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Montford Johnson
1843 - 1896

Montford Johnson was a Chickasaw cattleman and entrepreneur who overcame adversity to establish a ranching empire along the Chisholm Trail. He was born in November 1843 and raised by his grandmother with his sister, Adelaide. He cared for his grandmother’s livestock and eventually accumulated his own.

Following the Civil War, Johnson established ranches throughout what is now central Oklahoma after negotiating with the Plains tribes west of Chickasaw territory. He also had a role in establishing two stores and a bank. His family also helped establish eight towns in Oklahoma. He was a pioneer in the agriculture industry and had approximately 35,000 cattle across 1.3 million acres.

Johnson worked to improve the lives of First Americans who had been forced onto reservations by the U.S. government, making agreements for them to take cattle from his herds whenever they needed food. He also advocated for the release of First American prisoners at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, during the Red River War in 1874.

He dedicated his life to helping others with food, shelter and guidance. He supported ranchers in building their own businesses and housed children who had been orphaned, taking them in as his own.

For his contributions, Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in April 2020. A book based on his life, “The Chickasaw Rancher,” written by Neil R. Johnson, was first published in 1960 and later revised. A feature film, “Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher,” and documentary, “Montford: An Original Brand,” were produced by Chickasaw Nation Productions, along with elementary and secondary curriculum for students.

Johnson helped shape modern-day Oklahoma. He rebuilt ranching operations in the aftermath of the Civil War and showed resilience during the Land Rush of 1889. He enabled Chickasaw history and culture to be shared with the public in new ways, and showed what can be accomplished when one works hard, follows their passions and takes care of those around them.

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