Dateline: November 20, 2003
Speakers address fate of Bugbee legacy
By Roger Estlack, Clarendon Enterprise
fate of the legacies of Harold and Olive Bugbee is in the hands of the
Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, and a large group of people gathered
in the Bairfield Activity Center last Tuesday to speak out on the subject.
stake is a 358-acre ranch northwest of Clarendon; a vast collection of
art, furniture, and personal property belonging to Harold Dow Bugbee –
one of the greatest Western artists of the 20th century; and a historic
home virtually unchanged since its construction.
whose works are in collections everywhere from local homes and businesses
to the Smithsonian Institution, died in 1963 and left everything to his
widow, Olive Vandruff Bugbee, and to the Panhandle-Plains Historical
Museum (PPHM) in Canyon.
Bugbee – an acclaimed artist in her own right whose patrons included
President Lyndon Johnson and Governor Dolph Briscoe – carefully
maintained her husband’s estate, kept detailed records on everything,
and then also bequeathed all her belongings to the PPHM when she died in
January of this year.
the board of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, which owns the
PPHM’s collection and oversees its programs, is faced with a decision of
what to do with the Bugbees’ estate, which PPHM Director Walt Davis says
is valued at just over $1 million.
says Mrs. Bugbee’s will allows the Society to retain or dispose of her
property as it shall deem advisable at its sole discretion; but at last
week’s meeting, people spoke up for keeping that property intact and for
preserving it for future generations.
Davidson, president of the Panhandle Tourism Marketing Council, urged the
Society to take its time to consider all the options.
a moment – a year, two years – to decide the proper course,”
Davidson said. “Olive Bugbee died. Olive Bugbee left this bequest to the
museum. She intended this to be conserved and stewarded for as long as
human beings conserve things.”
framed his remarks in the large context of the future of the PPHM itself
and said that the museum must find new constituents and that the Bugbee
Ranch offers it a unique opportunity to do just that by offering visitors
art, history, culture, and wildlife. In his view, a properly developed
Bugbee Ranch would help capture the attention of nature and heritage
tourists and point them in the direction of the “big museum” in
from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the USDA’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service, and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department also
addressed the meeting and spoke of cost sharing and easement programs
which could assist the PPHM in improving the ranch for the purposes of
habitat restoration, nature conservancy, and outdoor classroom
possibilities at little or no cost to the museum.
see all of these parts just waiting to be put together into a beautiful
thing,” said TPWD’s Gene Miller. “It just gets richer and richer.
Let us help you.”
Robinson also spoke and offered his assistance to the Society.
knew Olive Bugbee better than most anybody,” said Robinson, who has
leased part of the ranch for agricultural purposes for many years. “We
would do her a great injustice not to carry on as she had done. She used
to say to me, ‘Do what you want to, but don’t change anything.’”
said it was clear to him that Mrs. Bugbee “was going to walk out of that
house with it the exact same way it was when she walked into it.”
Woodard, a member of the Clarendon Economic Development Corporation Board,
also urged the Society to deliberate carefully regarding the future of the
was a partnership,” Woodard said. “It was not just Olive Bugbee; it
was Harold Bugbee also.”
said he felt the future of the Bugbee property shouldn’t be in question
since it was obvious what the couple’s wishes were.
was already set up,” he said. “These people didn’t only preserve
these physical assets, they also set up the funds to take care of it.”
Society board met last Thursday, and Davis reports that action on the
Bugbee estate has been tabled until the board’s next meeting on December
11. In the meantime, museum personnel are compiling a list of funding
opportunities mentioned at last week’s Clarendon meeting and are seeking
funding sources to undertake a feasibility regarding the property.
are two decisions to be made,” Davis said. “First, comes the decision
on doing a feasibility study. Then comes the decision on what do we do
with the Bugbee house.”
said he couldn’t speak for the society board, but he believes the board
is two months away from deciding on the feasibility study and potentially
“multiple months” away on deciding the fate of the property.
the meantime, the PPHM continues to catalogue and appraise the Bugbee
bequest. The most valuable items from the estate have been moved to
Canyon, and a security system has been installed at the ranch.
Copyright © 2003, The Clarendon Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.