducted by historian Don H. Doyle, in 1880, of the thirty-six economic leaders in Nashville whose religious persuasions are known, half were Methodists. The other half were either Presbyterians, Baptists, or Roman Catholics. Not one was a member of a Stone-Campbell congregation.[1]


[1] Don H. Doyle, Nashville in the New South, 1880-1930 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985), 64-66. See esp. Table 2 on 65.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Meta Chestnutt in Tennessee, 1886-1888

The previous post ended with a question: If Meta Chestnutt grew up in a liberal, "digressive" Disciples environment in North Carolina in the 1860s and 70s, why did she hold conservative, "anti" views as a young adult and for the rest of her life?

The most likely answer has everything to do with her time in Nashville, from 1886 until 1888. During her student days at the State Normal College, Chestnutt found herself in a thriving church environment. For example, she would have heard the the preaching and teaching of David Lipscomb (pictured here) and E. G. Sewell, co-editors of the anti-instrument and anti-society Gospel Advocate magazine, published from Nashville.

In 1870, Lipscomb realized he needed help in producing the Advocate. He asked Sewell to edit the magazine with him, and from that time until Lipscomb's death forty-seven years later, the two men worked together. Each was a powerful voice for the distinctive viewpoint of the emerging Churches of Christ. In addition to their teaching through the Advocate, the two leaders preached to thousands of people in Middle Tennessee and beyond. During those years, Sewell help to establish the Woodland Street Christian Church in East Nashville. He preached for the congregation for twelve years and for a time served as one of the church's elders. Lipscomb was also an active as a leader among Restoration Movement churches in and around Nashville. In 1891, he and James A. Harding would establish the Nashville Bible School, known today as Lipscomb University.[1] 

By the end of 1889, Lipscomb looked back over the past twenty years with pride: "In 1869 we had one church in Nashville with a membership of about 500. Now we have five churches and three promising missions with a membership of over 2,500 in the city."[2] The five congregations Lipscomb mentioned were the old first church, established in the mid-1820s, with its brand new building on Vine Street; North Nashville Christian Church (organized in 1882); Woodland Street in East Nashville (1883); and the Foster Street and South Nashville congregations, both established in 1887.[3]


[1] On David Lipscomb, see H. Leo Boles, Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1932), 243-47; and Robert E. Hooper, "Lipscomb, David (1831-1917)," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 480-82. On E. G. Sewell, see Boles, 238-42; and David H. Warren, "Sewell, Elisha Granville (1830-1924)," in ESCM, 680-681. See also David L. Little, "Gospel Advocate," in ESCM, 361-63. 

[2] "From the Papers," Gospel Advocate 31 no. 47 (November 20, 1889), 737.

[3] "History of the Christian Church in Nashville," Daily American (Nashville), (January 26, 1890), 10.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Stone-Campbell Churches in North Carolina and Meta Chestnutt

In his history of the Restoration Movement in North Carolina, Charles C. Ware reveals that during the decades following the Civil War, Disciples in the Tar Heel State did not side with the emerging Churches of Christ. That is to say, they did not oppose instrumental music in worship nor the various para-church organizations like the Disciples' American Christian Missionary Society. For example, in describing the opposite side of the division, Ware wrote:

An ultra conservative group of Disciples, who opposed use of musical instruments in the Churches, and the functioning of missionary societies in the Church, developed under the leadership of Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb, both of Tennessee. The strength of this group is mainly in Tennessee and Texas.  . . . They were aggressive in blighting effectually every church of Christ, where they could prevail. . . . The cause of liberal and progressive Christianity received many a hard blow from this source, and its growth was materially retarded.[1]

Clearly, then, Meta Chestnutt grew up among congregations that did not object to instruments in worship and that supported regional and national church societies. Yet, when she wrote to supporters of her mission in Minco in 1897, she set out correct a recent report about her.

I learn that my name has appeared as holding an office in some society. I hope I shall be permitted to state that I do not belong to any religious society of any name or order and never did; also that the Apostles constitute the board and Jesus Christ the President of the only  institution to which I belong, or to which I ever expect to belong.[2]

In addition to its classic anti-society statement, the same newsletter indicates that, among other topics, Chestnutt had recently led a Bible study with the title "Reasons for Discarding the Organ from Worship."[3] Not only anti-society, she was also anti-instrument. What had happened?


[1] Charles C. Ware, North Carolina Disciples of Christ: A History of Their Rise and Progress, and of Their Contribution to Their General Brotherhood (St. Louis: Christian Board of Education, 1927), 120-121.

[2] Meta Chestnutt, "1897," Meta Chestnutt Sager Collection, box 3, folder 35.

[3] Ibid.