Geronimo and his associates at the 101 Ranch taking a drive in a 1905 Locomobile Model C.

Geronimo’s Cadillac—Er, Locomobile

ICTMN Staff
5/5/11

An addendum of sorts to our life of Geronimo in pictures: The 1905 photo of Geronimo wearing a top hat and sitting in an automobile. The car has been identified as a Locomobile Model C, and here's a good description of the circumstances from a letter to the editors of American History magazine (the letter is no longer available on TheHistoryNet.com; we found it reprinted on the personal website of Bill Bottorff):

The photograph of Geronimo driving a car on the last page of the April 2004 issue of American History was actually taken on June 11, 1905, at the Miller brothers' 101 Ranch, located southwest of Ponca City, Okla. The car is a Locomobile, and the Indian in full headdress to Geronimo's left is Edward Le Clair Sr., a Ponca Indian. Geronimo so admired Le Clair's beaded vest that it was presented to him later in the day. When Geronimo died in 1909, he was buried in the vest. The photograph was taken during a special 101 Ranch show for the U.S. press. Thousands of newspaper editors and reporters flocked to it.

I know of three other photographs of Geronimo from that day. One shows him with several mounted Army soldiers. At the time, Geronimo was still imprisoned at Fort Sill, Okla., and guards accompanied him to the show. Another photo shows him standing beside a dead buffalo, which he had supposedly just killed, and the picture shows a number of arrows sticking out of the animal's side. The Millers advertised the event as the last buffalo Geronimo killed. Actually it was the first, as buffalo rarely ranged into the Southwest where he was born and lived -- and in reality he didn't kill this one either. Ranch hands had herded it up into bow-and-arrow range, and, as the arrows were not fatal, one of the cowboys finally shot it in the head with his gun. The third photo supposedly shows Geronimo skinning the dead buffalo.

—Ivan L. Pfalser, Caney, Kan.

The photograph served as the inspiration for a noteworthy song by Michael Martin Murphey, the title track of his 1972 debut album, Geronimo's Cadillac. He may have gotten the vehicle's make wrong, but Murphey struck a chord (so to speak) in Indian country, and his song is often called an "unofficial anthem" of the American Indian Movement that flourished in the 1970s. Murphey himself became an advocate for Indian rights and was later adopted by the Dull Knife family of Lakota. Here are two versions of "Geronimo's Cadillac," one by Murphey and the other by his friend Bill Miller, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page