Cowboy Hill

Cowboy Hill History


"This information was gathered from various sites throughout the Internet. The numbers behind the sentences correspond to the web page I got the information off of during my research. It is a conglomeration of information that has it's resources on the corresponding webpages. Please visit those web pages as the people there have done hard work in making history more available to all of us.

Paul Reeves

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Just south of the Salt Fork River on HWY 156 south out of Ponca City, Oklahoma is Cowbay Hill. Zack Miller, Jack Webb and Sam Stigall are buried here. It was intended that any of the cowboys and ranch hands of the 101 Ranch would find a place of rest here. 

The Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association was organized at the 101 Ranch of the Miller Brothers on Labor Day September 6, 1920. The object was "socialibility of those who in the past, prior to 1893, shared the blanket and were real brothers on the , and to foster in memory the camp, the trail and the frontier days."

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The Cowboy Hill Cemetery is located on a hill overlooking the Salt Fork River in Kay County, Oklahoma. At one time it was part of the 101 Ranch owned by the Miller Brothers. The land, one and a half acres, was given to the Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association. Any member of that association has the right to be buried in this cemetery. Only three graves are in the cemetery, one being that of Zack Miller, one of the Miller Brothers.

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Zack T. Miller April 22, 1877 - Jan 3, 1952

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Jack Webb June 19 1902 - June 1, 1956

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Sam C. Stigall February 11 1885 - May 23, 1967

The article below came out in the Ponca City News on July 16, 1976 telling that the Cowboy Hill Cemetary was found.

"Old Records Describe 101 Cowboy Cemetery 

A 101 Ranch cowboy cemetery rumored for many years to be located in Winfield has only been recently found, according to the Arkansas City Traveler.

The cemetery was mentioned in the book "Fabulous Empire" by Zack Miller, one of the three sons of George W. Miller who founded the 101 Ranch on land leased from the Ponca Indians.

According to the Traveler, Miller gave two separate references to the cowboy cemetery. One reference is of George VanHook, who died of typhoid at the Hale Hotel in Hunnewell, Kansas. His body was allegedly returned to Winfield for burial. The second reference was of Jimmy Moore, who "had gone into Ponca City one night, taken on an overload of his juice of joy, and died before morning in his room in the Planters Hotel".

Zack Miller was away at the time of the death and when he returned, Moore had already been buried "in the 101burial lot at Winfield where today a big granite shaft, with carvings of empty saddles and coiled ropes mark the graves of many a good 101 cowhand."

Winfield's Union Cemetery is the most likely place for the cowboy cemetery since it is the oldest cemetery in the area. Union Cemetery was originally two privately-owned cemeteries during which time few records were kept. The City of Winfield took over the operation in the early 1900's with the earliest records dating to 1896.

One document concerns the burial of George VanHook, the father of Milton VanHook and foreman of the 101 Ranch according to 101 Oldtimers. He was 82 when he died in 1932. A burial permit is included with the George VanHook records but not for Milton VanHook, although the Arkansas City Traveler states there is further evidence Milton is buried with his father. Accompanying these records is the description of the burial plots at the site of the granite shaft with the carving of the longhorn steer.

A large granite shaft with the engraving of the head of a longhorn steer stands on a particular lot in the Union Cemetery bordered by a granite curbing. The name of Wm. H. VanHook is also engraved on the marker. He died at the AGE OF 28 ON Sept. 18, 1881.

As a child in the 1960's I remember my father taking the family out to the Old 101 Ranch on day trips. We would walk all over the grounds, with the 101 Ranch house area being built on the bend in the river, and so in those days the Salt Fork River that runs behind the ranch house area (to the west) was a bit further to the west, but the river has taken quite a bit of the land these days, and in about 2005 (or around there) the state put in rip-rap (rock pilings) along the bend of the river to try to keep more of the bank from eroding through the fertile soil in the area. And none of our trips to the 101 Ranch were complete without going across the river to the Cowboy Hill Cemetary.

I took these photographs on August 19th, 2010, and the old bridge that crosses the Salt Fork River is still there, even though it is now just a one lane bridge (cars have gotten wider over the years) and is on the State Highway 156 that is between Marland and Ponca City. The Salt Fork River is usually pretty calm and peaceful, being dammed up at Jet, Oklahoma for the Great Salt Plains Lake, but when it rains the river is mean and harsh. As a child I remember seeing a large whirlpool in the river here at this bridge when the river was flooding, and from that day onward I have always had a deep respect for the rivers of the area. This view of the bridge is taken from the Cowboy Hill Cemetary so you can see that the cemetary is just to the south of the bridge.

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"Cowboy Hill

Given in 1930 by Zack Miller to Cherokee Strip Cowpunchers Association as place for annual reunion of those who had ridden the range in the strip.

Oklahoma Historical Society 1959"

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"100th Anniversary 101 Ranch 1893 - 1993

101 Ranch Old Timers who worked on the ranch and Wild West Show, their descendants, G. W. Miller family descendants, and 101 Ranch collectors met in Ponca City, Okla. Aug. 21, 1993

101 Ranch Old Timers 1994"

© Lord Gazmuth 2012