only was the 101 Ranch concerned with the production of raw
materials but in the manufacture and
marketing of them. Especially was this true of agricultural,
livestock, dairy, poultry, and fruit products, as well as in great
measure in the oil operations of the ranch. Everything grown or
produced was utilized in some practical way. Cattle and hogs from the
farm were slaughtered in the packing plant and the hides tanned and
converted into all kinds of leather goods. Fruit from the orchards
was sent to the preserving plant. Grain and other farm crops
were stored or sold to the people of the neighborhood, to the
employees of the ranch, and to the markets of Marland and of Ponca
ranch produced virtually every kind of raw product—wheat
and corn, cattle and horses, hogs and chickens, alfalfa and kafir,
fruit and vegetables, buffalo and elephants, camels and longhorns,
ostriches and peacocks, work mules and cow ponies; the bizarre and
the common. Almost in the shadow of the White House loomed the many
derricks denoting production of oil.
meat packing industry was perhaps the major one on the
ranch. Here, in the packing plant, were employed all the modern
processes of slaughtering, packing and distributing meat products. It
had a capacity daily of a hundred hogs and fifty cattle.1
huge cold storage and cooling rooms for the proper handling of the
meats. The surplus hogs and cattle were slaughtered in the plant and
the sugar-cured hams and home cured meats were sold in large
quantities. During 1926
twelve thousand hogs and five thousand cattle were handled through
The meat products were sold and delivered by refrigerated trucks
within a radius of one hundred miles of the ranch. The plant made a
superior grade of ham, cured
the old-fashioned way—dry cured—that had a wide reputation
over the entire Southwest.
1 101 Ranch Records, 1925.
2 Rock Island Magazine, November, 1926.
the annual sales best indicate the volume of the packing plant
production. From 1925 to 1930 the gross income from sales amounted to
$877,263.74, distributed annually as follows: 1925, $111,696.60;
1926, $167,967.19; 1927, $158,945.93; 1928, $228,685.25; and
These figures reveal the magnitude of this industry. The average
annual income from this industry exceeded $175,000. While the
production varied from year to year, the income from the sales
amounted to large sums each year for the entire period.4
constancy of income indicates that the packing plant was an important
part of the cattle and hog business on the 101 Ranch, since it
utilized only cattle and hogs raised on the ranch.
after establishing the packing plant, a large quantity of raw hides
accumulated. Since the price offered for them by the tanners seemed
to be ridiculously low when compared with the price of finished
hides, the Miller brothers built a large tannery close to the packing
house. Soon after it was established, however, a cyclone swept
it away—leaving only the foundation. A second tannery was
immediately built at a cost of $60,000,5
and operated for only a short time when it, too, was destroyed—this
time by fire. But with indomitable persistence the Miller
brothers began construction of a third tannery the next morning.
In a few weeks the vats and boilers were installed, and raw hides by
the hundreds began moving through the tanning process that converted
them into leather.
the Miller brothers experienced another difficulty. Tanned hides,
which had been selling regularly at fifty cents a pound, dropped to
three cents a pound, a price much less than the cost of tanning. How
this situation was met is described in these lines :
Not these brothers. Away down in Austin, Texas, a wholesale
harness house went bankrupt. The news was carried to Zack Miller as a
passing bit of gossip. He took the next
train to Austin and bought the bankrupt business, lock, stock, and
barrel. To friends, the act seemed little short of insanity.
3 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
4 The five year period, 1925-1930, was selected because it represents a normal period of the packing plant business and for that reason reveals the extent of this phase of the 101 Ranch.
5 Literary Digest, August 4, 1928.
got a tannery on hand that’s losing money,’ they argued. ‘Now
you up and buy a harness house that experienced harness men
couldn’t make go. You’ve gone loco.’
that way, sure enough,’ agreed Zack, and began to move the
harness-making equipment of the bankrupt business
up from Austin to the tannery, which was jammed with unsold hides.
There, on the second floor, he set up a harness shop.
he brought from Austin employees of the smashed concern who were
skilled in the art of harness-making. He showed them the stacks of
finished hides. ‘Go ahead,’ he directed, ‘and turn this stuff
into saddles and sets of harness.’
cowboy is particular about his saddle. He likes it to be the best
that he can buy. Zack Miller had his Austin workmen turn
out saddles to order; he had them turn out work harness. Men came in
from more than a hundred miles distance to get saddles made, and they
went home with harness, hams, bacon, flour, all their conveyances
harness and saddle shop manufactured every article of every
description made and sold in a modern leather shop. Besides
plain and fancy saddles, the shop made light and heavy harness
of many kinds, bridles, halters, rawhide ropes, whips, buffalo and
cattle robes, rugs, fur and leather coats, fancy pocket
books, suit cases, traveling grips. From 1928 to 1930, the
gross income from this source amounted to $22,303.40, distributed
annually as follows: 1925, $14,869.94; 1926, $3,532.46;
1927, $1,990.82; 1928, $1,150; and 1929, $760.18. These figures
indicate the average annual income from this industry was around
101 Ranch dairy was considered the last word in the dairy industry. A
modern dairy barn and creamery were built at
a cost of $30,000 to house the five hundred registered Holstein
cows and to take care of the dairy products. In connection with
the dairy there was a modern ice cream plant, cold storage
and cooling rooms for the proper handling of the dairy products. The
dairy was capable of taking care of the milk from
five hundred cows, the cows being milked by electricity. The milk was
made into huge quantities of butter, ice cream, and cottage cheese.
The dairy products were sold and delivered by refrigerated trucks for
miles around the ranch, including the merchants at Marland and Ponca
City. The dairy had, in addition, a large shipping trade in butter,
ice cream, and cheese.
6 American Magazine, July, 1928.
gross income from the dairy sales for the five year period,
1925-1930, totaled $116,554.42, distributed annually as follows:
1925, $18,488.01; 1926, $52,360.41; 1927, $13,820.63; 1928,
$26,359.60; and 1929, $2,436.52.7
These figures reveal the average annual income exceeded $23,000.
While the income varied from year to year, the sales never failed to
yield an appreciable sum each year.
first oil brought in on the 101 Ranch was on the north edge of the
ranch about two miles northeast of the “White House.” These
wells, several in number, produced sufficient oil for the Millers to
have an oil refinery of their own at the ranch headquarters. This
refinery made one hundred barrels of gasoline daily. The gasoline was
sold at the ranch filling station. Large quantities of kerosene and
fuel oil sufficient to supply ranch needs were made from the crude
oil produced on the ranch.
sales of oil products manufactured and sold on the 101 Ranch amounted
to a considerable sum annually. From 1925 to 1930, the sales of the
refinery totaled $96,566.17, distributed annually as follows: 1925,
$15,589.18; 1926, $29,090.73; 1927, $20,439.62; 1928, $17,662.18; and
1929, $13,784.46. For the same period, the sales of the filling
station totaled $86,349.95, distributed annually as follows: 1925,
$5,120.31; 1926, $25,660.83; 1927, $20,991.83; 1928, $18,837.12; and
1929, $15,739.86. The average annual income from these sources
combined was approximately $35,000.
Miller brothers were among the first to produce moving pictures.
Pathe serial, was produced on the 101 Ranch. It was directed by
Robert F. Hill from the scenario of J. F. Nattiford. The story
combined all the elements of the wild west and circus life. It
necessitated the use of an extensive
ranch where there was plenty of room for a stranded tent show to take
refuge. It also required the use of trained animals, keepers, trainers, wagons, and all other circus paraphernalia. The 101 Ranch had all these, since it was the winter quarters for the 101 Ranch show. The Wild West
spent three months on the ranch producing the picture.
7 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
Jack Mulhall and Helen Ferguson were such celebrities of the show
world as Nowata Slim Richardson, world’s
champion bucking horse rider, and Buck Lucas, world’s champion
bulldogger. There were nine hundred people on the 101 Ranch during
the filming of the picture.
performances in roping, trick riding, bronc riding, and bulldogging
for the picture were staged in the 101 Ranch rodeo grounds.
Ten trick ropers performed all at once; fifteen trick riders
swooped back and forth in acts of skill and daring; dozens of
fighting broncos were ridden at the same time. Cowboys leaped
from racing horses upon the horns of maddened steers and wrestled
them to the ground. Wild, rangy steers were run down, roped, and
hog-tied in from twenty to thirty seconds.
misfortunes, delays, and obstacles in making moving pictures were
numerous. “In filming Trail Dust
the 101Ranch,” says Gordon Hines, “a star actress was seriously injured
two days before the camera work began, thus delaying the company
until a substitute could be found and properly costumed.
The western village, built on the bare prairie, was blown
down three times by fierce Oklahoma winds, and cloudy weather delayed
shooting day after day, with each day running
up another twelve hundred dollar item against the production
cost. Multitudes of small, disagreeable things happened to harass the
producers and to add to their heavy expense, but perseverance
won and Trail Dust
finally in the box and ready for the most tedious work of all—cutting
and final titling.
a director’s disappointment when he has worked for two days to get a
satisfactory scene of the very temperamental
buffaloes in a wild stampede, only to find, after the film had gone
through the laboratory, that a slight detail completely spoils the
scene and that it must be retaken.
the buffalo stampede was shot for Trail Dust
hero and heroine, carefully timing their action, scampered into the
branches of a fallen tree barely in time to avoid the onrushing
horde of buffalo. The hero, a trifle slow, was seen by a
giant bull and charged before he could reach a point of safety. The
bull barely missed him, knocking him to the ground and breaking his
would have been a great scene, with a wonderful punch and thrill, but
a cowboy, noticing the plight of the leading man and fearing for his
safety, rode into the background toward the fallen man. Noticing that
the bull had gone on with the herd, he beat a hasty retreat out of
the picture and his riding in had not been noticed in the excitement.
scene depicts the plight of a man and girl who, alone in the
wilderness and unarmed, are charged by the buffalo herd. The cowboy
in the background destroyed the entire effect and another
tedious ‘retake’ was necessary—and it took three days this time.
timers, residents of Oklahoma since the ‘run,’ have been especially
interested in the naturalness, the trueness of life, of the wagon
train, or ‘boomer’ scenes, in Trail Dust
a sequence produced in Hollywood would be made with professional
extra people, who try to act all over the place. The director of the
picture has no other word but luck to explain his being able to go
out on the main highway, near the ranch, and find thirty wagons of
modern ‘boomer’—folks from the good old state of Arkansas, who had
bundled up their kids and their dogs and their cows and started out
to make the harvest fields. These people spend their winters at
permanent homes, but the first call of the robin finds them hitting
the open road for another summer in the great outdoors.
one scene an aged woman, who said she was past eighty, drove a
spirited mule team down a steep embankment, a pipe drawing with a
gurgling noise hung from a corner of her mouth. She insisted that she
was ‘as good a camp-hand as any man.’
family, in three generations, occupied two wagons, the younger
couple being the proud parents of a bright baby girl who had been
born in the wagon early in the spring. Their genuine happiness and
contentment with their mode of living stamped them as true
descendants of pioneer stock. True, they may not be ‘successful’ as
the world regards the matter, but, if you’d ask them, they’d
tell you that they were certainly successful, because they had
found happiness and freedom in the great outdoors.
real, human ‘boomer’ folks, living their lives naturally, are
transferred to the screen in Trail Dust
old timers’ hearts ‘warm’ to them because they are real folks—not
old time Cheyenne and Arapahoe bucks lived over their raiding,
pillaging days of years ago and the younger braves felt the strange,
strong call of heredity when they rode, shrieking madly, down the
street of the burning village during the filming of Trail Dust
shadows had fallen and the blazing furnace sent hungry tongues of
flame skyward, lighting the prairies for miles around. It is not
strange that the Indians’ war whoops were a bit more blood curdling
than their forced attempts for the rodeo audiences. The excitement of
the scene awakened all their
savage instincts and, for a few moments, they were back in the days
of their strongest resistance to the white man’s on-coming—when it
seemed that the Indian might yet succeed in holding
his hunting grounds and his wild game for his own use and pleasure.
music struck up a lively dance air, shouts and laughter rang
through the large dance-hall set and the villain strode down to the
center foreground, a leering grin on his face as he thought of his
victory over the hero.
came a flash—a crash of thunder and a long roar as the heavens
opened and water poured through an unfinished roof upon the actors in
the Trail Dust
The wind increased its fury, the camera stopped grinding and,
without a word from anyone, all scampered toward the company’s hotel,
where there was shelter and warmth.
actors and extra people had barely reached a point of safety when the
Oklahoma twister struck and crashed the unfinished concrete wall
of the new studio building in upon the set which but a moment before
had held dozens of people.
thousand dollars worth of high-powered electric lighting equipment
was buried by the concrete blocks, which by a strange trick of fate,
piled up around and over the lights in such a manner as to leave
every big arc and dome un-scathed.”8
8 101 Ranch Magazine, March, 1925.
Miller brothers of the 101 Ranch produced the first pictures at
Hollywood and had the first set-up on that now famous ground.9
had made some pictures on the ranch, using their wild west show
people and equipment, and then decided to winter in Los Angeles,
where the weather was better suited for picture making. As a result,
they wintered there for a number of years and their outfit was used
A. Brooks of the 101 Ranch, a cousin of the Miller brothers, was
their first director, and among the people who helped him and
participated with him were many of those who became prominent in the
industry. Tom Mix, Helen Gibson, Mabel Normand, Neal Hart, Hoot
Gibson, and many others began their careers with the 101 Ranch group.
her picture Suzanne
Normand did a number of good horseback stunts, showing that she was
an equestrienne of experience, yet so far as her horsemanship was
concerned, she was a product of the 101 Ranch pictures. The first
lesson she ever received in horseback riding was from Will Brooks,
who helped her mount the first horse she ever rode.
was difficult to feed the hundreds of actors at luncheon time, while
out on location. Brooks solved the problem and introduced a
stunt that is still used frequently. He fed them by placing in paper
sacks the noonday lunches, consisting of sandwiches, cakes and
fruit. Each sack would contain the same kind and amount of food.
These were placed conveniently, and when time for lunch came the
people lined up and marched by, each taking a sack. Water, coffee and
milk were available for those who might want different drinks.
plan worked fine,” says W. A. Brooks. “In the line would be
cowboys and Indians, and also all the other people, together with Tom
Ince and various producers, and in this way we fed them all quickly
and satisfactorily. It put everybody on an equal basis and the thing
went over big. This method was later adopted by many of the big
101 Ranch operated a large general store. It was the mercantile
center in northern Oklahoma for a number of years. Originally started
as a supply place for their large number of employees,
the Millers eventually expanded until the store became a supply
center for fifty miles around.
9 W. A. Brooks to Ellsworth Collings, April 10, 1936.
10 Daily Oklahoman, September 26, 1926.
was a combined department store, which handled also ranch products of
all kinds, and Indian store, operating somewhat
as an old time trading post. The sales exceeded an average of
$84,000 annually. From 1925 to 1930, the gross income totaled
$420,994.53, distributed as follows: 1925, $114,363.70; 1926,
$98,289.19; 1927, $83,106.66; 1928, $67,553.97; and 1929,
Ranch café developed from the old “ranch chuck house”
where the cowboys answered the call, “come ’nd get it,” to
a restaurant modern in every respect. The café was well furnished,
pleasingly designed and tastefully decorated. The café chefs
prepared delicious meals, and every article of food, with the
exception of olives, sugar, and coffee, was produced right on the
care of this modern café, which supplanted the old time chuck table
on the ranch, was a big job and there was a well
trained staff in charge. They drew their supplies from the big
storage plants of the ranch which were filled with potatoes, fresh
meats, vegetables, apples, and other articles of food. In addition
to providing meals for ranch employees, the café served
meals daily to hundreds of visitors. Ordinarily, when there were no
guests to remain for more than a day or two, the White
House kitchen was not used but all would go to the café for their
meals. The income from this source amounted in 1927 to $12,632.47.
modern laundry was operated by the Miller brothers. It was equipped
with modern machinery and did all the laundry work
of the ranch, including that for its employees. In addition,
it served the needs of the surrounding country, the income
amounting to an appreciable sum annually. From 1925 to
1930, the receipts totaled $6,078.54, distributed annually as
follows: 1925, $1,070.56; 1926, $1,620.78; 1927, $1,973.06; 1928,
$1,114.12; and 1929, $300.12
special building was erected and equipped for the cider and canning
industry. Approximately two hundred barrels of cider were
manufactured each fall. All of the cider was pasteurized,
thus keeping it sweet and making it possible to market at any time.
Several thousand pounds of apple butter and jelly were manufactured
After the cider was made the pomace was placed in barrels and held in
water overnight, then run through the press again—from this the
jelly was made. On each original package of apple butter was the
following guarantee: “This apple butter is guaranteed to keep
all winter, if you can keep the children away from it.”
ranch had its own machine, blacksmith, woodwork, and repair shop. The
shop was equipped with all the power machinery and tools needed
in these lines of work. Two blacksmiths were kept busy shoeing
horses and repairing farm machinery. In addition to the ranch
work, the shop served the needs of the farmers of the surrounding
was a complete ice plant with a capacity of ten tons daily maintained
on the ranch. The plant provided ice for the ranch and its employees
as well as the farmers of the community. Three large cold
storage plants were provided for the proper handling of the meats and
perishable products of the ranch. The ranch had its own electric
light plant, system of waterworks, and general power plant.
one of the most interesting industries was the novelty factory.
All kinds of Indian rugs, beaded belts and clothing, drums, bows
and arrows, silver jewelry, etc., were manufactured in this
factory by Indians employed by the Miller brothers. In addition, a
large assortment of souvenir leather goods, such as cowboy belts,
boys’ chaps and vests were manufactured and sold along with the
Indian articles at the ranch store, which also conducted a large
wholesale trade in these articles.
a great variety of products were manufactured and sold on the 101
Ranch, ranging from petroleum to Indian drums, the principal
income-producing industries were the packing plant, harness and
saddle shop, dairy, refinery, filling station, laundry, and store.
Many moving pictures were produced but no records showing the
income from this source are available. The following table indicates
the gross incomes from these industries for the five year period,
11 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
12 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
13 Daily Oklahoman, February 6, 1927.
14 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
ANNUAL SALES OF PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED AND SOLD ON THE 101 RANCH FOR THE FIVE YEAR PERIOD, 1925-1930
||ANNUAL SALES OF INDUSTRIES
figures reveal some interesting facts with reference to products
manufactured and sold on the ranch. In the first place, they indicate
that the gross income from the industries alone amounted to
$1,623,019.48 for the five year period, 19251930. The annual
income from this source exceeded $324,000. In the second place, the
figures reveal the constancy of income from this source. While the
production for each industry varied from year to year, the income
remained constant for the entire period. For example, the total
income from the packing plant for the five year period amounted to
$877,263.74, each year contributing large sums to this total.
The same is likewise true of the other industries. These facts
indicate that the manufacture and sale of products was an important
phase of the 101 Ranch.
the management of their diversified enterprises the Miller
brothers achieved financial success, but they did it by applying
business methods to the ranch operation as a whole. They applied
efficient methods toward co-ordinating the processes of
production, manufacture, and distribution, to the end that the ranch
would produce maximum financial returns as a complete unit.
special building housed the business offices of the ranch. All
documents pertaining to the various ranch enterprises were filed in
systematic order: Indian leases, accounts, records. Any paper could
be found in a moment. The telephone on the desk connected with every
foreman on the ranch—over thirty-five miles of private wire, and
conversations were frequent with the towns and cities throughout
Oklahoma and the nation by long distance service. Nor was the
business system less orderly than the appointments. Colonel Joe
attended to the farming operations and, in addition, carried on
transactions with his Indian landlords and wards. Colonel Zack
attended to the cattle, the mules, the hogs, and the horses. Colonel
George attended to the office routine and the books. But there was no
formality. Every brother took interest in all parts of the business.
Tasks were interchangeable and were distributed with fraternal good
newspapers came daily to the ranch and several magazines were taken.
These, with the constant use of the telephone, kept the ranch
office closely in touch with market conditions and
opportunities. If the price of beef, hogs, or mules went
up in Kansas City, St. Louis, or Chicago, a foreman was called up
fifteen miles away, and ordered to round up a herd and drive them
over to the railroad. The next moment the railroad was being
asked for cattle cars. The following morning the stock pulled into
the stockyards. One week Zack Miller would be out in southern
California buying up mules, and another week George Miller would
be at the New York Horse Show selling polo ponies. One day, just
before an important polo match in the east, Joe Miller received a
telegram which read: “Send five trained polo ponies by express.”
In an hour or two they were on the train. In relating this incident
he remarked: “If they had been ordered to be sent by
first-class mail, special delivery, they would have gone just the
same—but the express charges amounted to nearly as much as the
price of the ponies.”15
give some idea of the business transactions of the 101 Ranch, it
might be stated that from 1925 to 1930 there was an annual turnover
of nearly a million dollars in livestock, farm crops, industries, oil
rents and royalties, exclusive of the 101 Ranch show. The following
table indicates the volume of business transacted through the offices
of the ranch.16
ANNUAL SALES OF 101 RANCH ENTERPRISES FOR THE YEARS 1925-1930
all these enterprises the operating expenses of the ranch amounted to
a huge sum annually as the following table indicates.17
15 World’s Work, February, 1906.
16 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
17 101 Ranch Records, 1925-1930.
ANNUAL OPERATING EXPENSES OF THE 101 RANCH FOR THE YEARS 1925-1930
|Gross Production Tax
|Interest and Discount
|Oil and Gas
|Taxes, County and State
|Telephone, Telegraph and Postage
|Autos, Tractors, and Trucks
|White House Expenses
|Total for Year
|* No expenses reported.
order further to systematize the enterprises of the ranch and bring
all the departments into a closer working organization, the
Miller brothers organized the Wheel Club. The club was composed of
the heads of the departments as active members and the Miller
brothers as honorary members. The idea of
such a club came from Rotary training and association, as the Millers
were members of the Ponca City Rotary club.
wagon wheel was the emblem of the club. Around the rim of the wheel
were printed the names of the various departments and the hub
represented the 101 Ranch itself. Each member’s name was on a spoke,
connecting the rim with the hub, and the significance was that these
members kept the wheels of the 101 Ranch in motion and connected the
individual departments to the main 101 Ranch organization. The
purpose of the club, as set out in its constitution, was to
encourage and foster between the department heads of the ranch:
(a) the most worthy of ideals, that of service; (b) the development
of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; (c) the application of
the ideals of service by each member toward his department and the
business of his employer; (d) co-operation between all departments
for the common good; (e) the advancement of understanding, good
will, and friendship among the members of the club.
1927 the club had representatives from eighteen ranch departments as
follows: J. 0. Weldon, agriculture; W. A. Brooks, oil and gas; F. H. Hendon, hogs;
W. K. Rogers, horses; Thomas R. Brown, cattle; Thomas Crook, dairy;
J. J. Vassar, packing plant; J. B. Overton, light and power; Louis
McDonald, Indians; J. M. Hogan, poultry; T. 0.
Manning, accounting; W. E. Seamans, horticulture; Sam Stigall,
construction; D. H. Greary, sales and store; F. D. Olmstead,
land; George W. Miller, legal; Art Eldridge, show, and J. B. Kent,
HEN the huge tract of prairie acres,
known as the Cherokee Strip,
was opened to white settlers in 1893, the lands of the Ponca
Indians were not included in the area to which the home-seekers were
admitted. The Strip, sandblown and almost treeless, lay along the
southern border of Kansas and served as the outlet for the Cherokee
Nation. It was a passage through which the tribesmen might pass from
their homes in the Indian Territory to their hunting grounds in
the Rocky Mountains. With its ten thousand square miles, it was
almost as large as the state of Vermont—approximately fifty miles
in width, and more than 180 miles in length.
the irregular eastern border of the Strip were the lands of the
Tonkawas, Otoes, Pawnees, and Poncas. The Tonkawas and Pawnees sold
their surplus lands in the reservation, but the Poncas kept
theirs. And thus the Poncas owned much of the land of the 101 Ranch.
ancestral home of the Poncas was along the Niobrara River, near
Omaha, Nebraska, and in 1871 the tribe numbered 871. Although
their reservation had been guaranteed to them by treaty, they were
compelled to surrender it to the Sioux after making it their home for
a number of years. It was found the Ponca lands were included in a
reservation granted to the Sioux, and for that reason, the government
forcibly removed them in 1877 to the Indian Territory, much
against their wishes. The resistance of the Indians to the removal is
related by Francis LaFlesche of the Bureau of Indian Affairs:
Bear was a Ponca chief of whom little was known until the removal of
his people from northern Nebraska to Indian Territory because the
reservation confirmed to them by treaty had been included in land
granted to the Sioux. When the order for removal was given, January
15, 1877, Standing Bear strongly opposed it, but in February he and
nine other chiefs were taken to choose a reservation. They followed
the official but would not select a site. Their wearisome journey
brought them to Arkansas City, Kansas, whence they asked to be taken
home; being refused, they started back afoot, with a few dollars
among them and a blanket each. In forty days they had walked five
hundred miles, reaching home April 2, to find the official there
unwilling to listen to protest and determined to remove the people.
He called the military, and the tribe, losing hope, abandoned their
homes in May. Standing Bear could get no response to his demand to
know why his people were arrested and treated like criminals when
they had done no wrong.”
removal brought much suffering to the Poncas. Within a year
approximately one-third of the Indians died and most of the survivors
were stricken with sickness as a result of the change in climate. The
attendant hardships are described in these lines:
son of Standing Bear died. Craving to bury the lad at his old home,
the chief determined to defy restraint. He took the bones of his son
and with his immediate following turned northward in January, 1879,
and in March arrived destitute at the Omaha reservation. Asking to
borrow land and seed, his request was granted, and the Poncas were
about to put in a crop when soldiers appeared with orders to arrest
Standing Bear and his party and return them to Indian Territory. On
their way they camped near Omaha, where Standing Bear was interviewed
by T. H. Tibbles, a newspaper correspondent, and the accounts of
their grievances appeared in the Omaha news-papers, the citizens
became actively interested and opened a church where to a crowded
house, the chief repeated his story. Messrs. Poppleton and Webster
proffered legal service to the prisoners and in their behalf sued out
a writ of habeas corpus. The United States denied the prisoners’
right to the writ on the ground that they were not persons within the
meaning of the law. On April 18, Judge Dundy decided that an Indian
is a person within the meaning of the law of the United States, and
therefore had a right to the writ when restrained in violation of
law; that no rightful authority exists for removing by force any of
the prisoners to the Indian Territory, and there-fore the prisoners
must be discharged from custody.”
people sympathized with Standing Bear and his followers
and wrote to the President and members of Congress protesting against
the removal of the Indians from their reservation in Nebraska.
In the spring of 1880, the Senate appointed a commission to
investigate the removal, the report of which confirmed the
contentions of Standing Bear. A satisfactory adjustment of the
differences was effected as a result. Poncas wanting to remain in the
Indian Territory were given better lands while Standing Bear found a
home on the old reservation in Nebraska.
association of the Millers with the Poncas had begun while the
Indians were suffering from the climate and the incursions of
whiskey peddlers from Missouri, in their temporary reservation on
Quapaw lands near Baxter Springs. An act of Congress of May 27, 1878,
removed the Poncas to land purchased from the Cherokees in the
Strip. And it was on this land on the Salt Fork River that Colonel
George W. Miller established his ranch in 1892, as we learned in
an earlier chapter.
the vast confines of the 101 Ranch lived the Poncas. A tepee was
their earliest home, the Millers were their friends, and the plains
were their life. They retained their old time customs and
ceremonies. The men remained strangers to work and refused to be
introduced. They insisted upon the wife performing all labor—whether
there was one wife or three. The squaws carried the baggage, built
the fires, erected the tepees, saddled the horses, and were experts
at making beadwork. The men made drums, bows and arrows: they would
sit for hours carving out some weird design without looking up or
saying a word.
Indians still clung to the old custom of naming persons in
connection with some peculiar incident of their lives. Thus, on the
ranch there were Mary Buffalo Head, Horse Chief Eagle, Mary Iron
Thunder, Alford No Ear, Weak Bone, Sits-on-Hill, White Deer, Eugene
Big Goose, Mean Bear, Wolf Robe, Short Tail, Hiding Woman, Red Elk,
Girl Bear Head, Big Turkey, Long Pumpkin, White Buffalo,
Running-After-Arrow, Willie-Cries-For-War, Little Dance, White Eagle,
Peter-Knows-the-Country, Little-Man-Stands-Up, and
Indian wore a beard, for as soon as a hirsute growth appeared,
he pulled out the hairs with tweezers. Some of the older
men deprived themselves of their eyebrows in this way. They wore long
braids of hair which descended from the crown and were plaited with
bright ribbons. In war paint and feather head-dresses, they were
picturesque and gave the 101 Ranch a western color that was ever a
delight to the guests.
dance was the dominant feature of the Ponca’s life. He was born,
baptized, married, and died amid the jumble of shuffling
feet, gyrating bodies, and the beating of tom-toms. The dance
expressed joy, and it was the symbol of grief and bereavement. It was
the expression of momentous exploits, and the concomitant of routine
Indians’ wail in honor of the death or burial of one they loved was
incomparable with anything of the kind in white
man’s civilization. The wailing song with its tremulous, wistful,
appealing intonations climbed to heights of tremendous emotion. No
shrill notes were heard in the wailing song. The songs
had their sources deep in the throats of the mourners, and the sound
gradually swelled until it passed the half-opened lips and fairly
tumbled forth in a trembling, desperate resonance. The thread of
the wail, its continuity, was kept intact with a pulsating throb of
Indians placed food, clothing, and articles prized by the deceased
either into the grave or close beside it, and the custom
was to kill the Indian’s horse and place its body across the grave.
The practice was stopped by the government because of cruelty to
animals. The high esteem with which the Indians held this custom is
evidenced in the following lines:
Ponca chief, a life long friend of Colonel Joe Miller, died and
before his death made a special request to Colonel Miller,
that his horse be allowed to go with him to the “Happy
Hunting Ground.” Miller gave his promise though believing that
the horse could be led only as far as the grave. As
the funeral procession was on the way to the Indian burying ground,
near the ranch, the horse dropped dead, and was placed upon the grave
of its master.
” ‘It was strange that the horse should happen to drop dead at that
particular moment,’ commented Mr. Miller. But no other explanation
was ever forthcoming from the Indians and none was ever known.”1
1 Bristow Record, October 27, 1927.
of Colonel Joe Miller’s life was spent in intimate association
with the tribe, first as a boy at Baxter Springs and then as a man on
the reservation. He spoke the Ponca language with the fluency of the
fullblood. Thoroughly familiar with the sign language of the Indians,
he was never in need of the services of an interpreter when dealing
with them. Conversant with all their customs and ceremonies, Mr.
Miller was punctilious in his observance of Indian etiquette in all
his dealings with them. His great popularity and influence with the
Indians was largely due to that fact.
heaviest of Colonel Joe’s duties was in looking after the thousand
Indians who owned much of the land of the 101 Ranch and who looked
upon him as a father. They called him at all hours on the telephone,
camped in his door yard, brought their troubles to him, borrowed
money from him, made presents to him. They even had a pow-wow
and named his baby for him, giving the name Bright Star to his little
to the regulations of the Office of Indian Affairs, the rent which
the Millers paid for the farming and grazing leases was turned over
to the Indians. Formally, this ended the relations between the
Millers and their landlords. But Indian customs heeded not of
pay days and the white man’s order of life. When a Ponca wanted money
he borrowed it from Joe Miller. Whenever an Indian died, the head of
the family held a funeral service, at which, in sign of his grief, he
gave away his personal property, his ponies, his blankets, and his
household goods. The next day he was hungry and the next night
he was cold. Of course he must have food, and blankets, and a pony.
He went to Mr. Miller for them, promising to pay when his lease money
Indians were honest, but their lease money was not always enough to
pay their debts, so the debts continued. They owed the Millers as
much as $22,000 at one time. One Indian owed them $200 on a
certain settling day; he also owed another man $200. He was receiving
$300 from the agent and he had immediate need for $100 of it. He kept
out his own $100, and then paid the other man.
here,” said Joe Miller, “where is my $200?”
Indian drew him aside, confidentially, and said: “Me no like
other fellow, bad man. Pay him. He go away. You stay
here, me stay here. You good man. Me pay you some other time.”2
of the Indians regarded their debts in that way. Since both they and
the Millers would remain where they were, the money could be paid at
any time. The Millers, they reasoned, had possession of their land
as security. They felt gratitude, however, for the favors at the
hands of the Millers. One time a Ponca chief returned from a visit to
a Sioux relative in North Dakota. He brought Joe Miller a beautiful
hunting shirt embroidered with stained porcupine quills. It had been
given him as a present, but he had no scruples about giving it away
again as a token of friendship.
former war chief of the Poncas was Little Standing Buffalo, second in
rank to White Eagle, the head chief and the statesman of the tribe.
When Little Standing Buffalo realized that his earthly career was
nearing its finish, he called the chiefs and head men of the Poncas
into his tepee.
that he realized he was soon to die, the old warrior expressed the
wish that “Joe Coga” (Friend Joe) should succeed him as
chief. He reminded them of the long ride their friend had made for
them as a boy. He called to their attention some of Joe’s acts of
kindness, and reminded them of the winters when his generosity had
saved the tribe from want when the government rations were scarce.
Finally he spoke of the increasing perplexities in the business
transactions of the tribe. As they always consulted Mr. Miller in
these affairs, the old man said that he thought they should give to
Mr. Miller’s advice the weight of that of a chief.
old chief spoke to willing hearts, and having secured their promises,
Little Standing Buffalo passed to the land beyond. He died content
that his place in the council circle was to be filled by a worthy
successor. The intention of the Poncas to adopt him and to make him
chief was not known to Mr. Miller.
annual Sun Dance, the big Medicine Dance of the Poncas occurred
shortly after the death of Little Standing Buffalo. A delegation of
the Indians visited Mr. Miller and requested that he attend the Sun
Dance, “just like Indian” as they phrased it.
2 101 Ranch Records, 1906.
Mr. Miller, knowing that his Indian friends would be offended by a
refusal of their invitation, arrayed himself in an Indian
costume of much splendor. This costume was the gift of a squaw, whose
patient hands had wrought each design in beads and colored
quills of the porcupine. To complete the effect the cattleman
sacrificed his mustache and painted his face. By a fortunate choice
he painted his face after the design used by the late Chief Little
Standing Buffalo. Mr. Miller learned later that his appearance,
decorated with the colors and design of the late chief, was regarded
by the Indians as a favorable omen.
with him a number of spotted ponies to be presented to Indians
of prominence, and leaving word for several beeves to be driven to
the Indian camp, Mr. Miller left the ranch.
arrival at the Sun Dance camp was the signal for an outburst of
savage yells and beating of tom-toms. He made his
arrival after the manner of a visiting warrior of note and bestowed
his presents and received presents in exchange. The Sun Dance was
started and the dancing line of Indian devotees was
being ministered to by the medicine man. Everywhere throughout the
camp were evidences of the religious frenzy of the Indians. In the
center of the camp the tall Sun Dance pole held aloft the offerings
of the Indians to the Great Spirit.
Sun Dance Lodge, sacred to the chiefs and medicine men, occupied a
prominent place in the camp. After the exchange
of presents the visitor was conducted to the Sun Dance Lodge
and was there informed by White Eagle that the tribe had decided to
adopt him if he were willing to become a member.
This came as a complete surprise to Mr. Miller, but he accepted
without hesitation and was placed in the hands of two medicine men,
the oldest of the tribe. From the Sun Dance Lodge
he was conducted to another tepee and from that time until the
completion of the ceremony of adoption he was constantly under
the instruction and surveillance of one or the other of the two old
was instructed in the history of the Ponca tribe from the earliest
times and was required to memorize and repeat certain songs which
told of events famous in tribal annals.
day and one night he was required to fast, being given no
food and water during that time. After the night of fasting he was
questioned as to the dreams or visions which had come to him in his
sleep. On the third night after his arrival in camp Mr. Miller was
again conducted to the Sun Dance Lodge, where the ceremony of Blood
Brotherhood was performed. After this ceremony he was escorted
through the camp and it was announced to the assembled Indians that
he had attained warrior rank and had been given the name of
Mutha-monta. This name is translated as “going up,”
indicating that he was progressing or advancing to higher things.
the ceremonial presentation to the tribe as a warrior Mr. Miller
supposed that his experience was at an end, but he was immediately
returned to the Sun Dance Lodge, and there for the first time he was
informed that he was to become the successor of Little Standing
Buffalo and the second chief of the Poncas.
ceremony required two more days of instruction and ceremonies, and
finally he was presented to the Indians as “Waka-huda-nuga-ski,”
or Big White Chief. Highly appreciating the honor conferred, Mr.
Miller sent to the ranch for more beeves, and two days of feasting
and dancing terminated the seven days of Sun Dance, which has passed
into the history of the Poncas as the Sun Dance of Big White Chief.
on ceremonial occasions did the Indians use Mr. Miller’s chief name,
for to them he was still Friend Joe. The chieftainship was not an
empty honor nor without responsibilities. Mr. Miller was
summoned to the council whenever matters of moment were to be
considered. On several occasions he traveled considerable distances
to attend particularly important councils.
Poncas expressed again their reverence for Colonel Joe Miller by
arranging an Indian nuptial ceremony for Colonel and Mrs.
Miller. They insisted that he, as an Indian, should have the white
man’s wedding more completely confirmed by the Indian ceremony.
Both Colonel and Mrs. Miller appeared in Indian costume. She
wore a very attractive buckskin garment, with appropriate head-dress
tepees were pitched between the “White House” and the
office building two blocks away. The Indians believed that the tepee
itself cut a considerable figure in the program, for
when the bride-to-be entered the tepee of her intended husband she
automatically and immediately became a wife, and according to Indian
custom the couple were firmly married.
Indian barbecue feast served at noon in the ranch rodeo arena,
inaugurated the marriage ceremony, a sort of pre-wedding banquet. The
ceremony started at two o’clock in the afternoon, when the bride was
officially escorted to the scene of the ceremonies by a tribal
committee, including Crazy Bear, Good Chief, Big Crow, Good Boy, and
Mrs. Crazy Bear.
prospective bridegroom met his fiancée some distance away and she
followed him to his tepee, where his people were waiting to receive
her. If she followed him the entire distance, she thereby showed a
willingness for the ceremony to proceed, but if she broke line and
ran away, this indicated a refusal of the intended husband.
bridegroom entered the tepee and announced to his people that he had
brought with him a maiden, whom he would marry. If his mother was
living, she went outside and escorted the waiting fiancée into the
tepee, and once the young woman entered, it was too late to repent.
The mother greeted her with the term of “daughter-in-law,”
thus recognizing and consenting to the marriage. A fire was burning
in the tepee as a welcome to the bride.
bridegroom took his place in the center of the tepee with the bride
at his left, and the ceremony was completed by the mother-in-law
showering the bride with wedding finery. Relatives of the groom were
then notified that the wedding was finished, all requirements
observed, and that she was now one of the family. All relatives of
the groom were supposed to bring wedding gifts.
gifts that the Indians always bestowed on the newly married
couple was the pipe, with tobacco pouch. This generally was a
gift from the chiefs or more prominent men of the tribe. It was to be
hung in a convenient place in the new tepee, and each visitor who
smoked this pipe indicated his desire for peace and friendship.
Good Chief, now blind, presented the pipe and pouch to Colonel
and Mrs. Miller. After the bride and groom had been officially
received within the tepee by his people, they stepped out in
front to receive the gifts from the Indians, which included a
beautiful horse given to the bride
by Mary Gives Water, while the other women gave calico and blankets.
Deer was officially in charge of the ceremonies which united “Walking
Above,” Colonel Miller’s Indian name, and his bride, to whom an
Indian name, “Sh-shin-ga-ha” or “White Fawn” was
given on this occasion. It was White Deer’s duty to commend the
couple to the Great Spirit above and express the hope that success
would come to them and that good health and good fortune would
accompany them “in whatever direction of the earth they may
walk” or “with whatever wind they may travel.”
the wedding ceremony, the Poncas assembled in the arena for a
celebration, which consisted chiefly of sports. A feature was the
attendance of the all-Indian American Legion post, of which Tony
Knight was the commander. They presented the soldier or victory
dance. While a number of invitations to persons of prominence in
the vicinity were sent out by the Indian committee in charge, all
citizens were invited to the ranch to witness the ceremony and attend
the autumn of 1883, White Eagle was in Birmingham in company with
fifty to a hundred of his people, who were an exhibit at the Alabama
State Fair. The Indians had been taken there by Colonel Joe Miller at
the solicitation of officers of the fair who believed the Indians
would be a great attraction. Colonel Miller and the Indians were
given a concession on the fair grounds with permission to charge
twenty-five cents admission to the Indian village, where they
had their tepees and held their dances.
was while we were giving our exhibitions on the fair grounds,”
says Colonel Joe Miller, “that the invitation came to White
Eagle to speak at the First Baptist church, as I now remember it
after such a period of years. It was our custom to introduce several
of the chiefs outside the village, tell who they were, what they did
at home and invite the crowds to come inside the village to see them.
Eagle was the tribal chief and, as such, was the one who preached to
his own people in regard to their centuries, old religious beliefs.
It was in this way that I was accustomed to introduce White Eagle to
the crowds on the Alabama State Fair grounds. One afternoon, after I
had introduced the chief, I
was approached by a gentleman who introduced himself as pastor of the
First Baptist church.
“ ‘Am I right in asking if White Eagle does preach to his own people at
home?’ the minister questioned.
“ ‘That is true,’ I replied. &lrsquo;The Indians meet frequently in their
church as do the whites and the chief addresses them in regard to
their life and their eventually reaching the happy hunting grounds.’
you suppose that White Eagle would preach for me at my church
Sunday morning?’ was the minister’s next query.
believe he will,’ I answered, and then I saw White Eagle, received
his consent and carried it to the minister.
have seen lots of crowds, but I have never seen anything to equal
that which assembled to hear White Eagle preach. It was necessary for
the police of Birmingham to attend in squads to handle the crowd,
thousands of which could not even get inside the church. The daily
papers on Saturday and again on Sunday morning had told of the fact
that the Indian would preach and it looked like everyone wanted to
Eagle was equal to the occasion in every respect. He attired himself
in the full regalia of his office, with flowing blanket and long head
feathers, and wearing his beaded moccasins. He had selected
Peter Mitchell (another Poncan) to interpret for him, but at the last
minute Mitchell got cold feet when he saw the immense crowd, and the
interpreting fell to me. We drove from the fairgrounds to the church
in one of those old-fashioned cabs with the top turned back, and when
we arrived the police had to separate the crowd to get us through.
minister was awaiting us at the door and White Eagle and I went to
the pulpit with him. The size and attention of that crowd was enough
to make any man quail, but White Eagle never flinched. After the
opening service, the minister announced his pleasure at having White
Eagle present and that he would now speak. Drawing his blanket around
him and holding it in place with his left hand, the chief spoke
slowly and deliberately, using his right arm frequently for gestures.
He would talk a while, then I would interpret.
Eagle explained the religious belief of the red men to some extent.
He told them that the Indians have but one church,
whereas the white people, even down in Oklahoma, have many churches,
one on every corner and each declaring his own way the only true way,
whereas the others face eternal hell fire.
Eagle said the Indians do not believe in hell; that people have their
hell on earth; that when an Indian does wrong it makes his heart hurt
and he is sorely troubled, sometimes for a long time, and in
this way he experiences his hell. That God is good and that all
people, the Indians believe, eventually reach Heaven—the happy
hunting ground of the red men.
I had finished interpreting White Eagle’s final words, and the old
chief had taken his seat in one of the pulpit chairs again, the white
minister took up the thought of White Eagle’s talk and went ahead
with a brief sermon of his own, considerably along the same line.
Altogether I still remember it as one of the momentous occasions in
an entire lifetime. The next morning’s daily papers carried pictures
of White Chief and many quotations from his sermon.”3
cabinet of advisors at the head of any nation exercised more
authority or was more attentive to the welfare of its people
than were the councilors with which every Indian chief surrounded
himself during the days of Indian self-government. The councilors
were chosen, as a rule, from among the most noted warriors of the
tribe, frequently representing warrior clans—good politics that
held together the bands into which almost every tribe was divided.
with the allotment of lands and with the Federal government
supervising the Indians throughout the country, tribal forms of
government ceased to function. At present there are living but a very
few of the warriors who made up the cabinet of the ruling chieftains.
Although these warriors are extremely old, they still possess much of
the charm and glamor of their race, and they still command the
respect and attention that was accorded them during the days of their
3 Daily Oklahoman, February 6, 1927.
such a type was the aged and blind Little Dance, sub-chief of the
Poncas. He had been totally blind for a number of
years and relied upon his wife and the young men of the tribe for
advice and assistance in looking after the interest of his
people. He was one of the warriors chosen by White Eagle, the last
chief of the Poncas under the old tribal form of government.
Little Dance describes the great chief, White Eagle, in this manner:
Eagle, as chief, was third in line of the blood clan or band of the
Ponca Indians. He was the grandson of Little Bear, and the son of
Iron Whip, both chiefs ahead of him. There were seven clans among the
Ponca Indians, but the blood clan had not been in power before. It
seems that when Little Bear was a young man, he went to war with the
then reigning Ponca chief among the Sioux, and the son of the Ponca
chief was killed. Little Bear had distinguished himself in battle,
and was about the same age as the son of the chief, and it was for
that reason that Little Bear was chosen chief, and afterward it was
hereditary to his oldest son. The present tribal chief, in name only,
is Horse Chief Eagle, the oldest son of White Eagle.
the chieftainship of Iron Whip, and when White Eagle was a young man,
the treaty of 1865 was entered into with the Federal government,
under which the claim of the Ponca Indians for $11,000,000 is now
pending before the court of claims at Washington, which amount is the
alleged value of land which the Poncas formerly owned in Nebraska,
and for which they maintain they never got value from the government.
Eagle was chief when the Poncas were moved from Nebraska to
northeastern Oklahoma, in the vicinity where Miami now stands. The
Poncas did not like that location, and were then moved to their
present reservation just south of Ponca City, where the remnants of
the tribe now live. White Eagle served as chief for approximately
fifty years, and just prior to his death, resigned in favor of Horse
Chief Eagle, his son.
to the Poncas being moved under orders from their reservation in
Nebraska to the northeastern corner of Indian Territory, a committee
of the tribe including Chief White Eagle and Little Dance, visited
the territory for the purpose of selecting a reservation. The
chiefs preferred the very location just south of Ponca City, which
they are now occupying, but the government agent had arbitrarily
chosen the northeastern corner of the territory instead of this
one. He was so provoked because the Poncas wanted to locate here
instead, that according
to Little Dance, he deserted them and penniless they had to walk all
the way back to Niobrara, Nebraska, their then tribal headquarters.
Little Dance says that White Eagle paid the Cherokee Indians $50,000
for the 50,000 acres which still comprise their lands south of Ponca.
the lifetime of White Eagle, he led the Poncas in their last war with
the Sioux and was the last war chieftain of the Ponca tribe. This was
just prior to the tribe being moved from Nebraska to northeastern
Oklahoma in 1877. The head chief of the tribe was also considered to
be the chief medicine man, in which capacity he acted also as
religious advisor. White Eagle was very progressive, and advocated
many of the advancements of the tribe, including the allotment of
lands here. White Eagle died on February 3, 1914, at the age of 78
Eagle understood that the policies dictated by the Washington
government were the better in the long run for his tribe and he
insisted always they should accept and respect them. A big majority
of the Poncas did not want to accept land allotments, each taking a
farm for himself instead of holding the land in common, but
White Eagle insisted and allotments were brought about as
directed by the government officials.
were many sessions of White Eagle’s council at that time, and even
some of the councilors were unfavorable to allotments.”4
Indians,” says Corb Sarchet, “were the Millers’ friends. No
Indian ever went hungry, none was ever in want of anything, if the
Millers knew it. They participated in the Indian powwows, taught them
how to plant and harvest, preached their funerals, saw that they had
school houses, worked out their business difficulties for them, were
indeed brothers in every sense.”5
A few years ago, the Miller brothers rededicated to Chief White Eagle
a “signal mound” similar to the ones used by the Indians in
the old days. The mounds consisted of pillars of stone placed on
hills about fifteen miles apart, by which the Indians were guided.
About ten miles south of the White House on Highway 77 one of the
pillars was erected
and a white eagle, carved in stone, was placed atop the shaft in
tribute to the chief. A day of feasting by the Indians marked the
dedication. And in turn the Indians not only leased thousands of
acres to the Millers, but in full regalia joined heartily in dances
and ceremonies at all the wild west functions, giving the 101 Ranch
an atmosphere of the West of the old days.
the advantages of civilization, the protection of the government, and
the benefits of peace, the Indians of the 101 Ranch will soon be a
memory. Swiftly the grim ferryman is beckoning these red men across
the dark river to the councils of their forefathers. The handful of
Poncas remaining on the ranch today includes nearly all the survivors
of this once powerful and populous tribe. “They always have
been, and still are,” in the words of Hubert Collins, “human
beings who act, talk, and think as well as any other human race on
4 101 Magazine, May, 1927.
5 Daily Oklahoman, December 16, 1934.