Museum of Chincoteague asks for public’s help to save the Beebe Ranch
CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. – An iconic piece of local history is up for sale. The Museum of Chincoteague is asking for the community’s help to save the Beebe Ranch.
Property For Sale
The ranch has been in the Beebe family for at least 90 years, if not more, says Bonnie Beebe. Bonnie Beebe’s husband, Billy Beebe, and his sister, Barbara Beebe Gray, are the current owners. Today, about 10 acres remain.
The little yellow house that sits on an unassuming quiet residential street has become a local landmark since the publishing of Mergueritte Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague and Stormy, Misty’s Foal.
“There was about 100 acres that was here. When [Grandma and Grandpa Beebe] passed, they had a boatload of kids and the property was divided between their children, and eventually all sold off, except for this last bit of property,” said Bonnie Beebe. “That’s the last of what’s left of the original Beebe Ranch. The house that’s on the property, the little yellow house, was the house that Misty was kept in during the Ash Wednesday storm in 1962.”
But as Billy and Barbara grew older, they realized it was nearing time to let go of the beloved property. That idea was solidified by an offer from a developer.
“After all these years, it’s finally time to sell the property. They’re not really in a position to keep it any longer. They’ve reached out to the museum to see if we possibly could purchase it and preserve it, which is their ultimate dream,” said Executive Director of the Museum of Chincoteague Island, Cindy Faith.
“A monster of a task”
The Beebe family aren’t the only ones that have touching ties to the land; it’s also a place that holds special meaning for other locals.
“If you don’t know ponies are important when you get here, you figure it out pretty quickly,” said Faith. “The Chincoteague lifestyle, the people that live here, they’re so amazing, the stories people tell here. It’s just a treasure trove of wonderful, interesting people and stories.”
In an effort to save the ranch, and preserve local history, the Beebes and the Museum of Chincoteague are teaming up to ask for the public’s help.
“This is a monster of a task. It cannot happen without people outside of the Chincoteague community coming together, and helping in any way that they can,” said Faith. “We have to try. So, here we are with the hopes that the $625,000 can be raised 100% by donation. If not, we are willing to scrape together fundraisers, ourselves.”
Bonnie Beebe says when the museum reached out to her family with their offer to rally community support, she says they were “ecstatic.”
“We just don’t want to lose that history because it is a very important part of Chincoteague and Eastern Shore history, also with the state of Virginia,” said Bonnie Beebe. “It’s a huge piece of history, and it would just be a shame for something to happen to it.”
Small Island, Big Connections
The story of the Beebe Ranch may be found on a small island in Virginia; but the personal connections that people make to it spill the world over.
“I’ve met literally thousands of people over the years who read that book,” said Faith. “Now, they’re grown-ups. They realize the island was a real place, that the Beebes are really people, and that Misty was a real pony.”
Faith says as she’s run tours of the island over the years, she’s heard all kinds of stories, from all kinds of people, about what the Beebe Ranch means to them.
“Many people have saved that book their whole life. They might be 60 or 70 years old, they received that book as a child when they were maybe eight or 10 years old, carried that book with them their whole lives,” said Faith.
Bonnie Beebe says she’s experienced the same. “It’s a place where we’ve been able to connect with people who all have that same love of that story,” she said. “They start crying because that Misty book might have been their first book that they ever read, or they had a horse named Misty. That was something that they were able to hold on to… It’s a heartfelt thing to talk to somebody that has that much connection.”
Save The Ranch
Faith says without the help of those who call Chincoteague home, or those who just love it for its history, saving the ranch won’t be possible. Adding, any small bit can help. Faith shared an anecdote of two children who had recently visited the museum, offering up $1.50 donation each.
“We are just so humbled by the outpouring of love that people have been giving us. We are very far from the goal, but we’re hoping throughout this month that we can show the Beebe family that this is very doable,” said Faith.
Anyone who has questions about the mission to save the ranch, or wants to make a donation, can reach out to the museum directly. Their phone number is 757-336-6117. Donations can also be given on the museum’s GoFundMe page.
“Ask the questions that you have. We’ll be happy to answer them. We’re completely transparent on this. We want this to be a place for future generations to come,” said Faith.
If enough donations are collected, Faith says the museum will purchase the ranch, and improve it. She says the museum is considering the possibility of rebuilding and restoring the barn and stables, making more open space, as well as creating educational programming.
“We’ve got a lot of ambitious goals in the future. But, we’ve got to get over this initial hurdle to make all this happen,” said Faith. “When you have the opportunity to just save a place as special as this, we have to do everything we can to make that happen.”