And perhaps as early as next spring, members of the public will be able to visit a museum that will be created in the main house of the Chase Ranch.
“These two great ladies demonstrated a pioneer spirit that we don’t have today,” John Clark, Philmont’s general manager, said of Gretchen Sammis and Ruby Gobble.
Sammis, the fourth generation of her family to own and operate the 11,000-acre cattle ranch, died in August 2012 and specified in her will that it be preserved and operated as a model historic ranch, with Gobble having the right to live there the rest of her life.
Gobble, a trick rider and world champion roper, was Sammis’ companion for 49 years and ranch manager. She died on June 14 of this year.
Her death helped spur the Chase Ranch Foundation, which owns the ranch, to come up with a way to fulfill Sammis’ wishes for its future, according to Clark.
“They came to us and asked us if we can partner with them,” he said. “We are absolutely thrilled to death to do that.”
In a news release, Ed Pease, president of the Chase Ranch Foundation, noted that Philmont, owned by the Boy Scouts of America, has both the expertise and the funds to make Sammis’ dream come true.
“Philmont has decades of experience doing exactly the things she wanted done – preserving historic structures, managing high-quality museum collections, creating educational programs through living history presentations of New Mexico and American Southwest history, running a working cattle ranch … ,” Pease said.
No money changed hands in the lease and operating agreement, according to Clark. In return for having access to the land for some of its own scouting programs, Philmont will manage the working ranch, repair and maintain structures on the property, turn the house into a museum and staff it, as well as develop educational programs for both Philmont scouts and the public.
“Our program is based on 12-day hikes,” Clark said of Philmont, explaining that access to the ranch property will help with the development of some new trails, as well as possible five-day hikes. Philmont hosts about 25,000 youths each year and encompasses 137,000 acres adjacent to Chase Ranch.
He added that work is underway now to determine what repairs are needed on the property and how much they will cost. “The buildings are deteriorating,” Clark said. “There are a lot of issues with health and safety.”
Philmont staff is also working with the foundation to develop an operational plan, he said. “Everything we do has to be blessed by the foundation,” Clark said.
In the next 60 days, Philmont also plans to convene a number of community forums at which area residents can share stories and facts about the ranch and the two women, he said. “Ruby and Gretchen knew everybody,” Clark said. “They (community members) can help us better understand how the property has been used over the years.
“We do hope to have the museum part (of the ranch) open by spring of next year,” he added.
Special events may also be held at the ranch, Clark said. “There was a carriage house that was a social gathering place once a week (on the ranch),” he said. “There were weddings, birthday parties, family picnics – I hope we can still do that.”
The ranch has its roots in 1867, after Manly and Theresa Chase crossed the Raton Pass in a wagon loaded with their goods and exchanged some wild horses they captured for a 1,000-acre parcel owned by Lucien Maxwell. Sammis, who taught in Cimarron Public Schools for 26 years, took over operations at the ranch after her grandfather died in 1954.
According to a story in the Journal about Sammis’ death, the adobe house was maintained much as it was in the 19th century, including a wood- and coal-burning stove in the kitchen and a bedroom suite brought in by her great-grandfather over the Santa Fe Trail.
In that same story, Sally Schwartz, who worked on the ranch, said Sammis and Gobble were very self-sufficient. “You just figured out how to do it yourself: build fences, build corrals, put up hay, fix any equipment that broke down, build road and dams, and, of course, all the cattle work,” she said.
In the news release on the new operating agreement, Thelma Coker, a director of the Chase Ranch Foundation, said Sammis “was a model of community service and integrity, hard work and gracious hospitality, a stalwart protector of the ranch and her friends, a generous benefactor, a woman whose words and blue-eyed gaze were direct and discerning.
“She abhorred liars, phonies and selfish people, but never stinted on praise and support for honest effort and determination,” Coker added.