Fire Destroys Famous Ranch General Store
PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) _ One of the last remaining buildings on a ranch that became internationally known for its traveling wild west show was destroyed by fire early Tuesday.
″My heart is on the floor,″ said Mary Grace Lebeda, a member of a group working to preserve what remains of the 101 Ranch.
Cause of the fire had not been determined.
The fire leveled the ranch’s stone general store only three days before architects retained by the National Park Service were to visit the site to determine if the store and some remaining outbuildings were worthy of preserving, said Clarence Vaughn, a Ponca City accountant and president of the 101 Ranch Restoration Foundation.
The two-story store, built in 1918, served as the ranch office and store as well as the heart of the 110,000-acre ranch.
The 101 Ranch was started in 1893 by Col. George Miller, who died 10 years later. His three sons, Joe, Zack and George, guided the ranch to international fame over the next 40 years with its wild west show.
Joe Miller took more than 1,000 performers ranging from musicians and sharpshooters to Russian Cossacks and cowboys and Indians on coast-to-coast tours in the United States and Europe.
The ranch was a self-contained community sporting its own refinery, orchards and gardens, tannery and butcher shop. Ranch hands were paid with 101 Ranch scrip, redeemable at the local store. Vaughn said the scrip has become a collector’s item.
The ranch featured a 12,000-seat rodeo arena and a menagerie that equaled a small-scale zoo.
Joe Miller died in 1927 and the show closed for good in 1931. Most of the property was sold off in plots to farmers and ranchers.
The 101 Ranch Restoration Foundation owns 72 acres at the site of the original ranch headquarters and was interested in acquiring the general store building, Vaugh said.
He said the organization had not been able to find donors to fund the purchase, which he said would have been in the range of about $100,000.
″There was a lot of interest. A lot of people came by just to see where it was,″ he said.
He said only a blacksmith shop, which is in bad repair, and a few barns remain standing.
The building was owned by Nancy Edwards of Ponca City. Her brother was living in the building but was not at home when the fire broke out, a spokeswoman said.