Watch our short introductory video
Birthplace Ranch, Oologah, OK
Open Daily: 10 AM - 5 PM
March 1 - November 10
Seasonal Hours (November 11 - February 28) Closed Monday, Tuesday, Thanksgiving and Christmas
9501 E. 380 Rd.
Oologah, OK 74053
Main - 918-341-0719
Admission is FREE - donations encouraged
Take a self-guided tour through the historic Rogers ranch house, and catch a glimpse at what life was like on a late nineteenth century ranch in Indian Territory.
See the era-correct barn, livestock grazing in their pastures, and enjoy the beautiful, hilltop view of Oologah Lake.
Hiking and Equestrian Trails are available through the cattle pastures in the valley.
Airplanes may land on our grass airstrip in the hay meadow west of the Rogers ranch house.
The Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch is a historic site near Oologah, Oklahoma that, as the name says, was the birthplace home of famed cowboy humorist Will Rogers. However, well before Will Rogers was entertaining the country on stage, in newspapers, over the radio, or in movies, his father, Clem Rogers, had made a name for himself as a successful Cherokee rancher, businessman, and politician. And, this white, Greek-revival style ranch house was the center of the Rogers family life.
Clement Vann Rogers was born on 11 January 1839 near Westville, Indian Territory, in the Going Snake district of the Cherokee Nation. Even in his youth, Clem was known as stern, independent, and hardworking. His father, Robert Rogers, who was an early settler to Indian Territory, had died in 1840, leaving Clem and his mother, Sally Vann, to care for their small family farm. Clem attended a local Baptist mission school and later would also attend the Cherokee Male Seminary in Tahlequah for a few semesters. However, Clem was more interested in starting his own ranch than he was in going to school. In 1855, when he was sixteen, he was hired to help drive a herd of five-hundred longhorn steers from Indian Territory up to Kansas City, and Clem Rogers quit school for good.
Young Clem Rogers had his eye on the sparsely-settled Cooweescoowee district as a site for a potential a ranch of his own. The Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee nation was a rancher’s paradise. It was an area with few settlers and vast, wide-open prairies of native-growing blue stem grass. Clem Rogers set up his ranch and trading post along Rabb’s Creek, a small tributary to the Caney River. However, it wasn’t long before the Civil War broke out, and this homestead was abandoned. Young Clem Rogers enlisted as an officer with the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles volunteer regiment and served with them the entirety of the war. When war broke out, Clem’s new wife, Mary America Schrimsher Rogers, would go stay with her family, first at their family plantation southwest of Tahlequah, and then further south into Texas at a refugee camp near Bonham.
By the end of the Civil War, the Rogers ranch along Rabb’s Creek was gone. For a time, the Rogers family would remain with the Schrimsher family southwest of Tahlequah while Clem Rogers would begin to rebuild his herd. By 1868, Clem Rogers would move back to the Cooweescoowee district of the Cherokee Nation to reestablish the ranch, with his family rejoining him by 1870. This time, Clem Rogers chose a location along the Verdigris River about seven miles to the east of his first claim. He began building the Rogers ranch house in the summer of 1873 with his former slaves, Rabb and Huse. The Rogers ranch house, known as the “White House on the Verdigris” was completed by 1875.
By the time Will Rogers was born in 1879, the Rogers ranch was expansive. It was more than 60,000 acres, with an eastern border of the Verdigris River and the western border of the Caney River. The southern border of the ranch was where the Verdigris and Caney Rivers intersected, which was nearly as far south as Claremore, and the northern border riders would ride near what is modern day Talala, almost twenty miles to the north of the southernmost point of the ranch. The ranch had nearly 10,000 head of Texas Longhorn cattle that grazed on the fertile land between the rivers. There was more to the 60,000 acres than just cattle grazing, however.
Everything that was grown or raised on the Rogers ranch was somehow related to the production of beef. The Rogers had scores of ranch hands and farmers that lived on the ranch in bunkhouses that needed to be fed. They needed horses. They needed fodder crops. During the late 1870s and 1880s, the Rogers ranch devoted three hundred acres to the production of corn and oats, and more than one hundred acres to hay. To feed the ranch and farm hands, they raised Duroc-Jersey pigs, Leghorn chickens, and many different fruits and vegetables in the orchards and farm land in the fertile river bottoms. And, to keep everyone well-mounted, the Rogers raised horses on the ranch, carrying the “J4” brand.
However, things would fundamentally change by 1889 when the Missouri Pacific Railway would come through and bisect the Rogers Ranch in two. The railroad, following modern day highway 169, created two natural east and west sections to the ranch. But, the railroad also brought settlers. Though the land within the Cherokee Nation was collectively owned by the Cherokees, and leased by individual tribal members, white settlers started showing up to build a new life for themselves on the western frontier.
With the new railroad splitting the ranch in two, by the 1890s, Clem Rogers changed his ranching operations. He continued using the eastern section of his ranch for beef cattle, but slowly started switching breeds, going from Texas Longhorns, to Durham Shorthorns, to Herford. And, on the other side of the railroad tracks, on the western section of the ranch, Clem began raising turkey red wheat.
This was, however, the end of the Rogers ranch as it once was. By the late 1890s, through the Curtis and Dawes Acts, the federal government would take the land that was once collectively owned by the tribes, and individually allot the land to the citizens. The Rogers ranch, which was once 60,000 acres, was reduced to about 140 acres, with Clem and Will Rogers’ allotments. Clem was able to buy up land around him, reaching nearly 2000 acres, but the ranch would never be what it once was. Times had changed.
This is the environment in which Will Rogers was raised. Clem Rogers would eventually move into Claremore, served as a vice president in the new First National Bank, opened a livery stable, and was a part owner of the Sequoyah Hotel. In December of 1898, he would put his young son, Will Rogers, in charge of the old Rogers Ranch. Will, who pined for the days of the sprawling ranch of his youth, was not too interested in operating a small ranch. It was at this time, that Will Rogers renamed it the Dog Iron ranch, after his cattle brand.
By 1902, Will Rogers had moved on, and the ranch was operated by tenant farmers for many years, and the house fell into disrepair. By the late 1920s, Will Rogers had become an international superstar. He bought up his sister’s share of the ranch, and put his nephew, Herb McSpadden, in charge of it. The McSpadden family revived the ranch, and lived in the Rogers ranch house until 1960, when the ranch house was taken apart in two different pieces, and moved up on top of the hill in which it now sits, to save it when the Army Corp of Engineers dammed up the Verdigris River to create Oologah Lake. Since that time, the Rogers ranch house has been open to the public as a historic site so visitors from all over the world can visit the birthplace of Will Rogers.