Cattle Brands

Genealogists of families with ties to the Great Plains and Southwest have long had an interest in cattle brands.  Many of the first families who settled these areas were stockmen, who because of the vast terrain with no enclosures, were compelled to brand their stock with hot irons to aid in identifying their animals and to try to prevent theft by rustlers. At the settlement of these grazing lands, anyone with cattle was compelled to brand them or face the strong risk of having them taken by unscrupulous persons, either intentionally or un-intentionally.  These brands were often associated with the owner just as strongly as was his surname.  A cowman’s brand was to him the same as a family crest was to an English nobleman.  For a genealogist to find the brand of an ancestor is just as exciting, or more so, as finding the family crest.

As time has passed, the ownership of these ranges has been divested into smaller and smaller parcels and to other ownership.  In many cases the brands of former ranchers have been lost or fallen into disuse whereby the descendants of the original family may not know the existence of the family brand.  In many locals brand books have been printed to aid in the identification of stock as it passed through commercial channels.  These were published by state or local stockmen’s associations or by local law enforcement agencies.  However in the absence of such records it is necessary to use other means to determine the brands of various individuals.

In Roger Mills County there seems to be an absence of organized information on the brands of early settlers.  I have undertaken to determine the identification of some of these brands through the use of newspapers and county records. The early newspapers contained a column of public notices whereby local ranchers could list their brands with identifying earmarks and the area where their cattle were held.  The county records also contain much useful information in the form of mortgages where the cattle are listed with their brands. By using these available records I am attempting to match some brands with the owners of those brands.  My hope is that you will find this information interesting and useful.

It should be noted that in many cases the cattle are listed as having several brands.  This is not unusual because if a herd of cattle were sold, the new owner would naturally place his brand upon the animal to identify it from that of the original owner.  Thus, through the life of an animal it could acquire a number of brands.  Also, a rancher might have more than one brand for his own use.  In listing the brands, there is no way of knowing from the brands listed, which is the primary brand.  Also, a rancher sometimes used a different brand for his horses and I have listed these if they are known.

A list of brands using the above method was made and printed in the Roger Mills County Genealogy Journal which may be viewed at the Minnie Slief Library in Cheyenne.

P. S.  Since the above article was written I have discovered that the first and original Roger Mills County Brand Book is housed at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries in Oklahoma City.  The ODL is located about two blocks southwest of the State Capital Building.  In the brand book is found a record of brands and their owners from 1892 to the 1950s of any rancher who cared to register his brand with the county.  A researcher must sign in and be escorted to the viewing area for access to this brand book.