THE WHITE HOUSE ON
THE PLAINS


T was in Baxter Springs that the long and happy association between the Millers and the Ponca Indians began and it was Colonel Miller and his eldest son Joe who converted what appeared to be a Ponca trail of tears into a happy journey to a new home in the present state of Oklahoma.
The government had removed the Poncas from their northern home with the intention of exchanging that land for new land in the immense holdings of the Cherokee Nation in the Cherokee Strip. Unfortunately, the tribe was moved before arrangements with the Cherokees had been completed and thus it was that Chief White Eagle and his tribe were waiting disconsolately at Baxter Springs, homesick for the north and increasingly uneasy as sickness afflicted many of the tribe, a sickness attributed to the new climate. Colonel Miller and Chief White Eagle had many conferences over the plight of the tribe and from those conferences arose a mutual and lifelong respect.
While inspecting land in the Cherokee Strip with a view to acquiring ranging rights for his cattle, Miller, Joe and a number of cowboys found themselves near the proposed Ponca reservation. They made camp and the father and son thoroughly investigated the new land. From his explanation Miller was satisfied that if White Eagle would visit the country he would accept the offer of the government and that after the natural homesickness of the Indians had been overcome they would find health and happiness in their new home.
Knowing that White Eagle intended to leave soon for Washington to make final refusal of the land and to attempt once more to induce the government to return them to the north, Miller realized that it was imperative to convey what he had discovered to the chief. To send a written message under the circumstances would be worse than useless. Not wanting to abandon his own trip, Miller decided to send Joe as his messenger. Many fathers would have hesitated to send a mere boy on such a trip but Miller knew that his son was fully competent to care for himself under all conditions to be met in the open, as he had observed from the constant companionship of his son, and furthermore, Joe possessed other qualifications for the mission, for not only did he speak the Indian language with considerable fluency, which he had learned from Indian boys at Baxter Springs, but also he was thoroughly familiar with his father’s arguments and desires with regard to Ponca settlement in the Cherokee Strip.
If Joe felt any hesitancy in starting upon the long ride to White Eagle’s camp at Baxter Springs, it was not evident as he rode away from his father’s camp with a boyish smile upon his face and a parting wave of the hand. He rode early and late through the Osage country and through the Cherokee Nation and arrived at the Ponca camp in less time than his father had expected. He was just in time, for White Eagle was planning to leave for Washington the next day.
The chiefs and head men of the Poncas gathered that night in the tepee of White Eagle and for the first time in the memory of the tribe a white boy sat in the center of the council and answered their questions in their own tongue. Little did anyone in that council realize that in the years to come this boy, grown to manhood, would be in the council circle at White Eagle’s right hand and the Poncas would call him chief. Far into the night the Indians smoked and talked. The boy, hesitating at times as he searched his memory for the best word to use, answered their questions with a frankness and directness which convinced them of the truthfulness of his answers.
With a stick Joe drew upon the dirt floor of the tepee a rough map of the country. He showed them where the Chicaskia met the Salt Fork and where that river ran into the Arkansas; where the valleys widened and where the high prairie was to be found. He told them of the horse high bluestem grass in the valleys and the heavy vines of wild grape in timbered bends; of the tall pecan trees and the thickets of wild plums; of the prairie chickens which flew from under the pony’s feet, and of the deer and turkey which ranged through the timber; of the red bluffs of the Salt Fork River, and the streams of water where a pony could always drink. They wondered when he told them how sand bars in summer whitened with salt. To the Poncas, homesick and famished, stricken with fever and with no land to call their own, the picture of the country made in their minds by the report of young Joe was that of the Promised Land.
After this description, the Indians smoked in silence. With a look White Eagle questioned his chiefs; he found his answer in their eyes. Knocking the ashes from his pipe as a sign that the council was ended, the chief spoke to the boy, saying: “We have listened to you because you speak the words of your father. Your message is good and we knew him for our friend. Tomorrow I will ride with you and we will see this country of which you speak. I hope we will find a home for our people. You have ridden far to bring us this word and the Poncas do not forget. Now you shall sleep.”1
The next day Joe led White Eagle and a group of observers toward the land which he had so vividly described. The Indians found it so much to their liking that they returned to their people and advised that they accept the offer of the government. This was done and the Poncas moved in 1879 to their new home. There they still reside and they have not only found contentment and health but prosperity. White Eagle died February 1, 1914, at the age of ninety-seven years, but he lived to see his statement that the Poncas would not forget proved true.
While Joe was negotiating with the Poncas, Colonel Miller continued his journey up the Salt Fork River and selected in 1879 the location for his second ranch, known as the Salt Fork Ranch, near the big sand mounds where Lamont, Oklahoma, is now located. This was outside the limits of the Ponca country and was leased from the Cherokee Indians. On this ranch the 101 made its home for years until the sale of the Cherokee Strip and the announcement of the government to open it for settlement in 1893.
In the meantime Joe, grown to young manhood, was partner with his father in the operation of the Salt Fork Ranch. Through all the years he kept up his acquaintance with the Poncas who lived on the new reservation south of the ranch. The distance from the ranch to Ponca village being only a few miles, visits back and forth were frequent. Foreseeing the opening of the Cherokee Strip to settlement, Colonel Miller directed Joe to open negotiations with the Poncas with a view of leasing their lands for grazing purposes. The Poncas did not forget their previous statement, and when their friend Joe again came to their council circle he had but to state his needs and the Indians extended the use of their lands to him for such time as he might need them. The individuals in charge of the Indians’ affairs did not transact business in such offhand manner, but Colonel Miller experienced no difficulty in securing the government’s approval of the leases which gave the 101 outfit control of the grazing lands in the Ponca country.

1 101 Magazine, April, 1925, p. 9.

Before the Cherokee Strip country was cleared of cattle and opened to settlement in 1893, the 101 cattle were moved in the fall of 1892 a few miles down the Salt Fork River; a new dugout was made in the side of the bluff; a corral was built and the 101 settled down into its new headquarters.
It was an ideal location that Colonel Miller chose in the fall of 1892 for the headquarters of his third ranch—the present 101 Ranch. There were thousands of acres of rolling prairie for range which he could lease from the Poncas as he pleased, and which he could purchase in time. There were wonderfully fertile bottoms for wheat, corn, alfalfa, vegetables, and fruits of all kinds. The Salt Fork River wound its way through it all to provide during all seasons an abundant supply of water for the big herds. All the natural resources were present for the establishment of a permanent cattle empire on the prairie.
In the vernacular of the West a ranch is known as an “outfit” and whether it happens to be owned by an individual or by a company, it is universally called by the name of the mark with which the cattle are branded. There is, for example, the “Bar C” outfit, the “Spur” outfit, the “Four 6’s” outfit, the “XIT” outfit. The brand of a big ranch is an intangible asset of great value. It is the insignia of the cattleman and stands at once for honesty in dealing and for the quality of the cattle he raises. Just as in the science of heraldry the coat of arms stands for noble deeds and accomplishments, so in the code of the cattle country a brand represents years of endeavor to produce a certain quality of cattle. When the cattle of a well-known brand are offered for sale, prospective buyers know at once the kind of stock they can expect to see. They know that for years the cattle bearing this particular brand have always conformed to certain standards. Such brands on the side of a steer have the significance of the hall-mark of a piece of silver.
Colonel Miller’s cattle brand was “101” and when he moved his “outfit” down from his Salt Fork Ranch, he continued to use the 101 brand on the cattle and from that brand the present 101 Ranch got its name. The first headquarters was a dugout erected in 1892, on the south side of the Salt Fork River opposite the present “White House.” The front of the dugout was of lumber, the roof was of sod, and the back of the house was set in the hill. It provided headquarters for the new 101 Ranch from 1892 to 1903, during which time the family home was maintained at Winfield, Kansas, in order that Colonel Miller’s wife and younger children might be more comfortable. The delay in building a new headquarters home was due to the uncertainty surrounding purchase of the land from the Ponca Indians. Restrictions required the Poncas to secure patents from the Indian Office at Washington before they could sell their lands, and, for that reason, purchase was delayed for several years. It was not possible to build permanent improvements until title to the land was acquired. Buildings on leased lands belonged to the tribe. When Colonel Miller finally secured satisfactory options on several tracts of land, he selected the present site of the “White House” on the north side of the Salt Fork, and proceeded to formulate plans for his new ranch home.
The plans called for a pretentious building. Colonel Miller’s familiarity with the beautiful plantation homes of his native Kentucky no doubt greatly influenced the architecture of this new structure. This influence, coupled with his ambition to own a large estate explains Colonel Miller’s plans for palatial splendor on the then open prairie of Oklahoma. The completed building was a three story frame house with basement, furnished with the handsome things from the Winfield home. A complete waterworks plant occupied part of the basement and every comfort and convenience of that time was installed. In its setting it was indeed a palace on the plains. On all sides there were miles upon miles of broad and rolling prairie inhabited only by bands of roving Indians living in tepee villages.
There were no broad highways—only the dusty trails over which the Texas longhorns had traveled to northern markets. It was new country and it was in such a setting that Colonel Miller visioned his new headquarters on the prairie along the Salt Fork River.
Unfortunately Colonel Miller did not live to see his new home completed. He died of pneumonia at the old dugout headquarters on his ranch, Saturday, April 25, 1903, at the age of 61 years and 20 days.2 Short funeral services were held at the ranch home on Sunday, conducted by the Methodist missionary at the Ponca Agency, and his body was shipped to Crab Orchard, Kantucky, the old home of the family, for burial, An escort of cowboys rode beside the hearse as it passed alongside the ranch’s great wheat fields, across a broad pasture where the cattle grazed in sight of the trail road, and thence to the railroad station at Marland (formerly Bliss). Many Ponca Indians, from whom most of the ranch lands were leased, accompanied the body. Chief White Eagle, together with several of his head men, viewed the body at the ranch house, but refused to go to the railroad station. White Eagle was a proud man and said: ”I would not weep where men and women could see me. I must retire alone.”3
Colonel Miller had always been vigorous in body, but he felt his vitality slipping from him soon after he was stricken and said he would not recover. He called his family to his bedside and made known his final wishes in the management of his 50,000 acre ranch. He left no will, but decreed that the huge ranch should remain intact forever in the Miller family. To his wife, Mrs. Mollie A. Miller, he left $30,000 in life insurance. He said that the approach of death did not alarm him, and he watched its coming without distress. He played with his grandchildren almost to the end, his mind remaining clear and active.
His Kentucky blood was shown in his unusual personality. He made strong friends and bitter enemies; to one he was steadfast, to the other defiant. His hospitality was unbounded, and on his ranch and at his city home in Winfield, he gave guests the best his table and cellar could produce. Three hours before his death he insisted that friends who had come to bid him farewell should sit down to dinner, and regretted that his health was not such as to permit him to join them. He gave freely to the poor, and his compassion for their distress was such that on Thanksgiving day he always gave a steer to those in greatest need.

2 Ponca City Courier, April 27, 1903.
3 Kansas City Star, April 27, 1903.


At the time of his death, the 101 Ranch had grown to huge proportions. Mr. Miller paid the Ponca and Otoe Indians $32,500 annual rental for his 50,000 acre ranch; other running expenses amounted to $75,000 annually. The year before his death, 13,000 acres were sown to wheat, 3,000 in corn, and 3,000 in forage crops. The income was from $400,000 to $500,000 annually. Two hundred men were employed on the ranch and $33,000 worth of tools and machinery were used in the fields and more than 200 ponies were used in herding cattle on the ranges.4
For thirty-one years, Colonel Miller had engaged in the cattle business in Oklahoma, and his judgment of the value of cattle on the hoof was remarkable, few persons being better able than he to tell what the worth of a lean steer turned loose on the range in the spring would be at shipping time. He had mastered the economics of farming to such a degree of perfection that the 101 Ranch was noted as the most profitable farming property in the West. He had a system of double planting the corn fields that gave double use of the land. By the time the corn had been harvested, the cow peas had grown high enough to make good pasturage. Also, after the cutting of wheat in June and July the fields were plowed and sowed in kafir corn. This was ready for the pasture in October, but the field was first drilled in wheat and the cattle were allowed to tramp in the wheat and nibble off the blades of kafir corn. During the winter, after the kafir corn had been eaten, the wheat grew up and was pastured until spring. This system of getting two returns from a single field was an idea originated by Mr. Miller. It was his most successful plan for making money out of farming.
Colonel Miller’s plans for the new ranch home were carried out immediately after his death by Mrs. Miller and her sons. The new structure, when completed late in 1903, was considered one of the finest residences in Oklahoma. The Winfield (Kansas) home was sold and Mrs. Miller, her three sons, and daughter ate their first meal in the new residence on Christmas day, 1903. The first social event to take place in the new home was the marriage, October 31, 1903, of Alma, Mrs. Miller’s only daughter, to William Henry England, an attorney-at-law at Winfield. The marriage took place before the building was fully completed and before the family had moved in, as a result of the earlier postponement of the marriage due to Colonel Miller’s death. Through mutual agreement, Mrs. England received at the time of her marriage her share in the 101 Ranch estate.5
Mrs. England had received an excellent education. Her father had been a man of prodigious pride, not content unless he had supplied his family with every comfort and advantage, as demonstrated by maintaining for it a comfortable home in Winfield while he resided in the cruder dwelling at the ranch, and by his interest in his children’s education. Winfield offered better religious and educational advantages and it was partly for this reason that he maintained his home there so long. Miller’s background forbade his children attending the public schools of Kansas with Negroes—the practice there. Therefore he employed private tutors, following the custom of Kentucky. Later Alma went to Miss Nold’s Seminary for Young Ladies in Louisville, Kentucky, completing her formal education at Vassar College, where she was graduated in June, 1889. The sons were given actual business training in the affairs of the ranch when they were very young, for Miller looked to them to carry on from generation to generation the management of the cattle empire he was building on the Salt Fork.

4 Ponca City Courier, April 27, 1903.
5 The Englands moved to Kansas City a short time after the marriage where Mr. England practiced law. Later they returned to Ponca City where Mr. England continued his law practice and served as legal adviser to the ranch until his death in 1923. The first son, William Henry, Jr., was born May 27, 1906; the second son, George Miller, October 12, 1907; the first daughter, Mary Ann, September 11, 1910; the second daughter, Eleanor, September 12, 1911; the third daughter, Louise, November 24, 1913, and the third son, Victor, July 12, 1919.


At the death of Colonel Miller, following his expressed wish and their own inclinations, the Miller heirs made no division of the huge 101 Ranch except the mutual agreement with the daughter, Alma, at the time of her marriage whereby she accepted as her share of the estate certain properties not directly connected with the 101 Ranch holdings. The family decided to continue the work so well started, and to direct their united energies to its accomplishment. The oldest son, Joe, naturally assumed the leadership of the family, since he had been de facto manager with his father for a long time. It is evident without comment that only one brought up and trained as he to handle wisely the daily problems that arose could have carried on this great enterprise. His splendid physique, the result of outdoor life, his clear eye and quick judgment, his fairness in dealing with men, and his poise under all circumstances, made him an example and leader in anything he undertook. The younger sons, Zack and George, who had varied school and college work with summer work on the ranch, soon assumed positions of responsibility in the various activities of the ranch. Mrs. Miller never relinquished her interest in the affairs of the ranch. She was a remarkable woman in many ways. She possessed exceptional ability and rare judgment regarding the business affairs of the ranch. She was always consulted in regard to the big transactions of the Miller Brothers and their success was due largely to her excellent judgment.
With the development of the ranch the Miller brothers naturally and easily fell into the particular work for which each had the most aptitude. Colonel Joe devoted his time to the general management of the ranch, and the farming enterprises and orchards were his recognized hobbies. He was a natural horticulturist and devoted much of his energies to experiments along that line that were of much value to Oklahoma in future years. He was a man of the southern plantation type and in addition a showman. He was farseeing, liberal, with few equals as a host. In 1915 he was made an honorary colonel on the staff of Governor Robert L. Williams of Oklahoma and was familiarly known as “Colonel Joe.” He was married to Miss Lizzie Trosper in 1896 and to them were born two sons, George William and Joseph C., Jr., and one daughter, Alice. His second marriage in 1926 was to Miss Mary Verlin and of this marriage one son was born, Will Brooks Miller.
During Colonel Joe’s early manhood an incident occurred that reveals his character. He had attended the Central University at Richmond, Kentucky, for three years, but despite the insistence of his parents, he refused to go back the fourth year. His father told him at the time he would give him a chance to make good. So he handed the young man $10,000 and told him to strike out for himself. With his father’s gift added to the accumulations of his own enterprises, Joe turned to Texas as the land offering opportunity. This was in the last years of the drives of the big herds up the trail. To the life of the cow country he was not a stranger in spite of his youth; for many years he had been the constant companion of his father, and more than once had clipped a few weeks from each end of the school year in order to share in the activities of his father’s business. His father had made the 101 brand famous over the Southwest in those days of the cattle kings. The long days on the dusty trail, the swimming herds in the swollen streams, the weary hours of night herding, and the headlong dash into the lightning-riven darkness ahead of the thundering stampede was a rough school, but the school which made cowmen, and from this school young Miller could well claim to be a graduate.
Arriving in Texas he deposited his money in a bank, and thinking to try the life of the city he sought employment in a store, but a few days convinced him that his future career did not lie in the mercantile line. Leaving the city he went to Alpine, Texas, where he knew the herds would be gathering for the northern drive. At this time there was in his mind a half formed plan to defer making any permanent investment, and to take service with one of the herds going to Kansas or the Cherokee Strip and work his way north on the trail. As a matter of fact, like many young men he found his new liberty of action not entirely satisfactory and he was homesick for a sight of the Salt Fork, and to ride again a horse with 101 on its left hip.
At Alpine, young Miller found the preparation for the northern drive in full swing and he saw many familiar faces among the cowboys and owners. After many weeks among strangers, the hearty slaps on the shoulder, accompanied with a friendly “Hello, Joe,” raised the spirits of the homesick boy. He looked about him with quickened interest; he was in familiar atmosphere. Among the cowmen he heard some talk of the unfortunate illness of Lee Kokernut, his father’s friend. Kokernut had gathered a herd of 2,500 head of four and five-year-old steers, intending to drive them to Montana but had been suddenly stricken with illness, making it impossible for him to accompany his herd. Without any thought that his call would result in his looked-for opportunity, Joe paid a visit to Mr. Kokernut and found him very much concerned over the condition of his business affairs. After some conversation Mr. Kokernut expressed regret that Joe’s father had not arrived in Texas so that he could turn over his herd to him. Here Was Joe’s opportunity and he was quick to take it. One can imagine the surprise of the cowman when the youth offered to take his entire outfit off his hands. Those were the days of the cattle business when the man and not the method was considered; deals involving hundreds of thousands of dollars were decided by the nod of a head, and written agreements were the exception rather than the rule. A few minutes sufficed to close the deal between them, and when Joe left the sick room, he carried a note to Mr. Kokernut’s foreman which was the written evidence that he was the owner of the trail herd and outfit.
By the payment of four dollars a head and his verbal promise to pay the balance of the purchase price, Joe became the owner of 2500 head of steers, 136 head of saddle horses, a chuck wagon and mules. The note to the foreman also acted as a transfer of allegiance of a foreman, cook and fourteen cowboys. The cowboys were soldiers of fortune and served the man who paid and fed them. The herd was being held on grazing ground forty miles south of Alpine, trail branded, supplies in the wagon and the cowboys anxious to be on the trail. The morning after Joe arrived at the outfit he sat on one of his newly acquired saddle ponies and watched his herd take shape into a long column of shuffling hoofs and rattling horns and swing its head to the north. His first drive as owner had begun.
Risking stampedes and all the hardships of the border country, young Miller drove the cattle over the trail to his father’s ranch south of Hunnewell in the Cherokee Strip. When he arrived his father looked the cattle over and told him he had made a good deal. It developed that he had, because he doubled his money on the cattle. That was in 1887. The next year he made a similar trip and then the Santa Fe built a railroad through that country, which marked the end of driving cattle over the trail from Texas to Oklahoma.
Zachary T. Miller, the second son, was and still is, the cowman, typical of the days of the old West; a wonderful horseman, and like his father, a trader always. For that reason, he naturally devoted his time and energies to the livestock interests of the ranch. His deals in livestock were not limited to those handled on the ranch, but included large wholesale transactions in cattle, mules, and horses which never set foot on the home ranch. It is true that he had the advantage of having grown up in this work under the splendid tutelage of his father, but all men do not improve even under the best of tutors, without natural ability and intelligent application. The trader in Zack is revealed in his purchase of Mexican army supplies.6
He was in Texas on a deal for some livestock to be shipped to the 101 Ranch, when he became interested in the situation of General Mercardo, commanding the Mexican Federals besieged by the rebel forces of Villa. Actuated by a desire to see some of the fighting, the young cattleman went to Presidio, Texas, an American town situated directly across the Rio Grande from the beleaguered town. It soon became evident that General Mercardo would be compelled to retire to the American side or face extermination at the hands of General Villa. As the Federal forces consisted almost entirely of cavalry, it meant that a large number of horses and mules would be brought to the American side. When this phase of the situation suggested itself to Mr. Miller, he wired his brother Joseph to join him. Shortly after the arrival of the brother the expected happened, and the beaten Federals swarmed over the river bringing with them horses, mules and transport, arms, artillery and equipment and surrendered to the waiting soldiers of the United States. The situation was without parallel in history. The United States and Mexico not being at war, the horses, arms and accoutrements could not be considered as spoils of war. They were, however, held as being subject to the custom duty imposed on imports. The Mexican consul at Marfa, Texas, received authority from his government to sell the articles if a purchaser could be found to pay the customs duties. The Miller brothers, representing the 101 Ranch, promptly made an offer to the consul which was accepted and the purchase price paid in cash. Paying the customs charges, they came into possession of all the effects of the defeated army. This was probably the first time that the entire equipment of an army was disposed of in a single sale. The purchase included 3,600 head of horses, mules and pack burros, saddles and bridles, transport wagons and harness, artillery and battery wagons, carbines, revolvers and sabers, ammunition and the general supplies of an army in the field. The removal of the embargo on arms and munitions of war enabled the 101 Ranch to dispose of a greater part of the arms and equipment to their former owners, the Huerta government, who shipped them by rail and water into territory still in their control. Some of the animals were shipped to Texas pastures controlled by the 101 Ranch, and about a thousand head were sent to the ranch in Oklahoma.

6 101 Magazine, September, 1916.

In 1923, Governor J. C. Walton of Oklahoma made Zachary T. Miller an honorary colonel on his staff and he is widely known today over the country as “Colonel Zack.” He was married twice. His first marriage, in 1906, was to Miss Mabel Pettijohn and there was born one daughter, Virginia. In 1919, the second marriage was with Miss Marguerite Blevins, and to them there was born one son, Zack, Jr., and one daughter, Blevins. Colonel Zack, today, with boots and a wide sombrero remains the typical cowman of the old West.
George L. Miller, the youngest son, was the financial genius of the big ranch, a gentlemanly, and, like his mother, a gracious host. Upon the death of his father, he assumed active direction and management of the financial interests of the family, being in charge of the executive staff and the accounting department of the ranch. The sales and purchases of the ranch reached an enormous total each year. The development of an accounting system whereby a complete check on each of the varied enterprises was possible was the work to which he devoted much of his time and talent.7 The system he adopted at the 101 Ranch has been pronounced by experts as a model for simplicity and completeness. And today these records tell the detailed financial story of the ranch. The 101 Ranch prospered under his financial guidance. The big transactions in cattle, horses, mules, wheat, corn, and oil necessitated that he borrow large sums of money. His ability as a financier was recognized throughout Oklahoma, and in 1919, Governor J. B. A. Robertson of Oklahoma made him an honorary colonel on his staff. In contrast to the familiar “Colonel” always attached to his brothers, he was known among a wide circle of friends as plain “George L.” In 1908, he married Miss May Porter and to them one daughter, Margaret, was born.

7 Margaret M. Tierney to Ellsworth Collings, February 14, 1936.

While, as in all great enterprises, each man has his own particular part to carry on and for which he is responsible, yet in an organization such as the 101 Ranch, there must be co-operation in thought and agreement in action, or else a chaotic condition will develop and bring ruin to the whole thing. It was this splendid co-operation and mutual understanding of the Miller brothers that enabled them to bring to realization the vision of their father.
None of the Miller brothers drew any salary for his service. If one wanted money he drew freely on the 101 bank account by an established custom of mutual consent. If Colonel Zack wanted to take a trip to Cuba he placed a 101 check book in his pocket and paid his bills. If Colonel Joe wanted to charter a special train and invite all the editors of Oklahoma down to the ranch for a buffalo barbecue, he did it and no one asked any questions about the cost. If George L. wanted to make a trip to New York, he consulted no one about the expenses. There was no checking up, no questions about doing this or that. Each one did his work whole-heartedly and the profits were the common and joint fund of all. It was an unusual and brotherly arrangement which permitted each man to pursue freely his particular line of work.
It seems unusually fortunate—the farmer, the cowman, the financier within one family—but it is nevertheless true the Miller brothers individually possessed abundant natural aptitudes along these lines, and it was the development of these aptitudes that marked the beginning of the 101 Ranch’s greatest growth. They were not afraid to venture along the lines of their particular abilities. When they lost, they tried again. It was that spirit, the spirit of boldness, inherited from their father, that explains the tremendous development of the 101 Ranch along so many lines. And withal they were schooled, from early childhood, in the arts of cowboy life. They grew up in the cattle country as a cattleman’s sons, trained to ride, to rope, to brand, and to shoot. A dugout made of sod on the Salt Fork was their first headquarters home; the cowboys and Indians their associates; the plains their life, whereon longhorn steers roved in herds of thousands. They were reared as cowmen and as pioneers. From the very beginning they thought in terms of thousands and ten thousands. The rise of the 101 Ranch under their management to a realization of their father’s dream was the logical child of their schooling in the West of the old days.

During the early morning of January 14, 1909, a disastrous fire destroyed the big ranch house, together with its contents, including the clothing of the occupants.8 The fire was discovered at about 2 A.M., when flames had extended practically to all parts of the house and there was only time for the occupants to escape without attempting to save anything except the clothes they had on. The fire was believed to have started in the basement of the building and its origin was unknown. The house was located at some distance from the barns and other buildings on the ranch and none of these was endangered by the flames. “Little Sol,” favorite dog of George L. Miller, gave his life in an effort to arouse his master. It was Mrs. Miller who noticed the smoke about fifteen minutes before the walls fell. One trunk and the baggage of some of their guests on the top floor was all that was saved. The ranch house, one of the finest residence buildings in Oklahoma, and its contents were insured for $7,500.
“When they lost, they tried again” seemed the guiding maxim of the Millers, and they always improved their former efforts “when they tried again.” Upon destruction by fire of their beautiful headquarters home, they immediately began construction of a new and better home on the same site. The plans called for construction of one of the most ornate, modern and commodious country residences in Oklahoma. Colonel Joe Miller had general superintendency of the preliminary work of construction. When he consulted an architect, he gave orders for a building so absolutely fireproof that if necessary a bonfire could be set in every room without damage to the building. Steel and concrete were used and the only portions that could be burned were the floors, doors, and ornamental woodwork; otherwise the entire building, from cellar to garret, was intact, even the roof being of asbestos material. The plans and specifications contemplated an expenditure of $35,000.

8 Ponca City Courier, January 14, 1909.

The seventeen-room residence contains every modern convenience and comfort, private plants furnishing electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold water, and hot and cold ventilation. The style of architecture is colonial and with its massive porticoes on two sides, and its porte-cochere, resembles an old-fashioned Southern home. It commands a fine view of the beautiful Salt Fork valley, and from the upper porticoes the winding stream may be followed eastward to where it flows into the Arkansas River, among the blue hills of the Osage country. A spacious yard, landscaped with shrubbery, flowers, trees, and enclosed by an ornate wrought-iron fence, adds beauty to the setting. Surrounding the residence are orchards, vineyards, vast fields of alfalfa, corn, wheat, and farther away the thousands of acres of pasture lands, on which graze thousands of head of cattle and horses. Under the roof, above the halls, the reception rooms, living rooms, and guest rooms, is the billiard parlor. Each room is furnished in a different wood, the walls and ceiling frescoed in individual tints and designs. The entire structure is painted white on the outside and appropriately named the “White House.”
The Indians, to whom the Millers had ever been guide and counselor and friend, were elated over the rearing of the new ranch house, for it assured them of the permanency of the Millers in their midst. The ranch had even been their haven, for the improvident Poncas were sure of material help there; the hungry were given food; the ill, medical treatment; the homeless, shelter. Little wonder that the tribe was alarmed over the mere possibility of the Millers deserting them.
The “White House” was the permanent home of Mrs. Miller and her three sons. Here they gave hospitality to the humble and the great of far and near. It was Mrs. Miller’s pride that not a day should pass without guests at her table. The utmost harmony prevailed at all times among the members of the family and the home was noted widely for its hospitality.
“Standing on the wide steps leading to the spacious White House, Colonel Joe Miller greets you with typical western style. Where could one hear a kindlier greeting than Colonel Joe, who in his southern drawling voice extends his hand of welcome, saying, ’Come on in, children.’ To him all who come are ’children’ and his big heart finds room for kindly thoughts for each individual.
“Entering the spacious living room furnished in exquisite taste, polished floors given color by the rare rugs, woven by the Indians, walls adorned with paintings a connoisseur might envy, one is impressed with the feeling of harmony of thought and the realization of ideals. Each piece of furniture is placed to the best advantage and is well chosen for such a home. There is nothing that is not needed, yet beauty is everywhere.
“The first floor of the ranch house is given over to a large living room, library and den, and a large dining room. The kitchen is a model of modern inventions, as is the laundry in the commodious basement. The second floor has nine large bedrooms, each with bath, and a medium sized living room or hall. The real joy is found on the third floor or “attic’ which is one large room, walls adorned with pictures of buffalo and cattle from the ranch herds. Here there are comfortable big four poster beds which furnish sleeping room for one hundred guests, these being filled during the rodeo season when it is the custom of the Miller brothers to take care of the large number of cowboys and others who participate in the events. This attic room is also drawn upon when house parties fill the ranch house proper to overflowing. A screened in porch or balcony opening off this floor gives a view of the country for miles around which would delight the eye of an artist. Ordinarily, when there are no guests at the ranch to remain for more than a day or two the White House kitchen is not used but all go to the ranch cafĂ© for their meals. Seated at the table with Colonel Joe Miller presiding at the head, one is served with a meal that is perfect in cooking and service, and most wonderful of all each article of food, with the exception of olives, sugar and coffee, is produced and prepared for the table right at the ranch.
“The day is almost gone and the hours have been so filled with the interesting things that time and thought and the fulfilment of dreams have made, one finds it hard to believe it is time to go. As the golden haze of the sunshine mellows into they line of the western prairie where buffalo once more claim the land as their domain and horses and cattle are at home—fruits and flowers and food in abundance—a little country all its own; not a monarchy but a home of hospitality and love to all who may enter, Colonel Joe and the younger brother George wave a farewell hand—and who can blame the departing guest if he wishes he might return and again hear Colonel Joe’s drawling ’Come on in, children.’9
Around the “White House” was grouped the settlement known as the headquarters of the Ranch. There was a large store of general merchandise, hotel for employees, cafe, filling station, blacksmith shop, garage—every convenience for the ranch owners and their employees. There was a modern dairy capable of taking care of the milk from 500 cows, the cows being milked by electricity, that serves the country for miles around as well as a large shipping trade with butter, cream, milk, and cottage cheese. In connection with the dairy there was a modern ice cream plant, ice plants, cold storage and cooling rooms, for the proper handling of the meats and other perishable products of the ranch. An up-to-date meat packing plant with a capacity for dressing five hundred head of cattle and one thousand hogs a month was one of the major enterprises of the ranch. There was a large, two-story structure well built and well equipped for a cider works, and for canning fruits, vegetables, and meats in large quantities. A modern electric light and power plant system extended over the ranch and, in addition, there was a water system with storage tanks, making modern improvements possible. The rodeo arena, the largest and finest in the Southwest, seated 12,000 and was equipped elaborately for bronc riding, steer roping, bull-dogging, and the Wild West Show. There were hundreds of houses, barns, and corrals to supply the needs of man and stock—all constructed on a vast scale because hundreds of head of work stock were required for the operations of the ranch as well as a personnel of several hundred cowboys, workmen, and families maintained on the ranch year in and year out. The 101 Ranch operated a complete oil refinery, making its own gasoline, kerosene, and fuel oil from the crude oil produced from its oil wells. The headquarters was truly a modern city, yet only a speck on the broad and rolling prairies of the 101 Ranch.

9 Rock Island Magazine, November, 1926.

In the midst of the ranch’s greatest growth, Mrs. Mollie A. Miller, mother of the Miller brothers, died at the “White House,” Sunday morning, July 31, 1918, at the age of 72 years.10 She maintained her interests in the affairs of the ranch at all times and every pleasant day, not given over to her duties as hostess, found her in her automobile visiting some part on the ranch. She was an enthusiastic observer of the motion pictures produced on the ranch and was an interested spectator of the production of all the big scenes. The 101 Ranch Show was always favored with her presence at the opening performance and at some time during the season she visited the show on the road. She traveled in Europe with the show and entertained European royalty.
“Mother” Miller, with snow-white hair, was the name by which she was known to hundreds of cowboys who worked on the big ranch. To any tale of sickness and misfortune she was always a patient and sympathetic listener and was generous with material aid as well as motherly advice. She was gracious, hospitable, and charitable. Her death was a great blow to the cowboys as well as to her famous sons, who now assumed full responsibility in management of the 101 Ranch. She was buried in the I.O.O.F. cemetery in Ponca City.
When Colonel George W. Miller established the 101 Ranch in 1893, it was a ranch and not a farm. For several years, the ranch business was concerned exclusively with cattle. During this time, not a blade of wheat or a stalk of corn was grown. Agriculture was an unknown science on the vast ranges of the 101 Ranch. It was a cattle domain and Colonel Miller was a cattleman. But twenty-five years later, at the time of Mrs. Miller’s death, the ranch under the management of the Miller brothers was a veritable agricultural kingdom, as a result of the inevitable march of progress. The age of the buffalo and Indian was followed by the era of the longhorn and the cattleman. Then came the settler and the farmer, which wrought a marvelous change in the ranches on the broad and rolling prairies of Oklahoma. The farmer brought the idea of diversified production to the ranchman and thus the shorthorn cattle displaced the longhorns. The Miller brothers, young and alert, followed all these changes in the West of the old days. They established herds of blooded cattle, added a variety of new crops, planted vast orchards, erected modern farm buildings, introduced power machinery, built slaughter and packing houses, put up hundreds of miles of fences, initiated scientific methods in every department of the ranch, and began systematic experiments in an effort to improve what they had. The 101 Ranch’s change, in a word, from a cattle domain on the open ranges of Oklahoma to the largest diversified farm in the world, is the result of Miller brothers’ efforts to keep pace with the march of civilization. They met, joined, and led this march, thus playing an outstanding part in placing Oklahoma in the front rank of the agricultural and oil producing states of the United States.

10 Ponca City Courier, August 1, 1918.

THE 101 EMPIRE


TS north boundary the Kansas line, its east the Osage Reservation, and its west the Panhandle of Texas and the ”No Man’s Land” of western Oklahoma, the Cherokee Strip comprised a vast region of more than six million acres occupying an area fifty-eight miles wide and more than one hundred and eighty miles long. Ideal grazing land, the Strip had been used for a number of years following the Civil War by cattlemen to graze and fatten their herds without payment to the Cherokee Indians, the owners of the Strip. The grass of the Strip shared the rare quality of that in the Osage Reservation, one of the richest grasslands on the continent, and the Texas trail drivers did not fail to observe the fine quality of the grass as they grazed their herds from southern Texas to northern markets. When delayed by swollen streams or by tired and footsore animals, they permitted their herds to scatter for the time on the grass that cost them nothing. And, after the railroads in their westward expansion built loading pens at such places as Arkansas City, Hunnewell, Kiowa, and Caldwell, cattlemen when delayed in loading, as occurred frequently, simply turned their herds loose on the Strip pastures.
From grazing cattle along the trail drives and at the shipping points, it was but a short step to grazing herds in the Cherokee Strip throughout the grazing season. Grazing permits could be secured from the Cherokees for a small consideration, if not free, thus making unnecessary the long and tiresome drives. Consequently, it was only a short time until cattle ranches began to be established in the Strip and before long, it resembled the settled ranges of Texas.

Great herds grazing on the ranges soon attracted the attention of officials of the Cherokee Nation and they accordingly decided to obtain more revenue from the ranches by sending officers to collect a grazing tax of one dollar a head annually on all cattle. When the ranchers protested vigorously, a compromise was agreed to, whereby a grazing tax was imposed of forty cents a head for grown cattle and twenty-five cents a head for all animals less than two years of age, the tax to be paid annually.1 The Cherokee Strip Livestock Association grew out of this experience, for it was organized at Caldwell, Kansas, March 1883 by ranchers who felt that some form of organization was necessary.2 Practically all the stockholders in the Association were ranch owners in the Cherokee Strip. The officers immediately set about to secure from the Cherokee Nation a more satisfactory plan of leasing grazing land and succeeded in a short time in leasing the entire unoccupied part of the Cherokee Strip for $100,000 annually for a period of five years. Surveyors were appointed by the Association to determine the boundaries of each ranchowner’s range and as a result the Strip was subdivided into slightly more than a hundred ranches. Each ranchman was given a lease on his range by the Association for the entire period of five years at a price of one and a fourth cents an acre every six months. The ranches were fenced by the owners, leaving wide trails for the cattle coming up from Texas.
One of the early ranchmen in the Strip, as we have seen, had been Colonel Miller,3 whose two tracts—on Deer Creek and on the Salt Fork River—were about equal in size, and included a total of sixty thousand acres.’ It was on the Deer Creek Ranch that Colonel Miller in 1880 built the first barbed-wire fence in the Cherokee Strip and by 1884 he had seventy-two miles of fence around his pasture.
Although the ranchmen were able to adjust their own difficulties easily through the Cherokee Strip Association, they experienced difficulties outside of their organization that could not be adjusted so easily. Considerable opposition from the farmers along the Kansas line developed because the cattlemen were permitted to occupy the Cherokee Strip while they were excluded. At the same time there was a general feeling that the Indians had not received full value for the grazing lands and that the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association had resorted to unfair practices in securing the lease. These difficulties, along with the persistent agitation for opening the lands to white settlement, resulted in Congress appointing a commission to purchase the entire Strip from the Cherokees at $1.25 an acre. Matters were complicated by the ranchmen offering to purchase the lands at a price of $3.00 an acre. The Indians naturally refused the government’s offer, and, in order to compel them to accept, the Secretary of the Interior advised the President to remove all cattle from the lands and to stop all revenue from the leases. He contended that the lease made by the Cherokee Nation to the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association was void; that the Indians had no authority to lease the lands, and that the President had the power and right to declare the leases in force void. The President accordingly issued a proclamation in 1890 forbidding grazing on the lands of the Cherokee Strip and ordered all cattle to be removed immediately. The removal order was modified but the brief extension of time did not affect the break-up of the big ranches established in the Cherokee Strip.

1 Edward Everett Dale, The Range Cattle Industry, p. 47.
2 Senate Executive Document, Forty-eighth Congress, second session, I, 149.
3 Secretary of Cherokee Strip Livestock Association Report Names of Lessees in the Cherokee Strip, Phillips Collection, University of Oklahoma, Norman.
4 Senate Document, Forth-ninth Congress, first session, p. 309, Phillips Collection, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
5 Senate Executive Document, No. 54, Forty-eighth Congress, first session, p. 148.


The Indians, seeing their last hope of revenue from the leases vanishing, yielded to the inevitable, and late in 1891 signed an agreement with the government to sell the entire Cherokee Strip lands for a fraction over $1.40 an acres.6 The lands were surveyed into homesteads of 160 acres, providing homes for more than forty thousand families. This plan to establish small homes marked the end of the big cattle ranches in the Cherokee Strip, since the very nature of cattle ranching demanded large tracts of grazing lands. Nothing remained for the ranchmen to do but to market such cattle as they could and remove the remainder to other ranges.
Cattlemen, as a class, had little use for the settler in those days. The settler disturbed the freedom of the range and insisted upon planting wheat where nature had sown only grass. But instead of railing at the settler, Colonel Miller saw ahead to the time when the settler would farm the prairie, establish counties, towns, and markets. He began early to lease lands along the Salt Fork River from the Ponca Indians, in preparation for the day when the Cherokee Strip would be thrown open to white settlers. That day came in 1893. Colonel Miller abandoned his Deer Creek and Salt Fork Ranches in the Cherokee Strip and the 101 cattle were moved in the fall of 1892 a few miles down the Salt Fork River to the new range in the Ponca country. On the banks of the Salt Fork, the 101 Ranch became a fact. The leases obtained from the Poncas represent the first lands of the present 101 Ranch. They included vast stretches of rolling prairies, wonderfully rich bottoms, the Salt Fork running through it all, furnishing an ample supply of water. It was a ranch, however, and not a farm. Not a blade of wheat or a stalk of corn grew on the lands. Agriculture to the cattleman was an unknown science. The lands were used exclusively for cattle and Colonel Miller was a cattleman.

6 Edward Everett Dale, The Range Cattle Industry, p. 155.



When he died in 1903, the 101 lands included fifty thousand acres leased from the Indians.7 Not one acre was owned. The restrictions required the Indians to secure patents from the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington before selling their lands and, for that reason, Colonel Miller was unable to purchase any of these lands before the time of his death. He succeeded, however, a short time before his death in obtaining options from the Indians on several tracts of land that would come up for sale in a short time. But he never lived to see the actual purchase of any of these tracts. All of the lands under lease at that time were open range in the days when the buffalo roamed at will over the broad and rolling prairies, and were used to graze the cattle moved down from the Salt Fork Ranch in the Cherokee Strip country and for the new herds coming up the trails from Texas.
Before any Indian could sell his land, he was required by the regulations in force at that time to make an application, through the superintendent of his tribe, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for a patent in fee to his land. The application had to be made on the Indian’s own accord and without any outside inducements. The superintendent of the tribe was required to make a careful examination of the Indian’s competency in handling his land and recommend to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs his approval or disapproval of the application. If the commissioner deemed, upon examination of the application and recommendation, that the Indian was reasonably competent to handle his land, he recommended to the Secretary of the Interior that a simple fee patent be issued to the Indian for the land. The Secretary, following the Commissioner’s recommendation, directed the Commissioner of the Land Office to issue the Indian the patent. The patent gave and granted to the Indian and his heirs the land to have and to hold with all rights, privileges, annuities, and appurtenances of whatsoever nature. Upon receiving the patent, the Indian was required to have the patent registered in the county in which the land was located. He was then free to sell the land at any time for any sum, giving the purchaser a regular warranty deed.

7 Ponca City Courier, April 27, 1903.

Colonel Miller left $30,000 in life insurance to his wife, which she used to purchase the first six sections, 3,720 acres from the Ponca Indians within the fences of the 101 Ranch.8 The land purchased included the present site of the 101 Ranch headquarters and was the first deeded land owned by the Millers. It was Colonel Miller’s life dream to locate his ranch on permanently owned land and this was the first step toward the accomplishment of his wish. The purchase of this land by Mrs. Miller marked the permanent establishment of the 101 Ranch on the Salt Fork. From that time on the Millers continued to purchase land from the Indians. The Indian allotments were usually in small tracts ranging from five to two hundred acres each, and for that reason, the land purchased included many small tracts situated in Kay, Noble, Osage, and Pawnee Counties.
The wishes of Colonel George W. Miller, at the time of his death, that no division of the 101 Ranch lands be made and that the ranch be held forever intact in the Miller family, were faithfully carried out by his widow at the time of her death. The provisions of her last will and testament transferred all of the Ranch holdings to the Miller brothers and designated two of her sons, Zack and George, as executors of her estate.9 Portions of Mrs. Miller’s properties, outside of the 101 Ranch proper, were set aside in her will for her grandchildren, friends, and her daughter, Alma.

8 Kansas City Star, April 27, 1903.
9 Final Decree in the Matter of the Estate of Mollie A. Miller, County Court, Kay County, Oklahoma, October 17, 1919.


It seems that since the Miller family was operating the Ranch as a unit, very little consideration was given to just which name under which the title to the land was recorded. Apparently most of the land purchased by Mrs. Miller with the life insurance money of her husband was actually taken in patents from the government to two of her sons, Zack and George. Joe was busy with his farming interests and had little mind for the office affairs. In 1917 a disagreement arose between the brothers and Joe’s interest was bought by the other two, so that at the time of Mrs. Miller’s death, there was none of the land in his name. He was gone from the ranch for two years and returned when Mrs. Miller was dying. Her will, made while Joe was away, naturally named Zack and George as executors. However, on her deathbed she made a codicil, giving Joe the 160 acres in the bend of the river on which he had spent much time developing his big apple orchard and in which he took great pride. While Mrs. Miller was ill, there was a complete reconciliation among the three brothers and a definite agreement among them that Joe was to be considered an equal partner with the other two, one-third interest each, without any payment on his part whatever. For this reason, Mrs. Miller saw no necessity for changing her will other than to give Joe personally his prized apple orchard.
After the reconciliation of the Miller brothers, Mr. England, Alma’s husband, as attorney for the ranch, saw the necessity of making some kind of an agreement which would prevent the dissolution of the partnership in case of the death of one, for up to this time the ranch had been operated as a family partnership without any form of written agreement. The question of distributing a one-third interest in the ranch to all kinds of known and unknown heirs would be disastrous. Accordingly, Mr. England worked out a trust agreement, known as the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Trust.10 The Miller brothers approved the trust agreement and it became effective September 12, 1921. W. A. Brooks and J. E. Carson were elected trustees to administer the trust agreement. This is the only trust agreement made by the Miller brothers and is the one the 101 Ranch has operated under since 1921. This type of trust originated in Massachusetts and is generally known as “a Massachusetts Common Law Trust.” This type did not need to be organized according to any law, but was formed merely by the appointment of trustees, the deeding of land to these trustees, and the issuance by the trustees of shares to the beneficiaries.

10 A copy of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Trust Agreement is included in the Appendix.

The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Trust reveals that at the time of its execution, the Ranch included 15,252.97 acres of deeded lands located in Noble, Pawnee, Osage, and Kay Counties, Oklahoma.11 The Millers continued to purchase lands until they had acquired by 1932 a total of 17,492.31 acres. Since no lands have been purchased since 1932, this represents the greatest total acreage of deeded lands owned by the 101 Ranch.
A large part of the deeded lands was rich bottom land along the Salt Fork River and was used for agricultural purposes. The remainder included high grade pasture land suitable for growing pasture crops and grasses. The acreage alone was appraised at $810,490 during the depression years.
There has been only one disastrous flood and that was in June, 1923, when there was a cloudburst on the head of the Salt Fork River, and at the same time on two of its tributaries. The flood cost the Millers several hundred thousand dollars, as the waters always flooded the choicest agricultural land on the ranch. To prevent further floods, the brothers constructed a levee, several miles in length, along the Salt Fork River, where it took a southward turn just west of the ranch headquarters. This stopped any further floods, since the only flood waters that could overflow the land were those that backed up the Salt Fork from the main Arkansas stream.
The brothers experienced considerable legal difficulties regarding validity of titles to these lands. In 1920 indictments were returned by the Federal grand jury charging them with fraudulently obtaining large tracts of land from the Ponca Indians. The charges were general at first, and for that reason, George Miller demanded that the government furnish a bill of particulars of the alleged fraud. Federal Judge J. H. Cotteral, after hearing the arguments, granted the request and instructed the government to furnish Miller’s counsel dates and issue of patents and copies of alleged false reports made by the land superintendent to the Indian Office.12
Following Judge Cotteral’s decision, the Federal government, through its attorneys, presented forty-eight counts against the Miller brothers. The particular counts alleged that they, first, knowing certain Ponca Indians owning land near the 101 Ranch were incompetent, conspired to induce them to make application for patents to the Secretary of the Interior containing false statements, and, second, obtained deeds from the Indians, who were heavily indebted to them at the time. The case was tried before Federal Judge A. G. C. Bierer at Guthrie, Oklahoma. After hearing the evidence and argument, Judge Bierer rendered a decision in favor of the Miller brothers.13
The government appealed the decision of Judge Bierer to the United States Supreme Court. The Court, after hearing the argument, refused October 17, 1932, to review the cases, thus upholding the Federal court which found the Miller brothers had not unfairly induced the Indians to sell their lands.14
Thus the long and technical litigation left the Miller brothers in rightful possession of all the 17,492.31 acres of deeded land purchased from the Indians. The land returned to the Indians, as a result of the litigation, was not a part of the 101 Ranch proper but included scattered holdings, ranging in small tracts from twenty to one hundred and sixty acres. The Federal court found that the brothers had not in any instance acted fraudulently and that in only two of the forty-one counts had technical errors occurred in the purchases. The court, however, found that twenty of the Indians, from whom purchases had been made, were incompetent despite government ruling to the contrary at the time the purchases were made. The court, furthermore, ordered that these lands be returned to the Indians with the government paying back in full to the Miller brothers the purchase price of $30,649.90. Judge Bierer, in his decision, blamed the “greater liberalism” policies of the Department of the Interior between 1917 and 1920 for the differences which brought about the litigation. The government policy, during that time, had been to allow more Indians patents of competency and to allow them to attend to their own affairs as much as possible.

11 For schedule of these lands, see copy of Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Trust in the Appendix.
12 Ponca City Courier, November 18, 1920.
13 Daily Oklahoman, May 27, 1927.
14 Kansas City Star, October 18, 1932.


In addition to the deeded lands, the 101 Ranch included many acres of farming and grazing lands leased from the Ponca, Pawnee, Otoe, and Osage Indians in Kay, Noble, Osage and Pawnee Counties, Oklahoma. These lands were checker-boarded with the deeded lands, which made them undesirable for other ranchmen and at the same time gave the Millers control of them at a fair lease price.
Any Indian who was deemed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to have the requisite knowledge, experience, and business capacity to negotiate lease contracts could make contracts with the Miller brothers for leasing his own land and the land of his minor children for farming and grazing purposes, and collect the rentals arising under such leases. The lease contracts had to be made on a special contract form provided by the Office of Indian Affairs and were subject only to the approval of the superintendent of the tribe. Indians not deemed competent to manage their own affairs in this respect were required to have their leases made in the office of the superintendent of the tribe. The superintendent negotiated and approved the leases, collected all rentals, and deposited the amount to the credit of the Indians. The money was paid out in accordance with the regulations in force regarding individual Indian moneys.
According to the regulations of the Office of Indian Affairs in force at that time, the Miller brothers could not lease from the Indians more than 640 acres of ordinary agricultural lands for farming purposes. This limit, however, was not strictly enforced and could be waived on authority previously obtained from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. No limitation was made on the amount of land which could be leased for grazing purposes.
The leased lands were divided into two classifications. One classification included leased Indian lands with preferential rights, which gave the Millers the right to bid above everyone else or to take the lands at others’ bid. These lands were used for both farming and grazing purposes. The other classification included lands leased from time to time from individual Indians or leases traded for from other persons holding them. These lands were used almost exclusively for grazing purposes.
The leased lands with preferential rights were contiguous to the deeded lands and, for that reason, the bonus right on these lands was valued at $4.00 an acre during the depression years.15 The total acreage of these leases was around ten thousand acres; the acreage varied little from year to year. The Miller brothers paid the Indians an annual lease rate of around ninety-eight cents an acre for these lands and the total amount paid in 1930 for 10,509.28 acres was $10,200.44.16
It is extremely difficult to state the exact number of acres of leased lands belonging in the second classification. The acreage varied considerably from time to time as a result of the manner in which the leases were obtained. The leases were secured from individual Indians and other parties and were recorded in the Indian agencies in the names of various individuals. The policy of the Office of Indian Affairs in effect at that time looked with disfavor upon extensive tracts leased to individuals and corporations and, for that reason, many of the leases obtained from individual Indians or other parties were recorded in names of persons other than the Miller brothers.17 Since the records of the Indian agencies handling these leases are incomplete at the present time, the exact number of acres leased in this manner is unknown. Only an estimate of the acreage from individuals associated with the Miller brothers is possible.
The policy of the Millers from the very beginning of the 101 Ranch was to lease extensive tracts of land since they handled annually thousands of cattle, horses, mules, and hogs, requiring huge acreage of farming and grazing lands for feed purposes. W. A. Brooks reports that he assisted at one time in fencing two large tracts of grazing land, one consisting of ten square miles and the other five square miles.” These tracts alone totaled seventy thousand acres. Lewis McDonald, a Ponca Indian, who was employed by the Millers for several years to handle the Indian leases, estimates that the 101 Ranch controlled at one time or another as much as ninety thousand acres of leases, including the preferential leases.18 Colonel Zack T. Miller states that approximately eighty thousand acres of Indian land was subject to lease and that the 101 Ranch always held large acreages for farming and grazing purposes. In the early days practically all of the Ponca and Otoe reservations were under lease.19 Many printed sources give 110,000 acres as the total acreage of the 101 Ranch.20 The 17,492.31 acres of deeded land subtracted from that amount leaves approximately 92,500 acres of lease lands. The differences in these estimates are due, no doubt, to the fact that they are based on different periods in the history of the 101 Ranch. There seems no question that the 101 Ranch included a large acreage of Indian leases for farming and grazing purposes and that the total varied from time to time as a result of the Indians selling or farming their land as the country opened up to settlement.
The lands of the 101 Ranch, then made up a veritable agricultural and livestock kingdom. They embraced an approximate total of 110,000 acres that sprawled like patchwork over the Oklahoma plains in Kay, Noble, Osage, and Pawnee counties. Here is what this vast expanse included: the farming lands comprised fifteen thousand acres planted to grain and cotton crops each season, in addition to garden acreage of cabbage, onions, tomatoes, watermelons, and potatoes.21 The crop acreage usually included four thousand acres of wheat, twenty-five hundred acres in oats, five thousand acres in corn, and twenty-five hundred acres in cotton. The rest of the fifteen thousand acres of farming land was devoted to alfalfa, cane, kafir, sweet clover, and other short crops for the silos principally. The grazing and pasture lands included the remainder whereon cattle, horses, mules, and hogs roved in herds of thousands. This was fine grazing and pasture land, carpeted with a good quality of native grasses and it provided an excellent range. With the Salt Fork River providing an abundant supply of water at all times of the year, it was truly a cattleman’s paradise.

15 101 Ranch Records, December 31, 1930.
16 An exact schedule of the leased lands with preferential rights is included in the Appendix.
17 W. A. Brooks to Ellsworth Collings, April 23, 1936.
18 Lewis McDonald to Ellsworth Collings, March 6, 1936.
19 Colonel Zack T. Miller to Ellsworth Collings, December 10, 1935.
20 Thoburn and Wright, History of Oklahoma, pp. 111, 345; Literary Digest, August, 1928; Time, February 11, 1929.
21 George L. Miller to the Daily Oklahoman, February 6, 1927.


The 101 Ranch lands contained approximately 172 sections. If this amount of land were placed in a strip one mile wide, it would be 127 miles long, or nearly fifteen miles square. Necessarily, several sets of improvements were maintained, so that the employees could be near the work. The Bar L headquarters was such a place. The improvements consisted of a large ranch house for the foreman, barns and corrals, silos, blacksmith shop, and several bunk houses for the cowboys. At this place the cowboys lived throughout the year caring for the livestock and repairing fences of the ranges.
On this vast domain there were located three towns: Marland, Red Rock, and White Eagle, and three hundred miles of fences, costing $50,000 enclosed its tremendous confines.22 For twenty-two miles U. S. Highway 77 crossed these lands and is paralleled most of the way with the Santa Fe railroad, which has a station at Marland, located three and one-half miles south of the “White House.” Large warehouses and shipping pens, accommodating more than two thousand cattle at one time, were located at Marland, the shipping center, and the telephone in the central business office at the headquarters connected with every foreman on the ranch, over thirty-five miles of private wire, and long distance service with cities throughout Oklahoma and the nation. Mail was delivered from Mar-land to and fro by mounted carriers detailed at all times for this purpose. The 101 Ranch, replete in every way, was truly an empire within itself—the dream of its founder.

22 101 Ranch Records, December 31, 1930.





THE YELLOW BACKS


HE first trip into Texas in 1871 revealed to Colonel George W. Miller the opportunity to engage in the cattle business on a big scale. Texas was the grazing grounds for countless thousands of cattle. For these immense herds there was virtually no market and stock cattle on the range only brought from one to two dollars a head and three to four dollars was the top price for selected mature animals.1 At that very same time round steak was selling in New York at twenty-five cents a pound and cattle on foot in eastern cities at five dollars to ten dollars per hundredweight.2 Such difference in prices is easily understood when it is remembered that no railroads then extended from the markets to the widespread ranges of Texas.
Peculiarly favorable conditions of the Indian Territory country made it excellent feeding grounds for fattening cattle for the northern markets. The land was within a few miles of railroad yards, and could be leased from the Indians and the government for a very small sum. The native grasses that covered the range for hundreds of miles flourished in abundance and were as nourishing in the winter as in the summer; also there was an ample supply of water. The winters were mild and the summers long and not a fence stood in all the vast country to prevent the herds from grazing at will until the round-up—it was cattle country.
Colonel Miller was familiar with the southern cattle market and quickly grasped the possibilities of developing a cattle business by driving the Texas cattle up the trail to the ranges of Indian Territory, fattening the herds on the native grasses for the northern markets. From the time he drove the first herd of “yellow backs”3 up the trail from Texas in 1871 to the business panic in 1893, Colonel Miller engaged in the cattle business on a vast scale. For twenty-two years his ranch was a cattle ranch and his business exclusively was cattle.

1 Edward Everett Dale, The Range Cattle Industry, p. 30.
2 Edward Everett Dale, “The Passing of the Cattle Industry in Oklahoma,” The Cattleman, November, 1924, pp. 9-17.
3 Because of the yellowish color of Texas longhorns, they were familiarly known as “yellow backs” among the cattlemen.


Colonel Miller’s trail herds ranged in number from 1,000 to 1,500 and were driven up a day’s journey apart in order to insure adequate water and grass and to avoid stampedes. The total number of trail cattle handled each year was numbered in the thousands.4 During one year the total reached 25,000, many of which were loaded at Hunnewell, Kansas, for the market.5 The task of getting these herds from Texas to his ranch in the Indian Territory was one which involved both skill and daring. Only men of unflinching courage and quick movement could succeed in handling the wild cattle. The Texas steer was no respecter of unmounted cowboys, but for the man on horseback he had a wholesome fear. Separately, neither man nor horse had any more chance in the herd, fresh from the open range, than among so many wolves. With their long, sharp-pointed horns these steers rent man or horse with ease and the fights among themselves had all the ferociousness of wild beasts of the jungles.
It usually required about three months for Colonel Miller to drive a herd from Texas to his ranch in the Indian Territory. There were swollen streams to swim, wild runs of cattle to check, bandits or Indians to face, and hardships to endure such as drives all day in the rain and mud, snatches of sleep on the wet ground, tired or sore-footed horses to care for, and bad foods or none at all if brush and wood were soaked with rain. Spring was the usual starting time and May, June, July, August, and September found Colonel Miller on the trail. Once the road-branding was over at the ranches in Texas the cattle were herded into a ragged column and headed northward.6 The orderly manner in which the herd took its way across the plains was remarkable. A herd of a thousand cattle would string out to a length of two miles, and a larger one still longer. At the start there was hard driving, twenty to thirty miles a day, until the cattle were thoroughly wearied. After that twelve to fifteen miles was considered a good day’s drive. The daily program was as regular as that of a regiment on the march.

4 Hugo Milde to Ellsworth Collings, March 4, 1936.
5 Kansas City Star, April 27, 1903.
6 The herd always included cattle of several brands from different ranches and, for that reason, a common brand—a road brand—was needed to prevent confusion.


During the early part of the morning, the herd was “drifted” with little pushing, grazing as it went. By mid-morning, the cowboys urged the cattle closer together and two riders at each side “pointed” the lead steers at a rapid pace while the “swing riders” behind them pushed in the flanks of the herd. Just behind the cattle rode the “tail riders” to keep in the herd the lame and stupid cattle. With the approach of noon, the attention of the cattle turned again to the grass about them, and the “swing riders” had to keep in constant gallop to hold the steers from turning out to graze on the margin of the trail.7
The cook went ahead to locate the noon camp at some spot about half a mile from the trail so the cattle would have fresh grass for the hour’s grazing. By the time the herd reached the camp, the flap-board on the chuck wagon had been let down and a cold lunch was ready for the cowboys. The cattle by this time were uneasy and were turned again into the trail and walked steadily forward until early twilight, when they were halted for another graze. As darkness came on, they were gathered closer and closer into a compact mass by the cowboys riding steadily in constantly lessening circles around them, until at last they lay down, chewing their cuds and resting from the day’s trip. Near midnight they usually got up, stood awhile, and then lay down again, having changed sides. Care was always necessary at this time of night to keep them from wandering off into the darkness. The cowboys sitting on their ponies or riding slowly around and around the reclining cattle, passed the night on sentinel duty, relieving one another at stated intervals. As each rode his arc of the circle about the resting herd, the slow, deep-sounded notes of old songs quieted the cattle and helped the herder to stay awake. A cowboy did not dare let drowsiness overtake him for the cattle did not always lie quietly. Startled by some trifle, the sound of a cracking stick, a flash of lightning, the restlessness of some steer, every head was lifted, and the mass of hair and horns, with fierce, frightened eyes, was off.

7 Oscar Brewster, old time cowboy on the 101 Ranch, to Ellsworth Collings, July 24, 1936.

Charles W. Hannah describes such an instance on the ranges of the 101 Ranch during the early nineties. “The 101 cattle,” says Mr. Hannah, “were peacefully grazing over a wide area when a wagon and horses driven by a man came along through our herd. Under the wagon trotted a small black dog. Some of the unruly longhorn steers, observing the moving wagon, had their curiosity aroused and played alongside of the wagon, now and then getting rather close to the horses. The man, fearing the steers would hook his horses, set his small black dog on them. The steers, naturally wild, became frightened at the dog and ran at top speed out across the prairie, stumbling over a ’sleeper.’ The calf jumped up, bawled loudly and started to run. Everything in sight became frightened and, believe me, the stampede was on in a few minutes.”8
With the first sounds of the stampede the cowboys awoke, mounted their horses they had staked nearby, and rode out to help the night herders in the attempt to break the flight. Getting on one side of the leaders the effort of the riders was to turn them, a little at first, then more and more, until the circumference of a great circle was described. The cattle behind blindly followed, and soon the front and rear joined and “milling” commenced. Round and round the bewildered cattle would race until they were wearied or recovered from their fright. To stop the useless churning and to guard against another wild rush, the cowboys would sing in unison some familiar ballad. It did not matter what they sang so long as there was music to it, and it was not unusual to hear a cowboy begin with “Whoop!” and continue with variations that might have been adopted from a Comanche war yell.
A stampede meant a loss, and Colonel Miller always made a hasty inventory.9 A sudden swerve of the stampeding cattle might crush to death a cowboy and his horse. A stumbling steer would be tramped on by those behind him and some might be gored by the long horns of those they brushed against. If the riders failed to check the herd and hold it in a mass it might become widely scattered, requiring a delay of days while the remnants were gathered. Another danger was the marauding Indians, who were always feared, and many skirmishes occurred between them and Colonel Miller. An understanding with the chiefs, however, was usually sufficient to insure safety.

8 Charles W. Hannah, old time cowboy on the 101 Ranch, to Ellsworth Collings, July 20, 1936.
9 John Hiatt, old time cowboy on the 101 Ranch, to Ellsworth Collings, September 7, 1936.


Stampedes and Indians were not all the troubles encountered on the trail. Crossing the herd over a swollen stream was a danger escaped only during late summer. The “lead-cattle” instantly feared muddy and swift currents of water and the “point-riders” had hard work to urge them on. Sometimes these cowboys would force their own horses out into the swollen stream to convince the cattle that there was no danger. Once the “lead-cattle” were out to their swimming depth, they usually went on to the opposite bank with the remainder of the herd following. If the leaders became alarmed at the swiftness of the current, they might “mill” in a mad circle, soon becoming a struggling mass as other cattle followed. Then came dangerous work for the cowboys. The cattle in the rear had to be checked immediately, and a “point-rider” had to force his horse into the midst of the panic-stricken cattle, break the mill, and compel some of the cattle to lead off in swimming for the shore. It often required several days to cross a herd over a flooded stream, and as sometimes it rained during all of the time the cowboys didn’t get much sleep since they had to stay with the cattle day and night.
Thus accompanied by incidents along the trail that brought into play all the strength and strategy of Colonel Miller and his cowboys, the herd moved on to the ranges of his ranch in the Indian Territory. Reaching the outskirts of the ranch, the cattle were turned loose on the range and allowed to grow and fatten for the markets. Cow camps were built at convenient places, from which the cowboys constantly kept on the outlook for prairie fires, watched closely for cattle thieves, visited the water holes, and guarded in every way the interests of their employer. Later when fences enclosed Colonel Miller’s range, these cowboys rode the fences in order to keep them in good repair. Several times during the year these camps were visited by a wagon from headquarters bringing bacon, flour, sugar, coffee, beans, and dried fruits.10 The life of these cowboys on the range was lonely, but the work not especially hard when compared with the work on the trails.

10 Charles Orr, old time cowboy on the 101 Ranch, to Ellsworth Collings, September 6, 1936.

Cattle were always real companions to the cowboys who were doing herd duty through long hours on the range. On a cool, fresh morning the cattle seemed as reluctant to leave their own warm beds on the ground as the cowboys had been to leave their blankets in early morning hours to go on herd duty. The night herders would come in to eat the morning meal and would report “all quiet” to the cowboy at the camp. This was the cue for him to ride forth in early morning light to hunt up the cattle bedded down on the range. When in sight of the herd, he would start singing, continuing until he was riding through the herd as it lay on the ground. While on herd duty, he would usually sit on his pony with one leg over the saddle horn. His body was hunched forward with arms often crossed on his bent knee, leisurely rolling a cigarette. His pony grazed at will while the cattle scattered over a wide area feeding peacefully on the native grasses.
Nothing was more essential to Colonel Miller’s cattle business than the cowboys. Approximately fifty were permanently employed on the 101 Ranch at all times. They were true knights of the plains, inured to the hardships of the range. They wore wide-brimmed hats, handkerchiefs around their necks, chaps on their legs, and high-heeled boots. The broad-brimmed hat protected the face from the biting particles of ice in a driving blizzard or from the glare and heat of the sun. The loose handkerchief served as an efficient dust screen when riding behind the herd. Chaps protected the legs from injury from cold and rain. High heels on the boots kept the feet from slipping through the stirrups and provided a brace on the ground when an unruly horse was pulling on the other end of the rope. They could do on horseback anything an ordinary man can do afoot. They could make their cow pony dance, pick up the smallest article from the ground at full speed, and with unerring aim lasso a steer fleeing for dear life.11
No adjunct was more necessary in all phases of the cowboy’S work than the cow pony. About one hundred were used on the 101 Ranch. These ponies knew the needs and methods of handling cattle as thoroughly as the riders who sat astride their backs. Without them, the cattle business on the Ranch could not have been carried on successfully, for steers could not have been captured, “cut-out,” tied, branded, penned, or shipped.12

11 John Hiatt to Ellsworth Collings, September 7, 1936.
12 Charles Orr to Ellsworth Collings, September 6, 1936.


So familiar were these ponies with the method of pursuit and capture of a running steer, that the guiding hand of the rider was not required. They followed the steer in every turn and brought the cowboy speedily to the most advantageous position for casting his lasso. And when the rope encircled the horns or neck, the ponies understood how best to withstand the physical shock as it grew taut. If the animal was to be tied, they knew the rope must not slaken, for the steer, thrown headlong on the abruptness of its halt, was held prostrate only by the rigid line.
In moving among a herd of cattle these ponies were taught to proceed with furtive movement, for unwonted activity on their part would cause a stampede. If the rider had singled out an individual steer that he wished to “cut-out,” the cow pony comprehended instantly the purpose, quietly forced the animal to the outer limits of the herd and then, the danger of commotion over, no longer withheld speed.
The cow ponies would ford or swim a river without hesitation, and seemed to know and avoid quicksand by intuition. They could traverse tracts riddled with prairie dog and gopher holes without once being entrapped. No night was dark enough to hide from their eyes the presence of a wire fence. The rider might never have suspected that strands had been stretched in his path, but the cow ponies always stopped in safety, no matter how fast the gallop. Little wonder, then, that the Millers maintained at all times a permanent staff of cowboys and many cow ponies.
When the skies were clear and the air bracing, the task of herding the cattle on Colonel Miller’s range was a pleasant one for the cowboys. But there came stormy days on the great prairies when the cattle were restless and when it was anything but enjoyable to ride through the steady downpour of rain. These storms of the old prairies were unlike any in the settled communities existing today. The lightning with nothing to strike would hit the ground without entering, and gathered into great balls of fire that raced over the prairie for miles and miles bursting with terrific explosion. The flashes of lightning ripping their way from the clouds kept the cowboys and cattle helpless in one spot to be buffeted about by the tornado of wind. The sound of air as it closed in on the vacuum created by the electrical current surpassed all others and was approximated only by the shriek of the wind. The electrical display continued, in most instances, for over an hour and took a long time to die away. The start of the storm came with the suddenness of the rush of the wind, but gradually subsided from its peak of pandemonium and confusion to a peace and quiet enhanced by the purest of air on the range. Charles W. Hannah describes realistically one of these storms on the ranges of the 101 Ranch during the late fall of 1895.



“Thirty-six of us cowboys,” says Mr. Hannah, “were holding eight thousand cattle on the open ranges of the 101 Ranch in the vicinity of Red Rock during the late fall of 1895. A big blizzard hit us during the early morning hours one day, and the cattle soon began to run around in a wide circle. We worked all day without rest and food doing our best to keep the herd scattered, for we all knew if the leaders ever got bunched the jig would be up. The cattle were of the mixed longhorn type and, believe me, they sure were plenty wild and unruly, especially during stormy weather. At that time we had no barbed-wire fences and they roamed as they pleased over almost the whole Ponca and Otoe reservations.
“At the height of the storm along late in the afternoon, the mass of milling animals moved about in circles not knowing which way to go. The blinding snow and the biting north wind added to the bellowing of the frightened steers soon brought bedlam and confusion. The crooning songs of the cowboys ceased when they could no longer be heard, but we were still there on the job just the same. “About seven in the evening the herd broke in the center, and with tails out and extending themselves at fullest speed they ran in a great mad mass. The stampede of unreasoning terror was on, and they ran with the storm for more than twenty-five miles. Recklessly, blindly, in whatever direction fancy led them, over a bluff or into a morass, it mattered not, and fast were the horses that could keep ahead of the leaders. As the fury of the storm abated, along about midnight, the roar of the herd was the dominant sound. For some time they ran until they tired and slowed down in the early morning hours. Then we rode close to the leaders and by standing in front of them, turned the direct line of travel into a curve. Soon the unruly herd was running in a big circle, then a close mass of milling animals, and the stampede was over about eight that morning.
“The sun soon broke through the clouds in the east and the air was clear and warm as the cold wind slowed down at our backs. All was peace again and the cattle soon fell to feeding about them. As was always the practice of Colonel Miller, we made a hasty inventory. The cowboys all came through alive, but believe me, I was frozen to the bone that morning. We had been in the saddle all night doing our best to turn the leaders of eight thousand frightened cattle. Several times during the night I rubbed my eyes with fresh chewed tobacco to keep from failing asleep. A count of the cattle revealed eight hundred dead as a result of the stampede.”13
To care for, tally, and market the cattle, Colonel Miller held two round-ups each season. As was a long established custom, he was usually assisted by a combination of ranchers in the locality. The spring or calf round-up was conducted in the spring or early summer, after the season’s calves were born, and on this occasion all the unbranded calves were branded with the mark of each outfit taking part. In the fall another was held, known as the beef round-up, at which time the fat beef steers were herded for sale and shipment.14
The calf round-up began when the grass came in the spring. A round-up boss, some experienced and respected cowman, was chosen at a meeting of the ranchmen prior to the round-up. Each of these cattlemen furnished cowboys and assumed a share of the expenses in proportion to the number of cattle he owned. A few days before the date set, the outfits would begin to assemble at some agreed place, and each one consisted of some seven or nine extra ponies for each cowboy and a chuck wagon loaded with bedding and food.

13 Charles W. Hannah to Ellsworth Collings, July 20, 1936.
14 Charles Orr to Ellsworth Collings, September 6, 1936.


As early as four in the morning the day of work would begin with the cook’s call for breakfast. The cook’s fire blazed near the chuck wagon, and a very few minutes after the call the cowboys would be gathered about, each of them with a tin plate, on which the cook slapped meat and hot biscuits and a tin cup that he filled with steaming coffee.
Oscar Brewster, famous chef in Colonel Miller’s camps, claims to have broken the open prairie record, in 1890 when he cooked three meals daily for from forty-five to eighty-five men for a period of twenty-one days, when Colonel Miller was having his annual round-up. During that time three wagons, with sideboards on, loaded with groceries and provisions, were hauled out of Hunnewell, Kansas (then an outfitting point) to Miller’s camps.
“There were three divisions of the general round-up in 1890,” says Brewster in telling of this occasion. “They were known as the eastern, southwestern, and western. The eastern division included the ranges of the 101 Ranch from the Rock Island Railroad to the Arkansas River, and the captain of this division was Colonel Joe Miller, at that time a young man. There were two or three chuck wagons for each division and Colonel Joe had trouble in getting cooks for his division. I assured him I could take care of his division, although I realized it would be some job cooking for eighty-five hard-working cowboys.
“We outfitted the first day of June at Hunnewell, and our chuck wagons, loaded with groceries, provisions, and bedding, were drawn by four horses across the open ranges. We drove to Bluff Creek the first night and I had forty-five men at supper. The next morning the number increased to fifty-five, and from that time on the men eating at my wagon increased daily for twenty-one days until the last day of the round-up I counted eighty-five men at my chuck wagon, stationed where Ponca City is now located.
“In following up the round-up, it was necessary to move camp each day. We kept a team of horses near-by all the time for that purpose. After breakfast each day we would break up and pull the wagon to the next location, and then I would get the noon day meal, many times without taking time to unhitch the horses from the wagon. Five full loads, with double sideboards of groceries and provisions, were brought to my chuck wagon, and every day for twenty-one days I cooked a calf or yearling in addition. Breakfast was cooked in Dutch ovens, buried in long trenches, and the meals were never late, always on time. We had hot biscuits three times a day. Imagine cooking hot biscuits three times a day for twenty-one days for eighty-five men! Our division rounded up twenty-eight thousand cattle that year, and Colonel Joe Miller was the best round-up boss I ever worked for during all my time on the ranges.”15
Eating breakfast hurriedly, each cowboy roped and saddled his horse from the remuda, which had been driven up to camp as a signal that there was no time to waste in eating. As the cowboys rode away over the prairie for the lurking-places of the cattle, they spread out, breaking up into small groups of “circle riders.”
“Oftentimes the cowboys,” says Charles W. Hannah, “would ride at full speed along both sides of high elevations waving their yellow slickers frantically at the cattle grazing below them. This would frighten the cattle and, being naturally wild, they would run together and make it easier for the cowboys to round them up for branding. This practice was strictly forbidden by the round-up boss since it made the cattle wilder and often started stampedes. One season the boss would not permit us to use yellow slickers for fear, as we had often done, we would use them in rounding-up the cattle. He supplied us with black ones.”16
Creeks, shady canyons, and arroyos were searched carefully and after many a chase with unruly calves or sullen steers, a round-up of several hundred cattle was formed near the camp. Around this dusty, milling herd, the cowboys rode to drive back the cattle that turned to dash out from the edges.
Usually four cowboys held the constantly moving cattle, while four others rode through them “culling out” the cows and calves of the 101 outfit. Those cowboys culling turned these cattle over to four other cowboys, who drove them away several hundred yards to another herd, constantly growing and known as “the cut,” which was held intact by two or three more cowboys. Not far from them the branding fire for the 101 irons was being prepared.

15 Oscar Brewster to Ellsworth Collings, July 21, 1936.
16 Charles W. Hannah to Ellsworth Collings, July 20, 1936.


A cowboy would quietly turn his pony into the herd, mark a cow, work her with her calf out of the herd. Immediately the roper cast his lariat, catching the calf preferably by a hind leg, and dragging it with his horse, brought it up to the branding fire. As it came near, a cowboy would grab it, reach over its back with both arms, seize it under the throat or hind leg, give it a lift so as to swing its legs off the ground and forward and then drop upon it. The cowboy was careful to stick his right knee into its neck, and with an arm, double up and raise its upper front leg as far as possible. The calf in this position was helpless, except for its hind legs. These were cared for by another cowboy, who grabbed the upper leg as he sat down behind the calf and pulled it toward him as he pushed against the lower one with both feet. Then a third cowboy rushed up with the red-hot branding iron, burning the 101 mark on the calf’s left side while it bawled and struggled. After all the calves of the round-up had been branded the cattle were freed and allowed to roam at will on the range. Any calves that belonged to neighboring ranches were branded by the cowboys with the irons of these ranches and turned back on the range.
In the fall Colonel Miller’s round-up wagon, remuda, and cowboys would leave the ranch headquarters on the beef roundup. The range was “worked” much as it was on the spring branding round-up, except that all of the beef cattle were held in a herd, day and night, and when a sufficient number had been collected they were driven across the country to the railroad. The handling of a trail herd of beef cattle required all of Colonel Miller’s years of experience on the range, for a false move would cost his entire year’s profits. Fat steers were usually wild and would take flight at the slightest provocation. It was thus that the cowboys would have to bring every resource into action to calm them down and keep them from scattering over the range. The trail to the railroad was always made in a series of short drives, giving the fat cattle plenty of time to graze and water, so that they would be in the best condition when they arrived at the railroad. Upon arriving at the shipping center, they were driven into the stockyards, dragged or coaxed into the cars, and were sent off to meet their fate at the great packing houses. The journey up the trail had been a strange one to them and the end of the trip with close confinement in yard and car, the first they had ever known, was strangest of all.
In 1888 the Santa Fe built a railroad from Texas through the Cherokee Strip country and that marked the end of driving cattle over the trail from Texas to Oklahoma. For seventeen years, 1871-1888, Colonel Miller stocked his ranch in the Indian Territory with cattle driven up the trail from Texas. After that date the cattle were shipped over the Santa Fe Railroad. The years following saw thousands of these cattle shipped into Colonel Miller’s ranch during the spring months, fattened on the rich grass, and shipped to the central markets in late summer and early fall.17
Under favorable conditions the profits were enormous. During the early seventies, two-year-old steers cost in Texas from $3.00 to $4.00 a head and after grazing a year on the range in the Indian Territory they sold for $40.00 or $50.00 a head on the market.18 The loss, during favorable winters, was practically nothing and the expense for help amounted to only a few hundred dollars at that time. As the cattle markets extended westward, the profits were not so great, but still good. Two-year-old steers during the eighties sold in Texas for $13.00 a head and fattening on the range the market price remained about the same.19 During the nineties, these steers sold in Texas for $21.00 a head and after feeding on the range for a season they brought $37.50 a head, a gross profit of $16.50 a steer.20
Conditions for profits were not always favorable. From nine to eleven cents a bushel was paid in the early winter of 1886 for corn with which to feed a herd of cattle which Joe Miller bought on the land where the city of Tulsa now stands. The cattle were coming three-year-olds and cost $11.00 a head for the 1100 in the herd. They were rounded-up on the present site of Tulsa, counted, and driven by Miller to his father’s ranch. The corn fed to the steers that winter was bought from early day Kansas settlers and they hauled it from twelve to fifteen miles to reach the herd on the Miller ranch. Each farmer was required to hit each ear of corn over the sideboard of his wagon, thus breaking it in two pieces, thereby making the size of the pieces about right for a steer to take in his mouth. At that, the steers failed to bring a profit on the investment.21

17 Hugo Milde to Ellsworth Collings, March 5, 1936.
18 George Rainey, The Cherokee Strip, p. 127.
19 Ernest Staples Osgood, The Day of the Cattleman, p. 52.
20 Edward Everett Dale, The Cattleman, November, 1924, p. 9.
21 101 Magazine, May, 1927.


Nearly all cattlemen found it necessary to borrow considerable money to carry on their business.22 An incident occurred in this connection during the early nineties that reveals Colonel Miller’s sagacity in coping with financial situations.23 He found it necessary to borrow a sum of money from his banker. The customary practice prevailing was for the ranchman to put up cattle as collateral for loans with little or no investigation on the part of the banker as to number and kind. The reputation of the cattleman for honesty was the main consideration. Because of the risky conditions in the cattle business at that time, the president of the bank deemed it necessary to use caution in making loans, although he did not question the honesty of Colonel Miller. Accordingly, he agreed to advance the loan, provided Miller would give as collateral a sufficient number of his choice steers and stamp them with a new brand in order to designate them from the others in the herd. Although the conditions imposed were unusual, Colonel Miller accepted them without quibbling and accompanied the banker to his herd, selecting the steers that were to be branded as collateral. The banker, satisfied, returned, and Colonel Miller proceeded immediately to choose a new brand for the steers. Somewhat annoyed at the unusual terms of the loan, he ingeniously designed a brand that attracted attention rather humorously to these terms. He selected the brand “10D,” which substituted the letter “D,” initial of the banker’s first name, for the figure “1” in Colonel Miller’s “101” brand. The brand was read as “I-Owe-D” and the steers wearing it were always pointed out as the “I-Owe-D” cattle.
The business panic of 1893 was especially disastrous to Colonel Miller’s cattle business.24 A great commission house in Kansas City failed, the house that acted as agent for Colonel Miller in all his cattle transactions. He had a $300,000 credit on the books of that house, money due him for cattle sold. At one stroke this credit was wiped out entirely. In addition, notes aggregating $100,000 held by eastern banks, which the agents of this house should have paid from his credit account, had not been paid. Colonel Miller had seventeen thousand beef cattle on his ranch at that time. He was not only without money, but deeply in debt in a panic year. “The eastern bankers sent in men who took all of our cattle,” related Colonel Zack T. Miller.25 “They took everything but the cripples and the runts. When they got through, all we had left was eighty-eight old horses and a handful of cows. We were as flat as the prairie.” Without credit, his vast ranch stripped of its cattle, Colonel Miller’s cattle business was practically destroyed. He had a vast cattle range with no cattle to fatten upon its grasses and it was a panic year.
The business crisis of 1893 marked a change in Colonel Miller’s ranch, which up to that time had been a cattle range and not a farm. His business during the past twenty-two years had been exclusively cattle. The crisis demanded courage and enterprise and marked the entrance of his sons into the management of the ranch. That winter, in order to get money enough to carry them through, they sold the remaining cows to the Indians and decided to plant wheat. They had the old horses and the homesteaders had proved the fertility of the prairie land. They borrowed money enough to plant five thousand acres of wheat and to buy five hundred yearling calves. They grazed the calves on the growing wheat and the yield was seventy thousand bushels. With wheat selling on the market at a good price, they went on farming, putting in corn, alfalfa, and other crops, as well as wheat. They bought more calves to fatten, and added horses, mules, hogs, geese, ducks, and bison to their flocks. The days of the cattleman were over and the year 1894 marked the change in the 101 Ranch from a cattle range to a diversified farm.

22 Edward Everett Dale, “The Passing of the Cattle Industry in Oklahoma,” The Cattleman, November, 1924.
23 W. A. Brooks to Ellsworth Collings, March 6, 1936.
24 Time, February 11, 1929, p. 63. 25 Colonel Zack T. Miller to Charles Lane Callen, American Magazine, July, 1928.


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