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BIG V RANCH

Founded by William H. Vanselous, the Big V Ranch flourished in Kay County for more than fifty years, earning a national reputation for its corn production and for the quality of its mules. Vanselous, born in Three Rivers, Michigan, on August 11, 1863, married Viola Love at Belle Plaine, Kansas, in 1893. In the fall Vanselous and his brother, Tom, participated in the Cherokee Outlet Opening in 1893 and staked town-lot claims in Enid. William traded his claim to Tom and bought out a settler's 160 acres. Vanselous soon leased land from various Ponca Indians and started purchasing Ponca land, as soon as legally feasible, eventually accumulating around ten thousand acres.

After Zack Miller of the 101 Ranch, the Big V's eastern neighbor, informed Vanselous about a large San Angelo, Texas, auction of a herd of unbroken range mules, the rancher bought the whole group. Subsequently breaking the mules and shipping many to St. Louis, Vanselous emerged from the deal with a solid, national reputation as a mule dealer and breeder. His obituary claimed that from 1905 to 1912 he handled more mules than any other farmer in the United States. He branded his livestock with the "vv" brand, usually on each jaw. He also raised cattle.

An excellent farmer, Vanselous cultivated large fields of corn, often harvesting more than a hundred thousand bushels, along with wheat and other grain crops. Early in his career he experimented with drought-resistant corn, and his biographers claim that he engineered a white corn variety that grew well in western Oklahoma and revolutionized the meal industry. Called White Wonder, this corn dramatically helped farmers during the difficult agricultural years of the Dust Bowl. Other sources credit the Miller brothers of the 101 Ranch for developing White Wonder corn, but in Vanselous's obituary George Miller was quoted as saying that Vanselous was "the best farmer in the entire country." Because of the Big V's large corn crops Vanselous hired large crews to harvest and shell the product. Husking contests developed during the harvest and brought attention to the ranch. During the early twentieth century Pathé News made a newsreel about one season's harvest and festivities.

William Vanselous died April 7, 1930, leaving the ranch to his children, Edward, Grace, Kay, and Oklahoma, to operate. They continued innovative practices, such as using a small airplane to patrol its acreage and helping pioneer the use of electric fences in Oklahoma. The ranch had its own power plant that maintained forty-five miles of charged fence in the late 1930s. In 1951 the family sold the ranch in an auction, splitting the land up into seventeen tracts. In 1984 the Big V ranch house, built around 1903, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 84000455).

SEE ALSO: CATTLE INDUSTRY, FARMING, HORSE INDUSTRY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Charles Brooks, "Big V Ranch House," National Register of Historic Places File, State Historic Preservation Office, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Daughters of the American Revolution, The Last Run: Kay County, Oklahoma, 1893 (Ponca City, Okla.: Courier Printing Co., 1939). North Central Oklahoma: Rooted in the Past, Growing for the Future (Ponca City, Okla.: North Central Oklahoma Historical Association, 1995). Ponca City (Oklahoma) News, 8 April 1930. Michael Wallis, The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999).

Larry O'Dell

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