National Ranching Heritage Center
History at a Glance
If the birth of an idea can have an anniversary, then the National Ranching Heritage Center celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Dr. Grover Murray and Dr. Curry Holden discuss Murray's idea for a living history ranch headquarters display. Texas Technological College administrators ask a planning committee to undertake a feasibility study on support and interest for a ranching exhibit. A "who's who" of area ranchers, businessmen and professional historians meet at the Pioneer Hotel to develop a support organization for a new museum representing ranching.
The idea of a Ranching Heritage Center began in 1966 when Dr. Grover Murray, president of Texas Technological College, appointed a committee to determine if his idea of ranching heritage exhibit would be feasible.
The college designates a 12-acre portion of the museum site and requests the committee to proceed with building acquisition. Fundraising efforts begin.
The Ranch Headquarters Association (now named Ranching Heritage Association), a non-profit member organization, organizes to assist in development.
The first officers of the Ranch Head quarters Association (now called the Ranching Heritage Association) were Chairman of the Board D. Burns of the Pitchfork Ranch; Board President Dr. W.C. Holden, ranch historian; Secretary Frances Holden; Treasurer Robert L. Snyder, an executive with Bryant Radio and Television; Vice President Frank H. Chappell Jr. of Renderbrook-Spade and Chappell-Spade Ranches; and (seated) Vice President John F. Lott of the U Lazy S Ranch.
The first structure, the Renderbrook-Spade Blacksmith Shop, is moved to the site. In October the site opens to visitors for one day during the Ranching Headquarters Association annual meeting. Three of the projected 20 buildings are in place but haven't been dedicated. RHA membership rises to 1,500 people representing 29 states, Canada and Mexico.
Texas Tech University provides initial grounds preparation, utilities, security fencing and partial staff operation. The Long S Whiteface Camp two-story dugout, the Box and Strip house, and the U Lazy S Carriage House are dedicate
Seven buildings and two windmills are moved and some restoration completed. Dedication ceremonies are held for the Renderbrook-Spade Blacksmith Shop, the Harrell House, the Matador Half Dugout and the JA Milk and Meat House. Docents open 11 structures on Sunday afternoons. Gov. Preston Smith proclaims October 7 as Ranch Day in recognition of efforts to preserve the ranching heritage and its visual symbols. Ranch Day becomes a regular event.
Limited school and weekend tours begin by popular demand, and the Matador Office and the Bairfield Schoolhouse are dedicated. Saturday afternoons are added to the Sunday openings.
Ranch Headquarters aerial view, 1973
The Picket and Sotol House, the Masterson JY Bunkhouse and Hedwig Hill Double Log Cabin are dedicated.
The name of the museum is changed from Ranch Headquarters to the Ranching Heritage Center. El Capote Cabin is restored and dedicated, and the Barton House is moved and restoration begun. Ground is broken for the David M. DeVitt-Mallet Ranch Orientation Center (later the DeVitt-Mallet Museum Building). A Committee of '76 is named to prepare for the formal opening July 2–5, 1976.
Restoration is completed for the Spur Granary, the Reynolds-Gentry Barn and Las Escarbadas. Exterior restoration is completed for the Barton House. The orientation center is completed along with the Campbell Patio, the Edith Whatley McKanna Parlor and Cogdell's General Store (museum store). Site development and landscaping initial phases are completed. Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson speaks at the July 2–5 dedication of the re-named and newly opened Ranching Heritage Center. Dignitaries from throughout the world attend and the event is climaxed by arrival of Longhorns on a Bicentennial Trail Drive. Nearly 25,000 visitors tour the center in three days of opening activities. The Ranching Heritage Center opens to the public six days a week.
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, was the keynote speaker at the July 1776 dedication of the re-named and newly opened Ranching Heritage Center. Mrs. Johnson stands next to Sally Murray, wife of Texas Tech President Grover Murray, and Texas Congressman George Mahon. Sally Murray remains an RHA member today.
The arrival of Longhorn cattle from a week-long cattle drive to the front door of the Ranching Heritage Center climaxed the dedication of the center in 1976.
The symbolic cattle drive moved through San Antonio, Kerrville, San Angelo, Stamford and Midland before arriving in Lubbock. Longhorns walked down University Avenue beside the Texas Tech campus before arriving at the Ranching Heritage Center on Fourth Street.
The National Golden Spur Award is created and presented to Albert K. Mitchell of Albert, New Mexico.
Volunteers organize as Ranch Hosts.
The Ranching Heritage Center separates from the Museum of Texas Tech and reorganizes as a museum and historical park.
Texas Tech Board of Regents add "National" to the Ranching Heritage Center's name. The historical park is designated as "Foy Proctor Park" in honor of the late Foy Proctor, a respected West Texas rancher and 1984 National Golden Spur Award recipient. Boss of the Plains award is created and presented to Tom and Evelyn Linebery of Kermit, Texas. Los Corralitos is built and dedicated, becoming the first structure constructed at the site rather than restored.
First six bronze steers are purchased.
Nine of the life-size bronze steers are brought from Eagle Bronze foundry in Wyoming.
Two more bronze steers are purchased and all are in place for the park dedication. The park was named to honor the memory of longtime Four Sixes Ranch Manager J.J. Gibson of Guthrie, Texas. Anne Marion, head of the Four Sixes Ranches and the Burnett Foundation based in Fort Worth, funded the park project but individual ranch families and cattle companies donated the commemorative steers.
Christine DeVitt Wing is dedicated.
Proctor Park officially contains 48 historic structures and one rebuilt structure.
The North Addition is dedicated.
NRHC is among the first museums in the nation to develop a smartphone app to assist visitors in self-guided tours through the historic park.
National Ranching Heritage Center Aerial View, 2015
NRHC receives first 21-passenger aluminum tram/trailer for group tours and greater accessibility for visitors with special needs. The center receives private funding for publication of Ranch Life: Ranching and Livestock, the first of a three-book Ranch Life Series that meets state-required core competencies in four curriculum areas. The books were written by John R. Erickson, author of the popular Hank the Cowdog book series, and distributed at no charge to 4,000 fourth graders in the Lubbock Independent School District.
Hoffman Barn was built in 1906 at the end of the cattle drive years, disassembled 112 years later and reassembled at the NRHC to become the 50th structure in the historic park.
The barn houses a transportation exhibit featuring some of the center's rolling stock — wagons, buggies, 1923 Model T car and 1923 Model TT one-ton truck.
Lawrence H. Jones drove cattle from ranch land in Scurry County to the Texas and Pacific railhead at Colorado City, Texas. From there the cattle were shipped to the Fort Worth stockyards.
The Jones family came to early Scurry County as homesteaders, and he built the barn to have a place to rest and feed cattle. Jones used the barn until the Santa Fe railroad came to Snyder in 1911. One of the Jones daughters married a Hoffman, and the land where the barn was built has stayed in the Johnny Hoffman family since that time.