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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History Tid-Bits

Miller Brothers

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Rodeo is indigenous to Kay County.

A forerunner occurred in the fall of 1882 north of here in Cowley County, when people of Winfield held the first agricultural fair. They wanted entertainment which would attract crowds.

At that time, Col. George W. Miller, founder of the famous 101 Ranch, had a home in Winfield. Here his family lived and he was close to his expanding cattle empire across the border on the rolling prairies to the south.

Colonel Miller had just finished a cattle drive up the Chisholm Trail and still had some cowboys with him. They staged an exhibition of riding and roping which was enthusiastically received.

Not until 22 years later was the first roundup held on the 101 Ranch. It was in preparation for the big Wild West show promised for the 1905 national editorial Association convention to be held in Guthrie.

This marked the beginning of modern rodeo with its displays of western skill and daring. It has spread too many parts of America and is now professional sport.

The Miller brothers – Joe, George and Zack – always frowned upon the use of the word “rodeo.” To them “round-up” was the best descriptive term for these Wild West sports.

The big roundup for the National Editorial Association was given on June 11, 1905. Thirty regular and special trains, many “double headers” and all loaded even to the roofs of the cars, brought the visitors to the ranch.

The procession for the grand entry, nearly a mile in length, came into the huge pasture fenced off for the occasion, escorted by the Miller brothers.

Behind the cavalry band was the famous old Indian chief, Geronimo, hero of a hundred battles with the whites. A government prisoner, he was brought up under heavy guard from Ft. Sill for the occasion.

There were many bands, a long procession of cowboys and Indians, all in their full regalia.

In the events were bronco busting, roping contests and performances by Miss Lucile Mulhall and her trained horse. Miss Mulhall had the reputation of being the best and most daring horsewoman in the world.

On Sept. 16, 1906, one of the largest Wild West shows in the history of the Southwest was held on the 101 Ranch to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the opening of the Cherokee Strip.

Oldtimers came by the hundreds for the reunion which the show offered. Two thousand people are reported to have taken part in the program including 500 cowboys and 1,000 Indians.

This is the beginning of the tradition which the RCA rodeo in Ponca City, now officially the 101 Wild West Rodeo, has been given the right to carry on.

From 1904, the Miller brothers, sons of the ranch founder, continued the annual roundup, always in September and for three days. A rodeo arena was constructed. The grandstand had a capacity of 10,000, then the largest in Oklahoma.

The best known cowboys of the country were employed on the ranch at some time, many of them going on the fame in the moving picture and rodeo worlds.

For this reason, the Millers felt that the 101 Ranch was the logical place for holding world championships. Beginning with the 1924 roundup, the annual winners in the riding and roping contests were presented silver medals in recognition of their championships.

Permission to designate the present three-day rodeo as the 101 Wild West Rodeo was granted the Ponca City Rodeo foundation by Zack Miller Jr. and Mrs. James Gibbs, Valley Mills, Tex., grandchildren of the ranch founder, Col. George W. Miller.

Rodeo has returned home. It will always be in September, commemorating he opening for the Cherokee Strip. Chartered by the Rodeo cowboys Association, it is a World championship Rodeo.

Many of the colorful and imaginative events of the early roundups on the 101 Ranch will be revived and tradition which has long been dormant will be carried on throughout the years to come.