Betty Barr hands Cami Schlappy the keys to the Bowman Stradling History Museum as Diane Collins looks on. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

News Release

Cami Schlappy, of Sonoita, has agreed to take over as historian for the Bowman Stradling History Museum at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, a position held for the past 14 years by Betty Barr. 

In May 2009, Barr and Diane Collins opened the Bowman Stradling History Museum in Pioneer Hall. With the help of friends and community leaders, Barr and Collins curated a collection of items documenting the history of Elgin, Sonoita, and surrounding areas, as well as the Fairgrounds. Many of these items came from Anne Stradling’s Museum of the Horse, formerly in Patagonia, and the private collection of Bob Bowman, of Sonoita.

The goal of the history center is to show visitors about the lives lived in the area: from pioneers who homesteaded the area, ranch families who tended to the grasslands, one-room school houses who taught the young, and leaders who stepped up to make life better in the region. Each has a story to tell in history center exhibits.

Exhibits are not limited just to those topics. Sonoita Horse Race fans were treated to images and awards from prior races which were held at the Fairgrounds. Also on display are behind-the-scenes photos from movies made in the area. Want to see a young Harrison Ford posing with local and extra, Pattie Oliver (nee Holbrook), of Elgin, in “The Frisco Kid?” It’s there. So is a young Fred Sang, of Patagonia, surprising actor Kurt Douglas, on the film set of “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” 

There are amazing pieces within the collection: the desk and chair from Kentucky Camp’s post office, the postal scale from the Elgin post office, a gold flake from a nearby hillside, and several saddles which span the time of the cowboy in the region. Other items, such as buffalo hide chaps, oxen shoes, spittoons, and Confederate bills, still grab the attention of visitors. 

Schlappy, in her new position as historian, plans on continuing the care and maintenance of the exhibits, and adding more local history by way of books and photos. She is currently researching Elgin and local pioneer families to add more knowledge to the collection. In time, she hopes to have albums of information on display for those researching or interested in the area to view. Prospective topics include the first Elgin school, Mountain View Pioneer Cemetery, the mammoth skeleton found in Elgin, the remains of the towns of Vaughn and Crittenden, and stories of those who lived here. Those stories range from murder, bandits, and conflicts with the Apache to more everyday life including railway travel in the region, military presence in the area, and social gatherings.

As material is placed in the collection, Schlappy plans on announcing new exhibits and invites the community to come visit. There is no admission fee, but the donation box always has space. Anyone who has suggestions for topics or items for the history center can email Schlappy at Don’t know what to suggest? Come visit the History Center and see if we are missing out on something. Hours are 9a.m-3p.m., Monday through Friday.