Hidden deep beneath the sagas of blood and thunder that compose the early
history of southwestern Oklahoma Territory the tale of a determined young woman
from the sedate cultural circles of the east who conquered a corner of the
territory in her own way -- with her own weapons. Meta Chestnutt, a young
woman of unusual physical as well as mental capacities, made it her life's
mission to transplant small seedling of eastern culture in the minds of the
Indians and pioneer children of what is now the Grady County area.
Hearing lurid tales of the condition of educational facilities in the raw and
untamed territory, the almost six feet tall young woman inquired into the
situation. She promptly received an invitation to set up a school at Silver
City, a raw cow town on the Chisholm Trail northeast of what is now Tuttle.
Miss Chestnut made arrangements with the U. S. Government in setting up the
school and applied for a train ticket from her home in Raleigh, N.C. to Oklahoma
City. After being told by the ticket agent that there was no such place the
determined young teacher traveled to Richmond, Va., where they had heard of
Oklahoma City, and purchased a ticket to the frontier.
When she arrived at Oklahoma City, she was forced to take room in a hotel on
stilts, erected to protect the inhabitants from the invasion of wild animals.
Although the surroundings in the frontier were markedly different from the
cultural environment to which she was accustomed, the plucky young miss was
determined to stick it out.
She forded the Canadian River perched atop her trunk in a wagon and made her
way to the lively little cow town of Silver City.
At the age of 26. she set up her first school in a house built of lumber that
had to be hauled from Denison, Tex.
She had seven pupils in the first school. The building had six glass windows,
a shingled roof and desks made of rough lumber. The blackboards were made of
three planks nailed to the wall. It was unique to Oklahoma Territory and this,
combined with possessed by Miss Chestnutt, soon grew in popularity with the
education-starved inhabitants of the area. Education had a foothold.
When Minco was founded at a temporary terminal of the Rock Island Railroad
July 4, 1890, she was asked by several prominent ranchers of the Minco area to
establish her frontier school there. One of the men of the area who in helping
locate the school in Minco and arranging for it was J. H. "Uncle Jimmy" Bond.
When the school was opened September of 1894 it was named El Meta Bond
College in honor of its founder and the man who worked so hard to help make
The large two-story structure was located on 10 acres of land that now serves
as a site for the Minco Armory and as a park for the town. Seventy-five students
|In the early 1890's, the school's
curriculum was divided into the basic divisions: Elementary, grammar, and high
school. Some courses beyond high school were also offered in music and
dramatics. Miss Chestnutt served as teacher, cook, chief tanner and
supervisor of the orchards which occupied roughly one fourth of the campus.
(click on picture for elarged view)
She drove herself to exhaustion trying to make the school succeed. Spending
long hours teaching were only part of her day's work.
In the hours when she was not in the classroom, the dynamic young educator
cooked and did manual work around the college. Several times during her career
as a frontier teacher, she worked herself past the point of exhaustion and would
collapse, only to hit the chores again, once she had recuperated.
When the school opened in 1890, it was primarily aimed at Indian children of
the area and had the backing and support of the government. Settlers began
sending their children to the boarding school, however, and the enrolment
increased, to a high of 200 pupils.
With the increase in attendance, food became a critical problem, so Miss
Chestnutt began canning fruit produced by the orchards to help defray expenses.
The need for more teachers also became a major problem, and Miss Chestnutt
imported qualified instructors from all points of the territories and the east.
Among the new teachers was J. A. Sager, a young music teacher at Anadarko.
The two fell in love and were married May 8, 1906.
The school was prospering and for a while the young people were able to enjoy
the fruits of their labors. But as Oklahoma became a state, and newer and more
modern institutions began to follow the beaten path into Oklahoma the mother
school began to decline.
Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs increased the number of scholarships
for Indian children, the new schools were taking their toll on the enrolment and
in 1920, El Meta Bond College published its own obituary.
On the spring commencement program were the words: "This is our last good
bye. El Meta Bond will fold its tents like the Arabs, and silently steal away."
One of the stories of the razing of the historical old building is that the
husband of the energetic young teacher had it torn down while Meta was
convalescing from a siege of ill health. He believed she would never be able to
teach again. Once the building was gone, the college could not be rebuilt.
Mrs. Meta Chestnutt Sager lived to see her work grow and spread to exert a
terrific influence over the thinking and culture of the area before she died in
her home in Chickasha Jan. 8, 1948.
She had disposed of the grounds of the old college and today, a modern
masonry armory erected in 1936 stands on the site of the campus. A community
center also occupies part of the 10 acre block, surrounded by a beautiful city
park with a bronze plaque commemorating the thriving institution of greater
knowledge that did far more than the gun to mold the early frontier into the
cultural state of Oklahoma.