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Founded in 1872 at present Dover in Kingfisher County, the Red Fork Ranch was a strategically located trading post situated above the high water mark where the Chisholm Trail intersected the Cimarron River. At the time of its creation trading posts were referred to as "trader's ranches," and the river was known as "the Red Fork of the Arkansas River," thus the original name of Red Fork Trader's Ranch. In 1872 the trading firm of William McDole Lee and Albert E. Reynolds established the ranch. Lee and Reynolds encouraged cattlemen to fatten their end of season herds over the winter on range surrounding the trading post. A semiweekly stage service from Arkansas City, Kansas, to Fort Sill created the need for keeping the ranch open year round.

Red Fork Ranch was abandoned briefly in 1874 during the Red River War. When the ranch was reoccupied new stockade style buildings were erected, and the original corral was divided into several corrals. The following year Lee and Reynolds sold their trading license to Daniel W. "Dan" Jones, the first of a succession of proprietors who made a living there while combating loneliness through the fall and winter months. The ranch had no distinct boundaries. An 1885 map indicates that it encompassed slightly more than 100,000 acres in the northeast corner of present Kingfisher County. The location of the ranch trading post became the town site of Dover.

John Chapin, the final proprietor of Red Fork Ranch, refused to leave the ranch when "Sooners" were being deported prior to the Land Run of 1889, contending that his trading license gave him a right to remain within the Unassigned Lands. A little after noon on April 22, 1889, he stepped out of his door and staked out a town lot, marking the closing of Red Fork Ranch.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hubert E. Collins, Warpath and Cattle Trail (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1928). John L. Lillibridge, The Red Fork Ranch and Its People (N.p.: Greene's Print, 1990).

Thomas L. Hedglen

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