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The End of an Empire and
the End of the Wild West for Oklahoma

July 25, 2001

Historian's Notes

101 Ranch (Pronounced ONE HUNDRED AND ONE or HUNDRED AND ONE.. only greenhorns call it ONE-OH-ONE!) The 101 Ranch is really one of the greatest of the many wild and wonderful cowboy stories of Oklahoma. The ranch was immense, both in its physical size and its reputation around the world. Really a self-contained country, the ranch could sustain itself indefinitely on the food and fuel produced within its borders. Despite its abilities, the ranch could not withstand the almost simultaneous death of two of the three managing Miller brothers. With the operation left on the shoulders of just one person, failure came sure and swift.

Resources

Collings, E., & England, A.M. (1937). The 101 Ranch. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press

Wallis, M. (1999). The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the creation of the American Wild West. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Chronicles of Oklahoma. (Sum. 1997). 77, (2).

Hines, G. (1953). True tales from the old 101 Ranch, and other stories. Oklahoma City: National Print. Co.

Sokoll, M. J. (1975). 101 Ranch stars I have known: wild west, rodeos, movies, cowboys-cowgirls, clowns-announcers. [s.l.] : Sokoll.

The Robert Cotton Collection is held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives. This collection contains a number of items concerning the ranch.

Almanac Transcript

The end of an empire and the end of the Wild West for Oklahoma, this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Kite.

The 101 Ranch in Oklahoma represented for many Americans a genuine image of the true Wild West. Situated on more than 100,000 acres in-between Ponca City and Stillwater, the 101 Ranch, some say, received its name because it had 101 thousand acres. It was more like a self contained city than a typical Oklahoma ranch. The establishment featured wheat, corn, cotton, and soybean fields as well as large tracts of orchards and other miscellaneous crops. Cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats were raised on the grounds as well, with all butchering and meat-packing done at the ranch.

The ranch also held extensive oil reserves and all drilling, pumping, refining, and manufacturing was done on site, including the sale and distribution of the official ranch gasoline, "101 Brand Fuel". In addition to agriculture and petroleum industries, the ranch held a thriving tourism business with hundreds of different Wild West souvenirs manufactured on site.

The ranch had humble beginnings in 1879 and was founded by George Miller. Control of the ranch soon passed to the three Miller sons Zack, Joseph and George. Perhaps more than anything else the ranch was known for its raucous Wild West shows. Traveling the country and the world the ranch put on Wild West dramas for millions of people over the years.

Prosperous from its inception, the ranch, however, hit hard times in the late twenties. The Depression hurt matters as did the untimely deaths of brothers George and Joseph. Zack Miller, perhaps the brother most incapable of handling business matters, was left in charge of the entire operation. It didn't take long before the situation for the ranch took a turn from bad to worse.

By the early 1930s Zack Miller was facing foreclosure and the end of his family's ranching empire. By this time 101 Ranch was over $600,000.00 in debt, and Zack was turning to desperate measures. News was released that Al Capone, the infamous gangster, was interested in purchasing the ranch. The Capone purchase of the 101 was Zackís last hope, and when it turned out to be a publicity stunt on the part of the Capone family, all was lost for the Miller family.

It was on this date in 1936 that Zack Miller watched as the last of his possessions were brought from his house on the ranch and auctioned to the highest bidder. Crowds from around the state gathered at the ranch to watch the Miller brotherís empire disappear forever. A reporter at the scene noted that Zack Miller, "stood in the shadows of the white house today . . without visible emotion, although his face set in hard lines as one by one his personal belongings went on the block ending another era of the Old West."

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