THE 101 RANCH


UP THE TRAIL WITH TEXAS
LONGHORNS


ROM early times, the ox has been the mainstay of man in his struggle for existence. Whether he served as a burnt offering to appease the supposedly wrathful gods of people, or to satisfy the hunger of nations, he has always proved one of the great necessities of life. Even in early biblical times the raising of cattle was considered one of the highest callings of man, and it has maintained this prestige down to the present time. The beginning of this industry on the continent of North America dates from the sixteenth century when the Spanish conquistadors on their voyages of discovery brought livestock into Mexico. Great ranches were established and the surplus stock gradually migrated to the north into southern Texas, California and the vast range country in between, which is now divided into Arizona and New Mexico. The herds of cattle spread out over Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, and then into Canada. This northward migration of the cowmen and their herds is one of the historic pastoral movements of the world, and though its duration covered but a brief period of years, romance, comedy, and tragedy were enacted to their fullest measure and left an indelible mark on the country.
These multitudes of cattle roamed at will over great, unfenced areas, fattening throughout the summer on the range grasses that made even better beef than the corn-fed products. Under the influence of the rarefied and moisture-free atmosphere of late summer and early fall, these native grasses cured up and provided hardy and strength-giving feed on which the cattle lived during the long winters. Each outfit chose its home range with a view to securing well distributed water, winter protection from storms, and natural barriers to check the cattle from roaming too far. More drama seems to have centered around this industry than any other business in the world, and in all times it has had a peculiar appeal to those of adventure loving and pioneering natures.
This, no doubt, explains largely the migration of Colonel George W. Miller, father of the Miller brothers, from Crab Orchard, Kentucky, the Millers’ ancestral home, to the prairies of the Southwest. As was the custom in that day, the title “Colonel” was attached without official decree to the names of prominent men as a mark of respect and, for that reason, Mr. Miller was known widely as Colonel Miller. He was born February 22, 1841, on his father’s plantation in Lincoln County, near Crab Orchard, Kentucky. His father died soon after he was born and his grandfather, John Fish, reared him on his large plantation, also situated near Crab Orchard. John Fish was a typical southern plantation owner, possessing many slaves and operating his hundreds of acres industriously and efficiently. Like most Kentuckians, he was a great lover of livestock, particularly of fine horses. It was in this southern environment that young Miller grew to manhood. With his grandfather he was manager of the big plantation and was from the very beginning initiated into doing things in a grand manner, a dominating characteristic in his future years. This background of experience molded the character of young Miller and greatly influenced his life in subsequent years. He, like his grandfather, was a great lover of livestock, and during the Civil War he traded in government mules. With the money thus acquired, at the close of the war he purchased a small portion of his grandfather’s plantation.
On January 9, 1866, Mr. Miller married Miss Mary Anne (Molly) Carson in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Judge David B. Carson and was born August 26, 1846, on her father’s plantation in Rock Castle County, Kentucky. She, too, was reared in the traditions of the Old South, which provided the foundations of hospitality, graciousness, and executive ability she possessed so abundantly in later life. They were perfectly matched. He was a rugged Kentuckian of tall and powerful frame—every inch of him pure American. She was a wholesome motherly woman, handsome, and the perfect complement of such a man. He was good natured but of a volcanic temper while she was genial and jolly.
Soon after their marriage, they assumed complete management of the plantation, since the grandfather desired to retire from active life. Here their first son, Joseph Carson Miller, was born March 12, 1868. Mr. Miller’s ambition was to continue operation of the plantation on the same scale as his grandfather before him had so successfully done, but soon he found himself greatly handicapped as a result of the war, due to the fact that the Negro slaves had been freed and severe conditions imposed upon his state immediately following the war, preventing his becoming the sole owner of the big plantation.
Defeated in Kentucky, he began to consider a new location. At the time there was considerable talk of the new western country, particularly California, and the possibilities of new ranch homes and livestock production. Thus lured, Mr. Miller sold his share in his grandfather’s plantation and started overland in 1870 with Mrs. Miller and their two-year-old son, Joseph, for California in search of a location where he could realize his ambition—a mammoth livestock ranch. It was late in 1870 that Colonel Miller arrived at St. Louis, Missouri, then the railroad terminus. Here he bought a pair of mules and an “outfit,” ferried the Mississippi at St. Louis, and struck out southwestward across the open country for California. After leaving Missouri it was Colonel Miller’s intention to follow the Arkansas-Indian Territory border and then take the southern route to the Pacific coast. However, as they progressed westward, he kept scanning the vast prairie lands with a speculative eye. Here at his very feet was opportunity for a great livestock ranch. This was a cattle country, without cattle.
With winter coming on, Colonel Miller pitched camp at the little village of Newtonia, Missouri—then a frontier outfitting point—and was held there by the charm of the prairie. He was a born trader and an opportunist, the kind of man who would go to town on Saturday with a buckboard and a pair of colts and return home with a spring wagon, a mare, and a couple of cows. There were settlers scattered not distant from the little village of Newtonia who had hogs they wished to dispose of, and Colonel Miller soon began to trade various possessions for hogs.1 That winter he converted the hogs into hams and bacon. When spring came, he set out with twenty thousand pounds of bacon for Texas, for he had learned from the cowboys coming up the trails that cattle were so cheap in Texas that one hundred pounds of bacon could be traded for a full grown steer. This was soon after the Civil War when cattle in Texas were almost worthless. Arriving at San Saba County, the heart of the cattle country, he found the plains alive with cattle and the ranchers anxious to trade steers for bacon. With no trouble he exchanged the entire ten wagon loads of bacon for cattle, receiving a steer for every fifty pounds of hog meat. With a small herd of four hundred Texas steers, he struck back over the Eastern Trail, grazing his cattle as he went, through Indian Territory and arrived with his herd at the south line of Kansas, near Baxter Springs. Obtaining permission from the Quapaw Indians to graze his cattle on their reservation, he established in the early part of 1871 his first cattle ranch, a few miles south of Baxter Springs, Kansas, near the present Miami, Oklahoma. This herd was the nucleus of the great 101 Ranch to be, and was so successfully marketed at Baxter Springs that Colonel Miller gave up all thought of California, and plunged into the cattle business on the scale he had dreamed of.

1 Miller to Ellsworth Collings, December 19, 1935.

Colonel Miller’s first ranch, near Miami, Oklahoma, was known as the “L K” Ranch. Lee Kokernut was a noted Texas rancher with whom Colonel Miller had formed a partnership in the cattle business. The brand (Lee Kokernut) was on many of the cattle arriving at Baxter Springs from Mr. Kokernut’s ranch in Texas, and, for that reason, Colonel Miller adopted this brand for his new ranch. He maintained his family home at Newtonia, Missouri, about twenty miles north of his ranch. Here he built a comfortable dwelling for his family and on June 21, 1875, Alma, his only daughter was born, and Zachary Taylor, his second son, April 26, 1878. Mrs. Miller had several younger brothers, living at Crab Orchard, Kentucky, some of whom joined her at Newtonia for company and protection while Colonel Miller was in Texas on his trips, which usually occupied three months and longer. In order to provide his new cattle ranch with necessary supplies, Colonel Miller established a general merchandise store at the family home at Newtonia, which Mrs. Miller, with the assistance of her brothers, conducted successfully during her residence at Newtonia.
Newtonia was a town of about two hundred people and like many western towns, it was built with great expectations and laid out in magnificent style. The town was settled mainly by North Carolinians and the social life prevailing was, for the most part, typical of the small towns of the older states. Mrs. Miller was a prominent member of the church, active and zealous in all good things and always a leader “of the quality” in the town. Colonel Miller was a generous man, but on Sunday generally had some cattle to brand and so took the “absent treatment” so far as church services were concerned. However, on Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other special event when there were big feasts, he was always present, since he enjoyed immensely such occasions. As was the practice at that time in most small towns, when the leaders saw the need of some improvement in the community, they called upon the citizens to contribute whatever was needed and found Colonel Miller ever ready to give.
On his first trip to Texas, Colonel Miller learned that the ranchers cared little for any form of paper money, considering only gold as having any value. The Texas soldiers had just returned from the War, and, having been paid off in worthless Confederate currency, looked with disfavor upon any form of money other than metal. On succeeding trips, therefore, Colonel Miller took gold instead of bacon, since steers priced at $6.00 could be purchased for $3.00 in gold. A while before his death, J. D. Rainwater wrote Colonel Zack T. Miller an account of the first cattle drive of his father, George W. Miller. Corb Sarchet reports this account as follows: “Colonel Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch, Hugo Milde, Ike Clubb and other early day cowmen of the Cherokee Strip country believe that the only personal account of a trip to Texas for southern cattle for the Oklahoma ranges is that left by the late J. D. Rainwater, one of the first cowboys to work within the present state of Oklahoma. It was Rainwater’s first trip over an early trail that went southward via Fort Smith, Arkansas, and across southeastern Oklahoma, then Indian Territory.
”Jim Rainwater was Oklahoma’s oldest cowboy, when he passed away last November [1933] in a soldiers’ home at St. Louis. On September 16, just prior to Rainwater’s death, Colonel Zack Miller had a letter from him, calling attention to the fact that not only was that date the anniversary of the opening of the Cherokee Strip to settlement in 1893 but also the anniversary of the start on the same date of the 101 Ranch by Colonel George W. Miller, father of the Miller brothers. At that time, too, Rainwater sent to Colonel Zack Miller this account of the first trip to Texas for southern cattle.
”Rainwater was head cowboy for Colonel George W. Miller even back to the time when the Millers were living at Newtonia, Missouri, sixty-three years ago. The trail then, over which cattle were brought from Texas overland to southwestern Missouri, according to Rainwater, was via Newtonia to Pierce City, Missouri, and not long afterward it was from San Saba, Texas, to Baxter Springs. Rainwater and the late George Van Hook of the 101 Ranch accompanied Colonel Miller many times. Van Hook had come with Miller to Newtonia from Crab Orchard, Kentucky, the Miller ancestral home. Rainwater was a native of the vicinity of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
It was a very pretty winter day on February 16, 1871, when this first trip to southern Texas for cattle started overland from Newtonia, Missouri. In the party were Colonel George W. Miller, his brother-in-law, George W. Carson, Frank Kellogg, Luke Hatcher, Perry Britton, a Negro, and Rainwater. The men with the exception of Britton rode horseback. The Negro drove a chuck wagon. Progress was slow, for at noon they had arrived only at Rocky Comfort, Missouri, where they had dinner and at night they camped at Keysville, near the Missouri-Arkansas border.
“Rainwater describes at some length his experiences in passing over the Pea Ridge battleground, the next day, where northern and southern armies had fought in 1862. There were still many broken trees and broken limbs with other still fresh evidences of the battle. He notes that they went across Cross Hollow, where now is located Rogers, Arkansas, and that night they camped at the town of Springdale, then known as Nubbin Ridge.
“Rainwater’s diary shows the next day was Sunday and that morning they traveled through his native town of Fayetteville, stopping for dinner just south of town. During the afternoon they forded the west branch of White River ten or twelve times, camping on its bank at night, just a mile from the foot of Boston mountain. It required a tiresome climb of half a day to reach the summit of Boston by the following noon, and he records: ’The world sure looks big when you are on top of a mountain.’ That night, after fording Lee’s Creek sixteen times while going down the mountain, they spent the night just out of Van Buren, Arkansas. It must have been an unusual sound for he put in writing that ‘we heard the frogs holler.’
“The first sight of a ferryboat was in leaving Van Buren the following morning, which was February 20, and crossing the Arkansas River into Fort Smith. Not long afterward they forded Poteau River, and camped on a tributary creek for supper and for the night. Rainwater recalls that Colonel Miller passed around a bottle of liquor, which also must have been unusual, for at no other time does he report such an occurrence. He was the butt of the party during the remainder of the trip because he did not like the liquor ’and spit it out.’
“The Red River was crossed at Colbert’s Ferry and soon afterward they were in Sherman, Texas; thence to Fort Worth, and then on to Comanche, where Rainwater records that he saw ’the largest tract of red sandy land’ in his memory, then or afterwards, so long as he lived.
An interesting incident to Rainwater occurred between Comanche and Brownwood, Texas, when they met twenty to thirty men, all armed with Winchester rifles and six-shooters, escorting two men in a wagon, being taken overland to Waco for trial on charges of murder. They were the first men arrested in Brownwood since the close of the Civil War. ’We camped that night on Jim-Ned Creek,’ writes Rainwater, ’and then went into Brownwood the next day and camped there that night.’
“The trip from Brownwood into San Saba County and to the county seat of San Saba was uneventful, but there they found the man for whom they were looking, ’Red’ Harky, the cattle agent for that county. Harky took a bunch of cowboys, went up the river and rounded up near San Saba all the cattle he and his boys could find. Colonel Miller and Carson looked the bunch over, picked out the individual heads they desired. Immediately these were cut out from the main herd and held together nearby by Rainwater and the other men who were in his party. Those cattle, not selected by Miller, were simply turned loose to wander anywhere they might desire to find grass, of which there was plenty.
“It was necessary, according to Rainwater’s account, to go through a considerable amount of red tape, prior to the cattle actually being bought. The livestock that Miller had selected were placed in a corral near San Saba, where they were passed single file through a chute. This was done so that the county recorder and county treasurer might make a note of each head, putting down the age and brand. The bill of sale was made to Miller from this record, which became a permanent record of that county, no doubt to this day.
“Rainwater gives an interesting account of the stampede of the Miller herd on Easter Sunday. It was on the return trip with the cattle northward, and they were in the vicinity of Fort Worth. There was a Mr. Sanders then with the party, evidently as foreman. A storm was brewing and as the cattle began to drift eastward Sanders understood they might stampede away from the storm. Accordingly he told each man personally the work cut out for him, in case of a stampede, and declared, `We are going to have one hell of a storm.’ Rainwater, who had celebrated his fifteenth birthday while on the trip, accompanied Colonel Miller during the storm that followed, attempting to hold the cattle. ’That morning Colonel Miller had given me a $5 raise per month in wages, placing me on an equal scale with the rest of the men,’ Rainwater writes.
“The herd did stampede in the face of the storm and the most of the horses stampeded with them, carrying their riders away. Colonel Miller, Carson and Rainwater, who was riding a trained pony, held the herd eventually and continued to do so until 11 o’clock that night, when the cattle were finally quieted down. In the morning as the cattle were leaving their beds to graze along the trail, they were counted by Colonel Miller who found not a head missing. For this effectual work during the previous night, Rainwater was presented with a white and black two-year-old steer by Colonel Miller, which meant that whatever the cattle brought finally on the market the money from that steer was his. The next day Colonel Miller gave him also a pair of pants and overcoat which he states ’was the greatest treat of my life up to that time—first time in my life that anyone, who wasn’t any kin to me, had given me anything.’
“Rainwater describes the crossing of Trinity River near Fort Worth and a few days later that of Red River near Sherman. It was while in a general store at Sherman, where Colonel Miller was getting sugar, bacon and other supplies, that he bought the pants and overcoat for Rainwater. All the cattle, excepting one two-year-old, crossed the Red without incident. This one wandered up a canyon, followed by Rainwater, who discovered that he was not going to be able to head it off and return it to the herd. Consequently he shot the steer. Some river men skinned and dressed the carcass, tying a quarter of the beef to his saddle. Arriving in camp on the Indian Territory side of the river with the beef Rainwater was commended for killing the steer rather than permit it to escape.
George W. and Mollie A. Miller ”An interesting incident, in which Colonel Miller nearly lost his life by drowning, is related. This occurred just after the herd had successfully crossed the North Fork of the Canadian River. A deep tributary creek was encountered, making it necessary for all the cattle and horses to swim across. This was accomplished by all excepting Colonel Miller. ’When the horse, which Miller was riding,’ says Rainwater, ’felt its front feet touch ground, the animal quit swimming, although its hind feet drifted into deeper water. It was necessary for Miller to dismount in the water. The horse caught him between its feet and attempted to drown him. But Miller caught finally the horse by the tail and was thus pulled to shore when the horse finally swam out.
“Rainwater describes the next stop as Okmulgee, Indian Territory, where there were the Indians’ council house and storehouse and several small homes. There is prairie grass as far as you can see, east, north and south.
“Within a few more days the herd was crossing the Arkansas River at Childer’s Ferry, and within another few days the Neosho, and then Cagin Creek and Rock Creek and into Baxter Springs, Kansas, the end of the railroad and the end of the cattle trail. Rainwater says he was a helper at the tail of the herd and states ’that ever afterward I have thought there should be two men at the tail.’
“Rainwater’s diary covers more briefly a second trip to San Saba County for cattle, starting from Baxter Springs on March 6, 1872. They crossed the Arkansas near Muskogee, where they camped, and he describes it as the only railroad station south of the Arkansas in Indian Territory, but there was a stage line in operation between Muskogee and Sherman.
“On this trip Rainwater seems to have overcome his dislike of liquor, for when the cowboys were in camp near Fort Worth and Marion Busby expressed a desire for a drink of whiskey, Rainwater had the only bottle in the party, a half-pint that he admitted buying at the Old Corner saloon in Baxter Springs, prior to starting on the trip. When pressed for an explanation as to why he bought the liquor, Rainwater replied that he had heard of people using it in case of sickness and thought it would be a good medicine to have along.
“Colonel Miller tried to buy cattle near Fort Worth but failed and they went on south to Kimble Bend in Brazos County, where Rainwater remembers they paid $1 a bushel for corn. ’There are no farms west of this point,’ he writes. Traveling on into Bosque County, Rainwater ’cannot remember seeing a town or village in the county, and I guess they didn’t have any.’
“How Colonel Miller lost $2,000 in gold while the party was in camp in Bosque County is related by Rainwater. ’Miller showed one of the boys that much money in gold,’ says Rainwater, ’and also he showed this same man where he hid it. Two days afterward when Miller looked for the money it was gone. We went on to San Saba, got our cattle and on the way back we again camped at the same spot where the money was stolen. The next morning we had a trial, the hats of all the boys were placed on the ground near a sack of shelled corn. All the boys were sent away from camp, each with a grain of corn, and returning he was to place the grain in the hat of the man he thought guilty. The result was that all the corn was put in one man’s hat—we all suspected the same fellow. This man picked up his hat, looked at the corn, shook it out, put on his hat, got on his horse and rode away, and I presume he is riding yet.’
“An encounter with Indian horse thieves and how they were punished is related interestingly by Rainwater. They were camped on the south bank of the North Canadian River, waiting for the water to go down, so they could cross with the herd. During the afternoon two young Indians rode into camp and asked Colonel Miller if he desired to buy two ponies. Receiving an affirmative answer the Indians went away but returned the next morning with the two ponies they had described. The deal was made and the Indians rode away again.
“About two hours afterward, Rainwater writes, twenty or thirty light horse police came into camp and asked where we got the two ponies. We told them of the trade with the two Indians, one of whom was about twenty years old, the other twenty-five. The police explained the two ponies were stolen the night before, but told us to keep them and they could get the thieves. About twenty miles distant they caught up with the two boys and brought them back to our camp.
“The trial of the two young Indians was held the next morning within our camp, with our boys called as witnesses. The two were declared guilty. Their hands were tied behind them, their feet roped together and a rail placed between their legs. A rope was thrown over a limb, thus making the bodies of the prisoners stand up straight. The penalty consisted of lashes on their bare backs. One Indian was given fifty lashes, as this was his first offence, and the blood ran down to his heels. It was the other’s second offence. He was given 100 lashes and notified that under the Indian law, if he were ever convicted a third time, he would be shot to death. When the whipping was over the police put a handful of salt in a pan of water, washed the backs of the two prisoners and turned them loose.
“Rainwater explains that the first bridge ever put over the North Canadian in Indian Territory was then in place at the point where they were in camp. As soon as the water receded sufficiently, they attempted to drive the herd across the bridge, Only twenty-five or thirty head had crossed when the bridge broke and all cattle, then on the bridge, went down with the structure into the water. All that had crossed or had fallen into the river swam back to the remainder of the herd on the south side. A few days later they passed through Okmulgee, crossed the Arkansas at Childer’s Ferry, the Neosho farther along, Cabin and Rock Creeks, and again into Baxter Springs, end of the trail.
“Reminiscing in connection with the anniversary of the opening of Cherokee Strip in 1893, Rainwater says in his diary that Colonel Joe C. Miller, oldest son of Colonel George W. Miller, rode a thoroughbred Kentucky horse and made the run along with thousands of homesteaders on that famous September 16. By that day also Colonel George W. Miller had acquired enough Ponca Indian lands by lease to establish his long-to-be-remembered 101 Ranch, ’101’ being his cattle brand.”2
His cattle business having grown to such extent that he found it necessary to have his family home and headquarters nearer the ranch, Colonel Miller sold his Newtonia home and store and removed his family in the fall of 1880 to Baxter Springs, Kansas, at that time headquarters for many cattlemen operating in the Indian Territory and on the Texas trail. His headquarters at Baxter Springs were approximately five miles north of his cattle ranch near Miami. Here on September 9, 1881, George Lee, his youngest son, was born, the ”Lee” being for Lee Kokernut.
As the railroad moved westward, opening up new cattle ranges, Colonel Miller moved with it. His first ranch, the LK Ranch, soon proved inadequate for the great herds of cattle coming up the eastern trail from Texas. The herds ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 were driven up a day’s journey apart in order to insure adequate water and grass and to avoid stampedes.3 He therefore, set about to establish himself on a range providing more abundantly the necessities of an ever expanding outfit through leasing lands in the famous old Cherokee Strip. The Strip was a cattleman’s paradise. Indian-owned, in the very pathway of the Texas cattle trails, land could be leased for from two to five cents an acre per annum. The grass was rich and there was abundant water; the winters were mild and the summers long. Not a fence stood in all of the Strip, so that vast herds could roam at will until the round-up. Here Colonel Miller leased in 1879 from the government two large pastures, about equal in size, including a total of 60,000 acres of grazing land.4 One of the pastures was known as the Deer Creek Ranch, since it was located on Deer Creek about twenty miles south of Hunnewell, Kansas. The headquarters included only a camp for the cowboys herding cattle on this pasture. The other pasture was known as the Salt Fork Ranch, since the headquarters were located on the Salt Fork River near the big sand mound not far from the present site of Lamont, Oklahoma. The headquarters included a three-room log house with dirt roof, a horse corral, a branding pen and chute, a log house to store corn, and a horse barn with a hay roof.5 The Salt Fork Ranch was Colonel Miller’s main headquarters, since all branding was done at this ranch. When the first barbed wire fence was built in the Cherokee Strip in 1880 to enclose an extensive pasturage on the Deer Creek Ranch, it was Colonel Miller who built it. In the spring of 1881, after Mrs. Miller and the children had made their annual visit to Crab Orchard, Kentucky, Colonel Miller moved his family from Baxter Springs to Winfield, Kansas, to be near the new location. Thus established, he set about to realize his cherished dream—a mammoth cattle ranch.

2 The Daily Oklahoman, June 17, 1934.
3 Alma Miller England to Ellsworth Collings, January 10, 1936.
4 Senate Document, Forty-ninth Congress, first session, p. 309, Phillips Collection, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
5 Charles Orr and John Hiatt, cowboy employees of Colonel Miller at the time the Deer Creek and Salt Fork ranches were established in the Cherokee Strip.


At Winfield, Kansas, Colonel Miller purchased a large, two story brick dwelling for his family. Servants were employed to do the household work and a new carriage and prancing bays were provided each year for the family, in addition to a surrey and gentle mare for Mrs. Miller’s personal use. Miller, when home, always would attend church with his family, dressed in formal clothing, including a silk hat and gold-headed walking stick.
George Miller had at last begun to realize the ambitions he had formed as a boy on a Kentucky plantation. Thousands of cattle roamed over the vast ranges of his ranch across the Kansas-Oklahoma line. In Winfield he and his wife were in the forefront of society and cowboys coming up the trails were charmed with the open southern hospitality of the Miller home. With a generosity typical of him, Miller instructed the Provident Association of Winfield to take care of the poor by giving orders for beef to supply their wants from the meat market he had established.
And for the first time appeared the brand mark which was to become famous throughout the world, the “101” brand. At the time of establishing the Deer Creek and Salt Fork ranches in 1879, Miller had still been in partnership with Kokernut and so continued to use the brand. The next year he had purchased the holdings of his partner and decided on a new brand.6

6 John Hiatt, Hunnewell, Kansas, cowboy employee of Miller at the time of establishing the Deer Creek and Salt Fork ranches, to Ellsworth Collings, September 6, 1936.

The cowman always considers several factors in the choice of a new brand. It must be simple, easy to read and to describe, and preferably, made up of straight lines. These factors Miller had in mind when he adopted the 101 as the new brand for his ranch in 1881. At first the brand was not burned into the steer’s hide, but consisted of a small brand burned in its horns. John Hiatt of Hunnewell, Kansas, reports he helped to build the first fire in 1881 to burn the 101 on the horns of steers. From 1881 to 1887, Colonel Miller branded his cattle with the 101 on the left horn and No on the left side. The brand was used on the left shoulder of the horses. In 1888, he discontinued burning the 101 on the horns of the cattle and began that year to brand all cattle and horses with the 101 exclusively on the left hip, thus abandoning entirely the use of the X brand on horses and No on left side of the cattle.
The Brand Book of the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association, published March, 1882, shows the following registration of brands by Colonel Miller: ”NO on left side of cattle and 101 and brass knob on either horn. Also J Y on left side; T cross T left side; I C left loin; connected lying down on left loin; circle bar on both jaws; X on left side; and on right side. Horse brand connected on left shoulder, I I on left side; X left hip and dewlapped.7
Why Miller selected the 101 brand is not so definitely known. One of the most popular explanations was that the ranch contained 101,000 acres and was so named accordingly. As a matter of fact, at the time the 101 brand was selected by Colonel Miller in 1881, the ranch included only 60,000 acres of leased lands. The Millers never claimed 101,000 acres for the ranch at any time in its history. The largest acreage it ever attained was about 110,000 acres. There were 17,492.31 acres of deeded land, approximately 10,000 acres of leased land with preferential rights, and the remainder included leased lands varying in amount from year to year.
Another version is that Miller bought the 101 brand from the 101 Ranch Company operating near Kenton, Oklahoma. This company was organized in 1881 from three previously existing Texas brands: The 101 brand owned by Mr. Doss; the VI brand owned by Mr. Taylor; and the 88 brand owned by Mr. Horn.8 The company assumed the 101 brand, and established in 1881 its headquarters four miles east of the present town of Kenton, Oklahoma. The headquarters were moved in 1891 very near to Amarillo, Texas. In 1893, the company began to dispose of its cattle and it is claimed Colonel Miller purchased the remnant of the herd and the 101 brand and adopted the name for his ranch. This explanation seems unlikely since it is definitely established that Colonel Miller selected his 101 brand in 1881 and used it that year in branding cattle on the Deer Creek and Salt Fork Ranches. Even though he purchased the cattle and brand of the 101 Company near Kenton, the fact remains he had been using the 101 brand a number of years previous to that transaction.
Colonel Zack T. Miller gives an entirely different version. He says his father was buying cattle down around San Antonio, Texas, and there was a cabaret in that city named the 101. The cowboys spent so much of their time at this cabaret that his father could hardly get them out on the range to take care of the cattle. So he told them that if they liked “101” so well he’d brand his cattle “101” and they wouldn’t have to go to town to find it. And, according to Colonel Miller, that was the way the “101” brand originated on his father’s ranch.
Another explanation is that Colonel George W. Miller, in assembling the acreage of the Salt Fork Ranch, bought a small ranch in the vicinity called Bar-O-Bar. The —0— was its livestock brand. Miller liked the brand and the name and retained them for his ranch. The brand as thus written could not be easily seen at a distance when burned on the left horn of cattle. Miller turned the bars upright and made it read 101. It was only natural that the brand in that position should be called ”hundred and one.” The simplicity of the brand, easy to read and describe, stuck and soon became commonly used. By the time the brand had been changed from the left horn to the left hip, it was in common usage on Colonel Miller’s ranch.9

7 Brand Book, March 1882, p. 21, Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association, Caldwell, Kansas.
8 Fred Hollister, Springfield, Colorado, cowboy employee of the 101 Ranch operating near Kenton, Oklahoma.
9 Alma Miller England to Ellsworth Collings, March 10, 1935; and W. A. Brooks, to Ellsworth Collings, April 8, 1935.


An incident occurred during this time that reveals the shrewdness of Colonel Miller as a cattleman.10 One fall he turned 5,000 steers into the Cherokee Strip and herded them west. At the time of the spring round-up he found 4,970, showing a loss of thirty steers. That winter the Santa Fe railroad had a big crew working on their road with camp south of the ranch. It occurred to the cow boss, Jim Moore, that the steers might be found and he suggested to Miller that they go down to the railroad camp which had been moved in early spring near Mulhall. He explained that on the day before as he rode by the abandoned railroad camp he found a steer’s head with the “101” branded on its horn. The following morning he and Joe, the eldest son, were sent down to the new railroad camp, and upon arriving, Moore said to the boss of the crew, “I’ve come to collect.”
Feigning innocence, the boss replied, “What do you want?”
“You know what I want,” snapped Moore grimly.
“Well,” inquired the boss meekly, “how much is it?”
“Figure yourself the steers at thirty dollars a head,” retorted Moore.
The railroad boss excused himself as he stepped into a tent nearby and, after a short discussion with some one of his crew, came out and gave Moore a check for $900, the price of the thirty missing steers.
Miller was a great lover of horses and was always loath to dispose of them when they became of little use on the ranch.11 Because of this sentimentality, he accumulated a large number of old horses, in spite of the insistence of his sons to dispose of them at any price. Finally, during the fall of 1888 he selected more than a hundred head of his old horses considered no good for his cow business and advertised a public sale at Winfield, Kansas. On the day of the sale many Kansas farmers attended in the hope of buying some horses at a cheap price. Miller failed, through an oversight, to print the terms of the sale on the bills, although it was customary at such sales to allow convenient terms. Naturally, when the auctioneer opened the sale, a farmer inquired about the terms. The presidential campaign was then on between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. Colonel Miller sensed the situation quickly and instructed the auctioneer to explain to the farmers that they could give their notes at 10 per cent interest payable when Grover Cleveland should be elected president. Of course, this brought a yell from the farmers, mostly Republicans, who considered it a splendid opportunity to buy the horses for nothing. They promptly yelled bids at prices far beyond the value of the horses. The auctioneer knocked the horses off to the farmers at prices exceeding $100. The same horses could have been purchased at the time on the open market for about $75. Grover Cleveland was defeated in the election and the farmers, of course, laughed loudly about the sale. Colonel Miller filed the notes away in a large walnut secretary at his home and dismissed them from his mind, until the election of 1892. The same candidates opposed each other for the presidency and this time Grover Cleveland was elected. Colonel Miller took the old notes out of his secretary and secured the services of a Winfield lawyer to collect at 40 per cent accrued interest. The notes were paid, with few exceptions, and Colonel Miller enjoyed immensely many a laugh about the sale.

10 Colonel Zack T. Miller to Ellsworth Collings, December 10, 1935.
11 Colonel Zack T. Miller to Ellsworth Collings, December 10, 1935.


The region included in Colonel Miller’s ranches in the Cherokee Strip was part of a vast Indian country, inhabited by bands of roving Indians, living in tepee villages. Pioneers among the white men grazed their herds of cattle over this Indian reservation and Easterners hunted game over its plains and wooded valleys. It was known as the Cherokee “Strip,” or Cherokee “Outlet,” because it had been ceded to the Cherokee Indians by the United States government in order to provide them an outlet from their larger reservation farther east to their summer hunting grounds in the Rockies.
Not only in those days of the Indian and cattleman, but for many years to come, the hills of the “Strip” and the hills of the Osage provided outlaw hiding places for three decades. The Dalton boys grew up in this region. Bob Dalton, who was killed in the Coffeyville raid, bought his famous “Red Buck,” the white-faced horse with curly coat, from Henry Wilson, a cattleman who worked the range just east of the Arkansas River from where Ponca City now stands. Emmet Dalton not only grew up in this region, but he lived here for many years after his brother was killed in the Kansas hold-up. Henry Starr, perhaps the most notorious bank robber the West has seen, likewise ranged over the hills of this same region.
In those earlier days, the dusty trails over which the cattle of the Texas plains were driven to market, passed through this same Strip. The scar of ten million hoofs can still be seen across the country. This was the trail blazed by Chisholm. Great herds of fattened beef were transported over this trail to the nearest railroad point in Kansas, from which they were shipped by train to the slaughter houses of Chicago. That was when the Great Plains of the West made America the largest producer of beef in the world. Stock pens at the time made up a big part of where Ponca City is now located and the roundup and its branding of cattle were the chief industries of that location.
The Cherokee Strip could not remain long in its natural, undeveloped state when the territory to the north of it, in the state of Kansas, was a region of homes, and when the pioneers of north and east were constantly extending the western fringes of civilization. Men who wanted farm lands could not remain contented when there was before them a vast domain, its hills used only as grazing grounds for cattle, its valleys cow camps for the round-ups, its cities nothing but Indian villages, and its homes tepees that might be moved in a night.
Bands of settlers were organized at Caldwell and other Kansas towns to seize the land from the cattlemen, drive out the Indians and build new homes in the Indian country. Captain David L. Payne repeatedly led expeditions into this region, each time to find the United States soldiers destroying his settlements and escorting him and his followers to the Kansas line. These men were called “boomers.” They planted one colony at Rock Falls, in the northwestern part of what is now Kay County, in 1884. Payne died that autumn at Wellington, Kansas, but his followers continued the contest. Their fight for homes caught the sympathy of the country and Congress was forced to provide for the opening of a part of the Indian Territory in 1889. Other smaller tracts were opened each year until 1893, when Congress arranged for the “Big” opening of the Cherokee Strip.
Such is the genesis of the present 101 Ranch. On the one hand, there was the spirit of vision, hospitality, of boldness of the Old South transplanted abundantly through Colonel George W. Miller and his wife to the open ranges of the West. It was this spirit, the heritage of old Kentucky, that enabled them to overcome failures that would have crushed men and women less stalwart; it was the force that guided them in building a cattle empire on the broad and rolling prairies of Oklahoma. On the other hand, there was the West of the old days, of vast open ranges where buffalo roved in herds that blackened the prairie. There was rich grass everywhere. There was abundant water in all seasons. The winters were mild and the summers long. To the south in Texas thousands upon thousands of cattle roamed over the ranges. Here was opportunity at the feet of men with vision and the spirit of boldness. This was a cattle country without cattle. And the blending of the Kentucky heritage of the Millers with the opportunities presented in the new country to conduct a cattle business on a big scale, is the story of the development of the 101 Ranch from the open cattle range to the greatest diversified farm in the world.


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