Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  UF Ranch

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


In the 1880s William Greiffenstein (1829–99) and his Potawatomi wife, Catherine Burnett, operated a large cattle ranch in the Potawatomi Nation of Indian Territory. Greiffenstein had an illustrious life prior to the founding of his Indian Territory ranch in 1883. Born and raised in Germany, he had immigrated to the United States in 1848. He had been a clerk in a general store, then a trader with different American Indian nations, first in Kansas and then in Indian Territory, a rancher, a store owner, and a cofounder of Wichita, Kansas. His first wife, "Cheyenne" Jennie, a full-blood Cheyenne, had proven invaluable in his affairs with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache in western Kansas. In 1867 he had established a trading post on the Canadian River in Indian Territory, later relocating to the Kiowa and Comanche agency on the Washita River.

A contemporary and friend of Jesse Chisholm and James Mead, who knew him as "Dutch Bill," Greiffenstein earned respect for his skill in dealing with the various tribes in southwestern Oklahoma. Later in 1867, Gen. Philip Sheridan had expelled Greiffenstein from Indian Territory for allegedly selling firearms to hostile American Indians. Greiffenstein disputed this claim in Washington, D.C., and received compensation for the loss of his goods. He then settled at the junction of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers, and he helped establish the city of Wichita, Kansas.

In 1869 Greiffenstein married Catherine Burnett, daughter of Potawatomi chief Abram Burnett and Mary Knofflock Burnett, who was native of Germany. Greiffenstein remained in Wichita, operating a general store and speculating in real estate into the 1890s. He served as mayor in 1878 and from 1880 to 1884. In 1883, through his wife's Potawatomi citizenship, the couple leased four hundred thousand acres of Potawatomi land on the nation's reservation in Indian Territory. Under his wife's name they ran cattle and horses on this large range, which they called the UF Ranch, and also kept a herd of swine. Even after the U.S. Department of the Interior ruled the lease invalid, the Greiffensteins continued to graze their cattle on the unoccupied land until 1888 when the government forced them to remove the animals to the wife's allotment or sell them. At that time the herd numbered twenty-five hundred head. Like many other developers, Greiffenstein lost most of his assets when the Wichita real estate boom ended in 1887.

In 1888 he had financed the construction of a store on his wife's allotment in Indian Territory. Here, he again planned a town, which he named Burnett, in honor of Catherine's maiden name. He had hoped to make Burnett the county seat of the area that became County B in Oklahoma Territory, later Pottawatomie County, but Tecumseh secured the designation originally (Shawnee became the county seat of Pottawatomie County in 1930). The Greiffenstein's fight to graze cattle on unoccupied American Indian land ended when the Potawatomi land was opened to non-Indian settlement by the land run of 1891. In 1895 the Greiffensteins permanently moved to Burnett, living in a large ranch house on the allotment. William Greiffentstein died on September 26, 1899, and Catherine passed away on October 20, 1918.

Larry O'Dell


William C. Ellington, Jr., comp., William Greiffenstein (1873; reprint, Wichita, Kans.: W. Ellington, 1987).

Robert McIsaac, "William Greiffenstein and the Founding of Wichita" (M.A. thesis, University of Wichita, 1937).

Charles W. Mooney, Localized History of Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, to 1907 (Midwest City, Okla.: Thunderbird Industries, 1971).

Joseph F. Murphy, Potawatomi of the West: Origins of the Citizen Band (Shawnee, Okla.: Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe, 1988).

Browse By Topic



The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “UF Ranch,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=UF001.

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.