CHINCOTEAGUE: Beebe Ranch fund drive nears goal

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EASTERN SHORE POST/CLARA VAUGHN FILE PHOTO Billy Beebe holds a sign at the Beebe Ranch on Chincoteague Island in a 2017 photo. The red barn in the background burned in 2019.

BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post

When the Museum of Chincoteague Island announced a fundraiser to purchase and preserve the Beebe Ranch, thousands answered its call.

The museum is close to its $625,000 goal to save the ranch, which was Misty of Chincoteague’s longtime home.

Donors have contributed over $525,000 toward the goal, which the museum hopes to meet before closing on the property June 30, said Cindy Faith, executive director of the Museum of Chincoteague Island.

“This has been the best experience of my career,” Faith said of the grassroots effort to save the ranch on Ridge Road. “It’s just incredible to be a part of it.”

The Beebe Ranch dates back 100 years, when Clarence and Ida Beebe — known to most as Grandpa and Grandma Beebe — owned over 100 acres of pastureland on the island’s south side.

“He became somebody on the island that everyone respected as far as his knowledge of the ponies,” Faith said of Grandpa Beebe.

That led Marguerite Henry to his ranch in 1946, when she visited Chincoteague to collect stories for a book about the island’s annual pony auction.

Henry published “Misty of Chincoteague” the next year, inspired by its namesake pony born on the Beebe Ranch.

Following the novel and the premiere of the “Misty” movie in 1961, the Beebe Ranch became a museum of sorts, hosting visitors to see Misty’s stall and the Beebe family home where, during the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, the family took a pregnant Misty up the front steps and into the kitchen to shelter her from the storm.

The story inspired Henry’s 1963 novel, “Stormy, Misty’s Foal.”

Over time, the ranch dissolved as Grandma and Grandpa Beebe’s children sold their portions of the property. Billy and Barbara Beebe own the remaining 10.3 acres, but recently made the decision to sell the ranch.

“It is not an active farm anymore and it is a big parcel to take care of,” Faith said.

Since announcing the fundraiser to purchase the ranch almost 12 weeks ago, the museum has received a “whirlwind” of support, she said.

In addition to thousands of donors, supporters from across the country have raised funds through racing competitions, Etsy sales, and items donated to the museum for auctions.

This week, local philanthropist David Landsberger gave the museum $100,000 as part of a matching fundraiser challenge.

“It’s obvious from the response that there are just people from all around the country that are grateful to have read the book or have been to Chincoteague,” Faith said. “There are all kinds of reasons people are helping us.”

The museum is still developing plans for the future of the Beebe Ranch, which could include hosting school groups, Road Scholars, and other programs, she said.

The group will work to raise funds to rebuild the barn that burned down in 2019, but has no other plans to add structures to the property, Faith added. 

“People came out of the woodwork to help and every donation has been just wonderful to receive,” Faith said.

“We’re just grateful,” she said.

Supporters have a chance to support the “Save the Beebe Ranch” effort with a buy-back foal during an online auction starting this Friday, June 9, and ending Wednesday, June 14.

Buy-back foals are part of the Chincoteague Pony herds and are released back onto the island with the wild ponies. 

To learn more or bid in the auction, visit https://tinyurl.com/2p8tejja

The museum is also auctioning a donated model of Surfer Dude, a famous Chincoteague stallion, now through June 15. 

Visit https://tinyurl.com/59b8k43n for more information on the limited edition model by artist Peter Stone, known for creating Breyer models.

Donations can be made online through the museum website at https://chincoteaguemuseum.com/support-the-museum/ or GoFundMe at https://tinyurl.com/ycksn3b5

Supporters can also mail a check payable to the Museum of Chincoteague Island, noting the donation is for the Beebe Ranch, P.O. Box 352 Chincoteague Island, VA 23336. 

Call the museum at 757-336-6117 for more information.

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