August 24, 1995
The 101 Ranch up near Marland is back in the news because of the annual Old Timers reunion held last week in Ponca City and a feature story in the Daily Oklahoman the other day telling about concerns over erosion problems on the ranch property.
Perry people have a special affection for the storied old ranch and its illustrious history. Many from this area were employed there in the 1920s and 1930s when the 101 Ranch Wild West Show was a premier attraction traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe. But in addition to that spectacular road show, the Miller brothers, Joe, Zack and George, built the ranch property into a self-sustaining empire which at one time even printed its own currency.
The 100,000-plus acres occupied by the ranch drew a procession of notable visitors, including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Warren G. Harding, in the era between the late 1800s and the 1930s. It was the most diversified farm and ranch operation in the U.S. There's been nothing to equal the 101 Ranch since its depression-inflicted demise in the early 1930s.
The problem of erosion has been brought to light through a 2 1/2-year study project directed by Prof. Charles Leider of Oklahoma State University. The threat comes from the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River. The river bank is wearing away, allowing the stream to come even closer to the former ranch headquarters. Details of the study are contained in the Oklahoman's story that appeared on the front page of the August 21 edition. You might want to dig up a copy and read about it.
About the same time that story appeared, Anna Lou Randall loaned me a copy of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show "Route Book" for 1929, and it contains some truly fascinating information. The 32-page booklet apparently was sold or handed out to patrons at each stop made by the Wild West Show as they toured the world. It contains a history of the show and a wonderfully complete list of crew members and performers.
The book belongs to Louis Stanislav, former Perry grocer who now lives in Prague. In 1929 Louis was a member of Richard V (Cap) Swift's Zouaves, who were making their fifth tour with the show that year. Cap Swift came to Perry after the 101 Ranch went broke in the 1930s. He operated concession stands at local high school events and had hamburger stands at several locations around town until his death in 1955. Louis is listed in the route book along with the other Zouaves (an acrobatic team who appeared in exotic middle eastern costumes). Some of the other Perry names I recognized in the 1929 Zouave list are Herman Beasley, Alvin Studebaker and Edgar Marshall. Kenneth Coldiron and others from here joined the Zouaves one year later.
Flipping through the book I was surprised to find the name of my late brother-in-law, Sidney Wade, and his family in an ad for "The Ozark Family Bell Ringers," who toured with the Wild West Show. Sid, his parents, Leigh and Augusta Wade, and his sister, Prudye, made up the Ozark Family Bell Ringers, billed as "America's Most Traveled Family." I knew they toured with the Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus, but I had forgotten their connection with the Millers. Sid later married my sister, Jeanice. All the Wades once lived here.
The list of show band personnel, directed by band master Jack Bell, included these names: Omer Shaw, clarinet; Louis Shaw, trombone; Harry Marshall, bass; and Frank Marshall, bass drum. I am assuming that the Shaws were actually Bert Shaw and his brother, Bill. And of course Harry and Frank Marshall were native-born Perryans. Frank later married Sid Wade's sister, Prudye.
Under "Department Personnels" (sic) the book lists Edgar Marshall, another Perry product, along with Frank and Harry Marshall, Cap Swift, Omer Shaw and Louis Shaw as part of the Arena crew. ide Show crew members included all of the Wade family.
The centerfold spread was a panoramic photograph of the entire road company --cowboys, Indians, Zouaves, trick riders, elephant handlers, and all the others, perhaps as many as 300. On the back cover was a full-page picture of "famous Western motion picture star" Jack Hoxie standing on a saddle strapped to his horse, Old Scout, and a personal message from Jack himself. The inside back cover featured his leading lady, Miss Dixie Starr, with her own message to the fans. Jack and Dixie were stars of the show.
Louis Stanislav and his wife, Iva, now make their home on route one, Bx 103-5, in Prague, OK 74864-9620, and no doubt they would enjoy hearing from any of their Perry friends. Their son, Jerry, is Anna Lou's brother-in-law, and he and his wife, the former Binnie Sue Eppler (Anna Lou's sister), live at 2200 Cowan Place in Moore, OK 73160.
The 101 Ranch Wild West Show was a huge enterprise, a uniquely American entertainment spectacle. Some great photographs of the show troupe and the ranch itself decorate a large wall at Terry and Judi Leonard's Cattle Baron Restaurant. Many of the photos are from Kenneth Coldiron's collection, and you can check them out next time you're in there.
During its lifespan, the 101 Ranch provided excitement and entertainment for thousands throughout the world and employment for many Noble county area people. When it folded many of the stranded troupers, like Cap Swift, the Shaws and the Russian bandmaster, Prof. Leopold Radgowsky, took up permanent residence here. They added greatly to our local lore and the colorful mixture of interesting people who have called Perry their home. Only a few of them now remain to tell about their adventures with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, but the stories they relate are marvelous to hear. They were part of an enchanting chapter in the history of Oklahoma.