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Winners of the West
Vol. XIV     No. 11

The 101 Ranch --- From the Book "the 101 Ranch"

By Ellsworth Collings in Collaboration With Alma Miller England,
Daughter of the Founder Of the 101 Ranch

Published by UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS, Norman, Oklahoma. Price $3.00. Order of the Publisher of "Winners of the West," Post Office Box 262, St. Joseph, Mo.

We are publishing in this issue quite an extended review of a book by the above title. We are doing this not only to assist if possible the sale of the book but also because the story of Colonel and Mrs. George W. Miller and their sons and daughter in connection with their various enterprises including their one outstanding development, the 101 Ranch, illustrates with all possible emphasis the true meaning of the slogan of the National Indian War Veterans U. S. A. "Winners of the West."

There is very little reference in this book to the old Army of the Plains, and the Miller family were fortunate to have been surrounded by the less savage of Indian tribes. However the Army was there, and its influence in keeping the peace and making possible such great enterprises as characterized the work of the family of Colonel Geo. W. Miller was as real as any other feature of it.

The book, "The 101 Ranch," has exhausted its first large edition and enters on its second and perhaps will need many additional printings ere the demand will be supplied. It should be in the library of every school and college as well as all public libraries and Historical Societies.

We have a big country but there has never been but one 101 Ranch in its entire history and there will never be another one.

Webster defines a ranch as "A tract of land used for grazing and the rearing of horses, cattle, or sheep;" and a farm as "Land held for cultivation, land devoted to agricultural purposes." The story of the 101 Ranch is the story of its progression from a ranch under the directorship of the father and founder, to a diversified farm under the reign of the brothers.

To read of the wonderful accomplishments of these four men, Col. George Washington Miller and his three sons, in the establishment and development of the 101 Ranch, is like reading a tale of the Arabian Nights which exceeds even our wildest imagination.

In telling the story of the 101 Ranch we well quote frequently from the book.

Col. Geo. W. Miller, the founder, was born February 22, 1841, in Lincoln County, Kentucky. Here he was reared in the traditions of the Old South on a typical southern plantation. On January 9, 1866, he married Miss Mary Anne Carson in Louisville, Kentucky. On March 12, 1868, their first son, Joseph Carson Miller, was born. Due to the results of the Civil War Col. Miller was finding it difficult to conduct the plantation on the same scale as his grandfather. Lured by talk of the new western country, especially California, Col. Miller sold his interest in the Kentucky plantation and started west in search of a location where he could realize his ambitiona mammoth livestock ranch.

From St. Louis they struck out southwestward across the open country for California. "After leaving Missouri it was Colonel Miller's intention to follow the Arkansas-Indian Territory border and then take the southern route to the Pacific coast. However, as they progressed westward, he kept scanning the vast prairie lands with a speculative eye. Here at his very feet was opportunity for a great livestock ranch. This was a cattle country, without cattle.

They stopped for the winter at Newtonia, Missouri, and remained there for a time. Col Miller was a born trader and soon began to trade various possessions for hogs. These he converted into hams and bacon. In the spring he set out with 20,000 pounds of bacon for Texas. This he exchanged for Texas steers, receiving a steer for every 50 pounds of bacon. With his small herd he returned to Kansas and established his first cattle ranch a few miles south of Baxter Springs, Kansas, near the present Miami, Oklahoma. This was known as the "LK" Ranch.

He maintained his family home at Newtonia, Missouri, and on June 21, 1875, Alma, his only daughter was born, and Zachary Taylor, his second son, April 26, 1878. In the fall of 1880 he moved his family to Baxter Springs, Kansas, and here on September 9, 1881, George Lee, his youngest son, was born.

As the railroad moved westward Colonel Miller moved with it. The old Cherokee Strip was a cattleman's paradise. "Indian-owned, in the very pathway of the Texas cattle trails, land could be leased for from two to five cents an acre per annum. There were no fences and the cattle could roam at will. Here Colonel Miller leased, in 1879, two large pastures, a total of 60,000 acres, of grazing land. These were known as the Deer Creek Ranch and the Salt Fork Ranch.

In the spring of 1882 he moved his family to Winfield, Kansas.

In 1881 he decided to adopt a new brand and 101 came into existence. It was simple, easy to read and to describe, and made up of straight lines.

The White House on the Plains

"The government had removed the Ponca Indians from their northern home in Nebraska with the intention of exchanging that land for new land in the immense holdings of the Cherokee Nation in the Cherokee Strip."

While arrangements were being completed Chief White Eagle and his tribe were waiting disconsolately at Baxter Springs, home sick and with considerable sickness. Col. Miller and the Chief held many conferences over the plight of the tribe and out of these rose a mutual and lifelong respect.

While inspecting land in the Cherokee Strip Col. Miller, Joe, and a number of cowboys found themselves near the proposed Ponca reservation. After inspection Miller was satisfied that if White Eagle could visit the country he would accept the offer of the government and make it their home. Since White Eagle intended to leave soon for Washington to refuse the grant, Miller knew it was necessary to get word to him. Joe, his son, was the messenger. He was a mere boy but fully qualified to care for himself and since he knew and could speak the Ponca language he could meet and talk with them in their own way. He arrived just in time for White Eagle was preparing to leave for Washington.

For the first time in the memory of the tribe, when the chiefs and head men met in council that night, a white boy sat in the center and answered their questions in their own tongue.

It was decided that the next day White Eagle would return with Joe to view this land, and that the Poncas would never forget this kindness. The Indians moved to their new home in 1879.

During this same year Col. Miller selected the site for his second ranch, the Salt Fork Ranch. Here they remained until 1893 when the land was bought by the government and opened for settlement.

Foreseeing this, Col. Miller had secured leases from the Poncas to use their land for grazing purposes.

Headquarters of his third ranch -- the present 101 Ranch -- was chosen a few miles down the Salt Fork River. From 1892 to 1903 this headquarters was simply a dugout and the family home was maintained in Winfield, Kansas. When Col. Millers negotiations with the Indians were complete he chose 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.

"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." After short funeral services at the Ponca Agency his body was shipped to Crab Orchard, Kentucky, for burial. Chief White Eagle refused to go to the railroad station with the body saying: "I would not weep where men and women could see me. I must retire alone."

Knowing he was going "he called his family to his bedside and made known his final wished 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."

"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."

Colonel Miller's plans for the new ranch home were carried out immediately after his death by Mrs. Miller and her sons. The family 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. Through mutual agreement, Mrs. England received at the time of her marriage her share in the 101 Ranch estate.

"With the development of the ranch the Miller brothers naturally and easily fell into the particular work for which each had the most aptitude. Col. 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.

"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."

"George I. 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 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. The system he adopted at the 101 Ranch has been pronounced by experts as a model for simplicity and completeness. The 101 Ranch prospered under his financial guidance.

"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 101check 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. It was an unusual brotherly arrangement which permitted each man to pursue freely his particular line of work. 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."         (Continued Next Month)