An existing exhibit is dedicated to Beebe's Ranch. Now, the ranch itself will be an extension of the museum. Photo: The Museum of Chincoteague

Community Effort Saves Misty of Chincoteague Ranch from Development

A grassroots effort to preserve the lower Eastern Shore’s famed Beebe Ranch as a museum has paid off. The Museum of Chincoteague officially bought the ranch property from the Beebe family, saving it from likely being developed. The Beebe Ranch is the setting for Misty of Chincoteague, a 1947 book about a Chincoteague pony that became a six-book series selling over 5 million copies.

When the Beebe family decided earlier this year to sell the ranch due to aging family members and the challenges of keeping it up, the property almost went to a developer for an offered $625,000.

But the ranch continues to be popular with tourists and fans of the Misty series, who come to tour the property. The Beebes hoped the Museum of Chincoteague could match the $625,000 offer, and in February, a fundraising mission began.

It seemed like an ambitious goal to reach. When Bay Bulletin wrote about the museum’s efforts Feb. 28, they had raised just $35,000.

As the museum posted on its GoFundMe page, “If we can raise the funds in what can only be called a colossal, grassroots effort, we can preserve the ranch for future generations, keep a treasured part of Chincoteague intact and support the mission of the museum to protect our history, making the Beebe Ranch an officially an extension of the museum.”

Since then, a host of creative fundraisers have been launched to benefit the “Save the Beebe Ranch” fund.

Chincoteague pony collectibles have been sold. A couple of local girls sold their hand-painted decorative shells on the island and donated their proceeds. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which auctions ponies at the beloved Chincoteague Pony Swim each year, held a special auction to benefit the museum’s ranch fund.

Bay pinto filly #29, born around April 24, 2023, went up for auction June 9-14 as a buyback, meaning the pony would be donated back to the volunteer fire company and the proceeds would go to the Beebe Ranch fund. The auction ended up setting a pony buyback record at $40,500. The filly was given the honorary name of Beebe’s Perfect Storm.

Pushing the fundraiser within striking distance was a generous donation from island resident and local philanthropist, David Landsberger. He offered a $100,000 matching grant challenge.

On June 30, the museum was able to officially buy the ranch. They say Billy Beebe and his sister Barbara Gray called the sale a “dream come true”.

“Selling the Beebe Ranch to the Museum of Chincoteague, protecting it for the future, was something that their mother had been talking about many years ago and now it has happened!” the museum posted on Facebook.

Thousands of individuals, both local and from around the country, donated to the fund. Now, the museum says, the planning begins to determine how the 10-acre ranch property and the Beebe’s original home will be displayed to the public.

-Meg Walburn Viviano