Rich History

Where the History of the Ranch Begins:

George W. Winn was born a slave on the Henry Weich plantation 4 miles west of Thomasville, Georgia on December 4, 1847. He would spend seven years on the cotton and rice plantation before his master, R.D. Blackshear, would give ownership to his daughter and move to Texas. Winn would be one of over one million slaves until the Civil War. with the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863, Winn would not be freed until word reached Texas two and a half years later.

Winn married his wife Carrie in 1867. This union would be blessed with twelve children, thirty grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren. They both became involved with the Methodist Episcopal Church and when they moved to Kansas in 1880, Winn joined the Kansas Conference. He had to leave the Conference when his family moved to a large piece of land in Guthrie, Oklahoma, but was strong in his faith and intended to devote his time to the M.E. church as soon as he had his farm sorted out. His faith would be shaken, however, soon after moving to a small plot of land 7.5 miles northwest of Guthrie. Winn spent what time he had as a minister at the Methodist church in Guthrie. However, many of his Methodist neighbors were converting to Baptist. So when a man approached his home and asked if he’d been out to the meeting at the Lone Star School House and then invited him to a baptizing that Sunday. Winn made the trek out with his wife to the baptizing and found himself in a gathering of about 400 people. He’d gone to protect his church, should any ill-will be found, but he found nothing to fight. Though his faith wasn’t quite shaken, it would be his son that swayed him the Baptist way. Later his youngest son was sent to a neighbor’s to borrow some soda but when they noticed a growth ‘the size of a goose egg’ on his wrist they said to the boy “I am going to ask the Lord to remove it from your arm.” Three days later, the bump was gone. It was due to this that Winn “accepted the truth” and was baptized, but with it he had lost his will to preach. It would take him “considerable time” before the Spirit would move him to preach again and Winn would embrace his new faith fully.

Winn travel and preach and with it he would gain the trust and faith of his Guthrie family, but things weren’t easy. When he filed for the 160 acres that make up the Marshal Ranch in 1896, his family faced some of the hardest days of their lives. In the “Biography of G.W. Winn” , Winn describes how they lived in a dugout and his children had only a pallet to keep them from sleeping on the dirt floor. Food was scarce, their money low, but Winn kept his faith and believes the Lord supplied for their needs. Their first gift came in the form of a cat from the neighbors. For three months the cat would bring a rabbit to the children’s feet and eat only the head for herself. It was the daily rabbit that gave their family substance until she disappeared. Three days later, one of his sons brought home a “smart dog” that acted like “he wants to go hunting”. It was with the dog that Winn was able to hunt enough squirrels each day to keep the family fed until they could afford to have a pig in the pen. This helped instill in Winn that, so long as they had faith, their family would survive.

On March 14, 1906, Winn secured his place in Guthrie history when he helped to found the Church of God. He did so alongside his fellow board of trustee members: R. L. Glasgow, pastor and chairman, C. N. Jones, J. L. Glasgow, and Geo. D. Oldham. These original charter members are deceased, but the services of the Church of God have continued over the years at the same location, though the original frame building was replaced in the year of 1952 with a masonry structure. Winn and his wife would spend the rest of their lives together serving the Guthrie area. Their union was blessed with twelve children, thirty grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren.

A Second Historic Owner

Winn wasn’t the only famous figure to reside on the land of Marshal Ranch. Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Madsen was born in a small village, Ørsted, in Denmark on February 25, 1851. His parents lived in poverty, but education in Denmark was above par and Madsen was bright, so he did well in school and received good reports from his teachers. However, when Germany and Prussia invaded Denmark in 1863, his father Mads Christiansen, took him along with him to the war front. Mads had a desk job at the telegraph office and soon Madsen was given a uniform with a small sword the size of a butcher knife. He was told to “go after those Germans” by the soldiers as he delivered telegrams to the front coming under fire every day. Madsen was only 13-years old when the war climaxed near the town of Sønderborg at the Battle of Dybbøl Mølle. As 7,500 Danish soldiers came under attack by rockets and 75,000 Germans, Madsen continued running around the battlefield delivering messages. When an officer told Madsen to retreat, the boy saw the form of his half-brother, Officer Nels, dead by a bridge and, after arriving to the island of Als, he found his father in the tent hospital. His father survived and, with the request of a Danish general, Madsen would attend a military school in Copenhagen. He would graduate at 17 as corporal and would soon find himself on a ship to France.

When the France-Prussian War broke out between Germany and France, Madsen would fight as an infangryman at the battle of Sedan. It was during this battle that Madsen would be wounded on his ankle when the Germans fired a barrage of shrapnel. Madsen would be knocked out in the following cavalry charge and wake up a prison of war. Though he would escape back home to Denmark thanks to the help of a friend of his father, he would be seen as an ‘outlaw’ and would resort to hiding in hay stacks and sleeping in barns. Eventually he would find his old regiment and he would be shipped back to Algeria, leaving the chaos of the war behind. After serving five more years, Madsen would turn to Norway to work on a whaling ship, then become a survey-or for a railroad. Home still wasn’t an option with the Danish still forced to turn in any French soldiers and at 25-years old, Madsen felt unaccomplished. It was a Norwegian friend who convinced Madsen to go to America so with all the money he had saved he bought a ticket and set sail in December of 1875.

He would arrive to the U.S. on January 17, 1876, but the streets of America weren’t anything like his friend had painted. Instead of roads paved with gold Madsen found hundreds looking for jobs just as he was. Though he didn’t want to, Madsen found himself turning to the U.S. Army. His pockets were light, and his meals were from a soup kitchen. When he arrived at the recruiting office, he found himself among over 100 other applicants. The recruiters weren’t impressed, nor was the doctor that performed his physical. However, after finding a scar on his ankle, Madsen informed them of his time in the Danish Army. Just four days after arriving in the U.S., Madsen would be one out of 100 and join the Fifth Cavalry in Ft. Hays, Kansas or, as he had called it the “vilde vest”. Madsen would have a 15-year stint in the Fifth Calvary, where he would be promoted to quartermaster sergeant and meet his wife Margaret “Maggie” Bell Morris and have two children, Marian and Christian Reno. However, his pay of $29 a month (the equivalent of $851 today) was not enough to support a family. Madsen would leave the Army on January 10, 1891 to become a deputy U.S. marshal under Marshal William Grimes in the Oklahoma Territory. This job offered $250 a month (7,340.00 today), but the stakes in the Wild West were much higher. This is where Madsen would truly make his claim to fame.

Madsen’s job, along with other Deputy U.S. Marshals, was to patrol and maintain law and order in Indian Territory that wasn’t subject to any state, county, or urban police force. He would come to work closely with William “Bill” Tilghman and Henry Andrew “Heck” Thomas. Together they would become known as “The Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma”, a title that wasn’t easily earned. Glenn Shirley, an Oklahoma author, described Madsen as a “short, barrel-chested Dane with exceptionally large hands, keen eye-sight, an uncanny alacrity with firearms, an unruffled temperament, and an accent as thick as cheesecake”. It was with these skills, and those of Thomas and Tilghman, that the Three Guardsmen would begin cleaning up Oklahoma. They would arrest or kill over 300 desperadoes in the next decade. They’re described as being dauntless in their pursuits, ignoring harsh weather and keeping on the trail of the outlaws. The Three Guardsmen are known to be the ones to bring down the outlaw Bill Doolin and his Doolin Dalton Gang by systematically killing gang members who resisted them and arresting any that would surrender. These career accomplishments would follow Marshal Madsen for years as he joined Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, be appointed U.S. Marshal for the entire state of Oklahoma, serve as the Chief of Police for Oklahoma City, and even serve as special investigator for the governor of Oklahoma. He would settle in Guthrie, Oklahoma on the land that would later become Marshal Ranch in March of 1913.

In his later years, Madsen would be cared for by his daughter Marion. He would walk downtown every day to visit the sheriff’s office, then the marshal’s, until he died in 1944 recovering from a broken hip at Masonic Home for the Aged in Guthrie.


"Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma", William 'Bill" Tilghman, Henry "Heck" Thomas, and Chris Madsen (left to right].

Want to read more about Chris Madsen’s life? Check out Christian Madsen – A Dane in the “Wild West"

What’s Next for the Marshal Ranch?

We hope to honor the history of the land these great men lived on by pushing forward with our own Mission to bring healing to the people of Oklahoma. To learn more about our plans for Marshal Ranch and how we got here visit: ___________________________.

 World War I Draft Registration Card for Edward Winn