When Manly and Theresa Chase crossed Raton Pass on the New Mexico-Colorado border just after the Civil War, they had brought with them everything they could carry by covered wagon. Along the way they rounded up a number of wild horses and upon reaching an area near what is now Cimarrón, New Mexico, they traded those horses for 1,000 acres and launched what would become a ranching dynasty.

Four generations later, the last living descendant of the Chase family, cattlewoman Gretchen Sammis, an inductee to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, has made certain the famous Chase Ranch, which had grown to 1,100 acres through the years, continues its heritage by establishing a foundation to preserve the rich history it represents.

The Chase Ranch Foundation, owner of the historic Chase Ranch near Cimarrón since Sammis passed away in Aug. of 2012, and the adjacent and famous Philmont Scout Ranch, have announced the joint signing of a long-term lease and operating agreement that will help restore facilities at the ranch and open the ranch up to scouts and the general public in the years ahead.

“Gretchen Sammis 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,” Thelma Coker, one of the foundation’s directors, said in a prepared statement last week.

“This is just an unbelievable opportunity to preserve, protect, and enhance the dream of one of the great women in New Mexico ranching history,” John H. Green, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Group Director for Outdoor Adventures, said at the signing ceremony.

 

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Upon her death, Sammis specified in her will that the ranch should be preserved and operated as a model historic operation, after her life partner and fellow Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee Ruby Gobble lived out her years there. A little less than a year later, Gobble, 83, passed away, setting into motion the operating agreement between the ranch foundation and the Scout Ranch.

Gobble, a trick rider and world champion roper, was Sammis’ companion for 49 years and also served as ranch manager down through the years. Noted for their veracity and community involvement, the two women have been heralded as meeting the criteria for induction into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, namely, being "women who shaped the West and changed the world."

Sammis, who also taught in Cimarrón Public Schools for 26 years, took over operations at the ranch after her grandfather died in 1954. Gobble quickly joined her as ranch foreman and the two women are credited with performing the work of wranglers to keep the facility operating in good order.

"If a well went down, they fixed it on the spot. If the snow trapped the herd in a pass, they were the ones who rescued them. There is nothing they couldn't and didn't do on that ranch and they did it with old fashion determination and pride," said Clarence Wrigley, a ranch historian in Fort Worth.