Featured picture is Gretchen Sammis
Manly Mortimer Chase and Theresa Ward Chase Founders of the Chase Ranch
Gretchen Bottle feeding an orphaned calf
SCOUTS AND RANCHES JOIN FORCES TO HONOR DREAMS OF LEGENDARY NEW MEXICO CATTLEWOMAN Cimarron, N.Mex. -The Chase Ranch Foundation, owner of the historic Chase Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico, and the adjacent Philmont Scout Ranch, the world’s largest private camp that hosts more than 25,000 young adults annually, announce their joint signing of a long term lease and operating agreement to preserve the Chase Ranch’s 146-year heritage and to fulfill the last wishes of its late owner, legendary cattlewoman Gretchen Sammis.
The agreement, effective November 1, 2013, provides that Philmont will assume full responsibility for operation and management of the Chase Ranch, protection and preservation of its historic structures, and development of educational programs for both its own youth participants and the general public. The parties envision that the historic ranch house and surrounding area will become a museum through which the rich history of the Chase family and their western cattle ranching way of life will be displayed for generations to come.
Founded in 1867 by Manly and Theresa Chase, who crossed the Raton Pass in a wagon loaded with all of their worldly goods to establish a new home in New Mexico, the Chase Ranch remained continuously owned by their descendants until the death of their great-granddaughter, Gretchen Sammis, in August 2012. Subsequent to Gretchen’s death, ownership of the ranch transferred to the Chase Ranch Foundation, which she had created for the purpose of preserving the 11,000-acre property and her family’s heritage in perpetuity.
“Long before she died, Gretchen mapped the future for Chase Ranch and facilitated this lasting legacy,” according to Thelma Coker, one of the foundation’s directors. “Gretchen was a fourth-generation rancher, a teacher and educator, a conservator, a lover of young people and of the land, a community member who delighted in sharing Chase Ranch with others and helping them appreciate its history, beauty, and generational worth. She wanted Chase Ranch to continue for generations as a historic model cattle ranch, and she wanted her family’s history to be preserved.”
Former U.S. Congressman Ed Pease, president of the Chase Ranch Foundation, says that “Gretchen’s old fashioned common sense and pragmatism led her to create a structure (the Chase Ranch Foundation) which she gave wide latitude to work with others to accomplish her goals. 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 with her favorite breed- Herefords- but such programs require high quality staff committed to their mission, and the funds to make the whole thing happen. The answer to both Gretchen’s dreams and the resources necessary to make them happen was a management contract with Philmont.”
Philmont Scout Ranch, owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America, provides world-renowned high adventure camping and hiking experiences for youth from across the United States and from several foreign countries. Consisting of more than 137,000 acres adjacent to the Chase Ranch, Philmont also serves as an “educational laboratory” (as described in the lease agreement) with programs offering accurate historical portrayal of early pioneering and ranching life along the Santa Fe Trail.
“Priceless!” replied John H. Green, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Group Director for Outdoor Adventures, when asked about the significance of the agreement. Green, himself a native of the. northeastern New Mexico area where both ranches are located, added, “This is just an unbelievable opportunity to preserve, protect, and enhance the dream of one the great women in New Mexico ranching history. Certainly it adds to the program capacity of Philmont and we are honored and delighted to have this solemn obligation.”
Sammis, herself an almost mythical figure in New Mexico ranching history, owned and operated the ranch for some 58 years before her death. A member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and 2007 New Mexico Cattleman of the year, her lifetime of commitment to her land and sound conservation practices led to her appointments to the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the agriculture advisory committee to the state land office, and the New Mexico Resource Advisory Council.
“She was a model of community service and integrity, hard work and gracious hospitality, a stalwart protector of her ranch and her friends, a generous benefactor, a woman whose words and blue-eyed gaze were direct and discerning,” says Coker. “She abhorred liars, phonies, and selfish people but never stinted on praise and support for honest effort and determination. She was a cowgirl, beautiful on a horse, at home in the saddle and with her dog. Fiercely independent, she and her long-time companion, Ruby Gobble (49 years), prided themselves on being self-sufficient.”
Those values and traits will be reflected in Philmont’s use of the Chase Ranch property for years to come, according to Philmont Director of Program Mark Anderson. In addition to operating the main ranch house and surrounding area as a public museum, he sees potential use of an old cow camp on the property as another of Philmont’s many “living history” camps. “What a wonderful opportunity this gives us to offer young people coming to Philmont a chance to experience life as it actually was many years ago on a historic working cattle ranch,” he says.
“Working with the Chase Ranch Foundation to help promote the wishes and dreams of Gretchen Sammis is one of the greatest things that has been asked of Philmont Scout Ranch,” said John Clark, Philmont’s general manager. “Gretchen served on the Philmont Ranch Committee for many years and has given guidance and support for our Ranch and Conservation Task Force. Together we have made the dreams of thousands of participants come true. Now we have an opportunity to make her dreams come true.”
Those dreams have actually been in the Chase family for almost a century, as it turns out. Coincidentally, Philmont museum staffers recently discovered a previously unknown brochure for “The Kit Carson Camp,” operated on the Chase Ranch by Mason and Stanley Chase, sons of ranch founders Manly and Theresa. From information in the brochure, it appears to have been printed around 1925, and invites guests to come to the camp for “a real ranch vacation.”
“The aim of the camp is to provide a happy and interesting summer place for those who want to see the west,” the brochure states. “Here they will be met by guides with gentle saddle horses and taken to one of our mountain camps where they can fish and hunt and explore the mountain trails in all directions through beautifully timbered country, watered by crystal streams, and where they can thoroughly enjoy the outdoor life.” That description almost exactly mirrors the vision of Waite Phillips, who donated his Philmont Ranch to the Boy Scouts of America in 1938 and 1941 with the idea that it would become a “university of the outdoors” for young people.
“Gretchen wanted Chase Ranch to educate young people in the ranching experience and lifestyle, inspiring them to love and care for the land and to appreciate its history,” says Coker. “When she spoke of the ranch, she said, ‘It will always be here.’ This agreement between the Chase Ranch Foundation and Philmont Scout Ranch is an effort to assure that truth.”
Mount Baldy from the peak of Mt Phillips
and Philmont Scout Ranch