Tag: National Ranching Heritage Center

Ranching Heritage Center houses 200 years of Americana

The idea of the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock started with a trip to Norway and a group who were prepared to make it happen.

With more than 30 buildings, the National Ranching Heritage Center has them place in a historically correct timeline in order to tell the story of ranching.

The idea for the National Ranching Heritage Center (NHRC) began when Grover Murray, who was president of Texas Tech University in the mid 1960s, came back from Norway where he saw a living history museum.

IMG_0841=Jim Campbell, the executive director at the Ranching Heritage Center, said, “He (Murray) got together with a lot of the ranching community, and they put together a committee. Originally, the idea was that they would just build a ranch headquarters and it would have a couple of different examples of ranch houses, some pens, and a couple of barns. But they quickly realized it was much bigger than that.” Campbell went on to explain that once the word got out, people started contacting the committee with stories on dug outs, houses, etcetera. It evolved from there, opening as The Ranching Heritage Center in 1976.

“To preserve and interpret the history of ranching in North America and address contemporary ranching issues” is the NRHC’s mission statement. Campbell said they tell the story of how the ranching industry, traditions, and culture developed and started more than 200 years ago, predominantly west of the Mississippi in North America.

“So when you go through our historical park,” Campbell said, “all the structures are set there in the historical timeline.”

Most structures at the NRHC are donated, along with the money that is needed for the structure to be relocated and rebuilt. Campbell said that the time it takes to move the structure from tear down to build up just depends on the structure itself.

“The most famous move that we ever did was the Barton House,” he recalled. “The Barton House moved in the early to mid ‘70s, and it took three days… That was just getting it on trailers and trailering it into Lubbock.”

The NRHC moved the Barton House mostly whole, so they had to coordinate with the electric and telephone companies to lift wires along the route because the Victorian mansion is three stories tall. Another project from the ‘70s was the Joel House from Palo Pinto County, which is near Mineral Wells. This house has 2,000 tons of rock, which had to be numbered before being dismantled.

Campbell says that the last structure moved was a barn which was located in Snyder.

“That took us almost a year by the time we went down there, dismantled it, hauled it back up here, then rebuilt it,” said Campbell.

He explained it took so long because he only has five men who handle historical preservation, along with other things such as fixing the heating and air conditioning when it breaks in the building.

The NRHC is currently looking into adding a church.

“That one actually has been in service, so we wouldn’t have to do a whole lot to the inside of it,” Campbell said, adding that he guesses it would take about six months if they were to bring it to NRHC. He mentioned that the only structures that the NRHC is really looking to add at the moment are a church and a saloon.

Campbell also mentioned a partnership they have with John Erickson, the author of “Hank the Cowdog.” He says that Erickson wrote his books based off his own ranch, dog, and life, which Erickson and his wife still manage outside of Perryton, Texas.

“He (Erickson) got to talk to Julie Hodges, who’s our education director, and said ‘I have IMG_0854=these three books I don’t know what do with them,” Campbell said.  “They tell all about ranching through the voice of Hank…would you be interested in them?’ Julie immediately said absolutely.”

Campbell added that some local residents donated money to help publish the books. The first one is about ranching, the second is on cowboys and horses, and the third Is about the wildlife on ranches.

“Julie actually worked to develop a school curriculum so that they match up to the Texas requirements for TEEX (Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service),” said Campbell. “There’s probably more than 100 schools that are using the curriculum”

The NRHC’s next big project is going to be building a ranch life center at the NRHC that brings those three books to life.

“It will be a center dedicated to telling all about the story of ranching through Hank’s voice,” Campbell explained.

The NRHC is working on the design now and will eventually start a fundraising campaign later this year with hopes of breaking ground sometime during 2020.

“It really will be the only place in the world where you’ll be able to actually go and physically see Hank,” said Campbell.

“I think the amazing thing about this facility is we’re able to tell the story of ranching in so many different ways,” Campbell said.

The story is told with a historical timeline, which moves from the Spanish land grants to the Republic of Texas, through the German immigration and then the expansion.

“We also tell it in those individual stories, brands, and names…,” said Campbell. “We’re able to tell it from a generic sense, or from an architectural sense, because we have a structure where people came out and they dug it.”

Campbell added that they strive on a daily basis to tell the story of the real West and about the stories of real, everyday men and women who ventured out to build new lives.

“This is not Hollywood,” he said.

“There has been no other facility, or museum, like this anywhere in the world,” Campbell said proudly. “We have international visitors.”

Some international visitors come to Lubbock to mainly go through the museum and historical park to see the history of ranching in this area, according to Campbell.

IMG_1557The National Ranching Heritage Center has 50 structures including 30 that are between 100 and 200 years old. The NRHC features a self-guided walk through the museum and historical park, which can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the age and the interest of the visitor(s).

However, the NRHC does offer a 30minute trolley tour, when the weather is nice, of their historical park every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. for $5 per person.

The NRHC also provides a living history of ranching, from May through October, with the help of 150 volunteers. The volunteers are dressed in the correct clothing for that time period and will tell the story of ranching to the guests who visit.

“That’s when it really comes alive,” Campbell said.

The volunteers will also dress up and come out to help the NHRC for special events during year, such as 49th Annual Ranch day on April 13, the Sixth Annual Summer Stampede Western Art and Gear Show and Sale on June 1, Summer Youth Classes from June 10 – June 15, 42nd Annual National Golden Spur Award on September 21, and Candlelight at the Ranch, Dec. 14 and 15.

NRHC is open daily, unless posted otherwise. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the historical park is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Southwest Showcase…National Ranching Heritage Center breathes new life into Old West

by STACY JOHNSON//Editorial Assistant

johnson,stacy_spotlight_nrhc_10 (71)

A tumbleweed blows across the sun-drenched hills past the legendary Four Sixes Ranch barn. Scenes reminiscent of the Old West transport visitors back in time.

Located in Lubbock, Texas on the northern corner of the Texas Tech University campus, the National Ranching Heritage Center is a free museum comprised of three sections: Proctor Historical Park, DeVitt-Mallet Museum and J.J. Gibson Memorial Park.

The center serves to preserve the rich cultural history of the American ranching industry, and to educate the public about the way of life of early ranchers and settlers on the frontier.

Proctor Historical Park leads guests on a chronological trip through the robust history of ranching. The sprawling 1.5-mile outdoor exhibit is currently home to 49 structures dating from the 1780s to the 1950s.

Perhaps the most distinguishing and impressive aspect of the park is the fact that johnson,stacy_spotlight_nrhc_10 (32)the structures are not reproductions. All except for one are authentic structures, transported from their original sites to the Ranching Heritage Center.

The simpler structures were moved in their entirety, while those that were more complicated or challenging were dismantled at their original locations, transported in pieces, and then reassembled on the park grounds.

The stone structures, for example, were impossible to transport without disassembly. Dr. Robert Tidwell, curator of historical collections, offers some insight into the painstaking methods used to recreate the historic architectural structures.

“The disassembly process actually took days and days and days, because we were carefully cataloging and recording the position and location of each stone,” Tidwell explains.

Detailed drawings are made of the original structure before the project begins. Individual pieces must each be carefully photographed, assigned a code number, and documented according to their relative location to the other pieces.

A disassembly plan is created for the process and then followed in reverse order to reassemble the structure accurately.

“In some ways, they’re kind of like our own Lego,” says Tidwell.

In order to ensure the historical accuracy of the park, the structures have been placed meticulously, with attention to even the smallest details. Architectural elements are aligned to the same cardinal directions that they faced at their original sites.

“We have one structure, Las Escarbadas, which is a large, two-story stone structure,” Tidwell says. “And in its original building site, it was built partway into the side of a low hill. So we did the same thing here. It’s built partway into the side of a low hill.”

The landscaping in the immediate surrounding area is recreated to the fullest extent that the local climate will allow.

The interiors of the buildings reflect what life was like for settlers in the early days of ranching. As if frozen in time, cast iron cooking pots sit on stone hearths. Oil lamps hang from doorways and sit atop bedside tables. Pieces accurate to the period have been lovingly selected from local antique shops by volunteers and carefully arranged to create an authentic atmosphere.

Despite the fact that most of the attractions are not native to the city, the park has Lubbock literally at its core. The hills along the grounds are composed of debris from the devastating tornado that tore through downtown Lubbock in 1970.

“All of the berms that you see outside, we had to make those,” says Tidwell. “The brick streets and then other pieces of concrete and brick rubble were transported here and used to form the core … then we just filled over them with overfill to create those.”

johnson,stacy_spotlight_nrhc_10 (79)The ingenious repurposing does not stop there. The train tracks near the Baldwin Locomotive feature originally ran parallel to the Brownfield Highway in Lubbock before the construction of the Marsha Sharp Freeway.

While examples of some of the earliest technology are housed within the structures, the Ranching Heritage Center is not behind the times. In addition to the educational signs that tell the stories behind the park’s attractions, the center offers guests a smartphone app to guide them through the park, along with multimedia details and descriptions of what they can find there.

During the warm months, guided trolley tours begin each Thursday at 10 a.m., allowing visitors to sit back and enjoy the park in the shade without the need to walk.

The DeVitt-Mallet Museum consists of seven indoor galleries. The current featured exhibit, “Buckskins and Beads,” contains Native American artifacts and artwork, including items that were owned by Quanah Parker, a Comanche chief. Featured exhibits at the museum change frequently.

“As we do our exhibit planning, we like to stagger exhibits so that there’s something new every three to six months or so,” Tidwell says. “We want to keep something fresh, and interesting, and new on a fairly regular basis.”

Upcoming exhibits include the topics of handguns and cattle rustling.

A ranching museum would not be complete without cattle. J.J. Gibson Memorial Park, located at the center’s entrance, is home to 19 bronze sculptures of longhorn steers representing the Texas trail drive era. Each expressive, life-size steer is branded and bears the mark of its donor.

Guests from all over the world come to tour the Ranching Heritage Center. Tidwell says the center sees international visitors from nearly every locale.

“You go through our visitor logs over the decades, and you will see people from every continent on earth except for Antarctica,” he says.

According to Tidwell, the center serves an important purpose.

“We think it’s a special place,” he says. “There really aren’t that many museums like ours out there. We also preserve a very important part of the state’s history, and also this region’s history. What would the Southwest be without ranching?”

[Photos by STACY JOHNSON/PLAINSMAN PRESS]