By Amanda Geci
Misty was foaled July 20, 1946, on Chincoteague Island. Her sire was the chestnut tobiano pinto Pied Piper, and her dam was the smokey black tobiano pinto Phantom. Misty was a 12 hand palomino tobiano and sabino pinto with the map of the United States on her side, and a blaze shaped like the state of Virginia. In winter she grew such a thick coat that her beautiful markings disappeared. She was foaled into the pony herd of Clarence "Grandpa" and Ida "Grandma" Beebe of Chincoteague Island, Virginia.
Famed children's author Marguerite Henry visited Chincoteague in 1946 to find a story for a book. She met the Beebe's and wanted to buy Misty to take back with her to be the model for her book. Clarence at first refused, but sold her after Mrs. Henry said she would include his grandchildren Maureen and Paul Beebe in the book. Misty was sold for $150 and was shipped to Mrs. Henry after she was weaned from Phantom. Misty arrived at Mole Meadow in Wayne, Illinois on November 18, 1946. Misty stayed with Mrs. Henry for over ten years, appearing for her fans at schools, movie theaters, museums, libraries, and horse shows. Misty shared her barn with Marguerite Henry's Morgan Horse Friday and Brighty, the model for Mrs. Henry's book Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Misty was a member of the American Library Association and attended their convention. Misty was sent back to the Beebe's in 1957 to have her foals. A goodbye party with over 300 children and 160 adults in attendance was held at Mole Meadow. Clarence Beebe died soon after Misty was bred, and Ida Beebe asked their son Ralph to take care of Misty.
The first and most famous book, Misty of Chincoteague, was published in 1947. It is centered on Misty, her mother Phantom, Paul Beebe, and Maureen Beebe. The book is a best seller, a Newberry Honor Book (1948), and has had over twenty hardcover printings. In a poll of the most famous children's horse books, Misty of Chincoteague came in second to Black Beauty. The second book, Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague, was published in 1949. Mrs. Henry was inspired to write Sea Star after witnessing the death of an orphaned foal while visiting Chincoteague. The third book, Stormy, Misty's Foal, was published in 1963. Stormy, Misty's Foal is about the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, and the arrival of Misty's last foal Stormy. The events in Stormy that happened to Clarence, Ida, Paul, and Maureen in the book actually happened to Ralph and Jeanette Beebe and three of their children; Denny, Billy, and Lee. Misty's barn flooded due to the storm, so she lived in Ralph and Jeanette's kitchen for three days before being moved to Pocomoke City to foal. All of the books are fiction, but are based on real people, ponies, places, and events. A nonfiction book called A Pictorial Life Story of Misty was published in 1976, and told of the real Misty's life with Marguerite Henry. Mrs. Henry wrote her last Misty book, Misty's Twilight, in 1992. It is about Misty's great great grandfoal Misty's Twilight, a successful show horse. Misty's Twilight is also a work of fiction with real elements.
Stories about Misty appeared in Life Magazine, June 10, 1957, May 23, 1960, and May 26, 1961. She was also written about in National Geographic, December 1962. Windy of Chincoteague, a small nonfiction book about Misty's first granddaughter Windy, was written in 1987 by Ronald Keiper. A Pony Promise was written in 1996 by Lois Szymanski. The book is fiction, but is based on the true story of Stormy's oldest daughter Windy nursing her half sister Misty II along with her own foal Cyclone because Stormy rejected Misty II. Nightmist the Miracle Pony, by Jessie-Ann Friend, was published in 2005. It is a children's book about Misty descendant Nightmist. Jessie Ann-Friend released The Forgotten Pony in 2007. It is a children's book about Misty great grandson Rainy's Boy, the last resident of the Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm. A series of children's books by Misty family pony breeder Kendy Allen debuted in 2006. The series includes: Misty's Heart of the Storm, Misty's Black Mist and the Christmas Parade, A Chincoteague Pony Named Misty III, Ember's Story, The Misty Miracle Pony. More books in Mrs. Allen's series The Ponies of Chincoteague are to follow.
A movie called Misty was released in 1961 by Twentieth Century Fox. Misty depicted the events in Misty of Chincoteague. Misty herself was not in the movie, she was too old to play the role of a young foal. Three ponies, a suckling, a weanling, and a yearling, played the part of Misty. The suckling was bay foal named Emma that had her coat bleached to match. The majority of the filming for "Misty" was done on Chincoteague and Assateague. Most of the people in the movie were locals, there were only five professional actors in "Misty". Billy Beebe played "Tommy", and Denny Beebe rode the pony Patches in the movie. The premiere of "Misty" on Chincoteague was in 1961, and Misty was led down Main Street by Ralph Beebe. In front of the Island Theater, now called Roxy Theater, Misty put her front hoof prints in the cement, and Marguerite Henry wrote Misty's name in the cement underneath.
Misty had three foals; Phantom Wings, Wisp O' Mist, and Stormy. A chestnut pinto Chincoteague Pony named Wings sired all three of Misty's foals. Wings got his name because of a pinto marking he had in the shape of wings. Phantom Wings was Misty's first foal and only colt. He was a palomino tobiano pinto with pinto markings of the map of the United State and another like wings. Phantom Wings was foaled on April 6, 1960 and died in 1964. Phantom Wing's name was chosen in a contest sponsored by Misty's publisher Rand McNally. The name was submitted by Carol and Cheryl Costello, twin girls from Wessington Springs, South Dakota. Misty's second foal was a solid chestnut filly named Wisp O' Mist, and nicknamed Little Wisp. Wisp was foaled March 21, 1961 and died in 1964. Phantom Wings and Wisp O' Mist tragically both died the same day after they had broken into a cow pasture and got sick off the cow feed. Misty's most famous foal was depicted in her own book, Stormy, Misty's Foal. Stormy was a chestnut tobiano pinto with a star in the shape of a crescent moon. Stormy was foaled on March 11, 1962 in Pocomoke City, Maryland and died in 1993 at age 31 in Pennsylvania. Misty and Stormy appeared in theaters and schools to help raise money to replenish the herds on Assateague after the storm. Despite the storm's wrath Pony Penning was held that year thanks to Misty and her friends.
Misty spent the rest of her life entertaining her fans at Beebe Ranch in the care of Ralph and Jeannette Beebe. She lived to know four of her grandfoals. Misty died in her sleep at 9:30 AM on October 16, 1972 at age 26. She was taxidermied by Mr. Charles Oxenham of Glen Burnie, Maryland. The Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm became the home of the preserved Misty and was displayed at the farm for many years. After Stormy's death in 1993, she was also taxidermied and put on display at the Pony Farm. Both preserved ponies are currently on display at Beebe Ranch during the summer.
Ralph Beebe died suddenly of a heart attack in December 1973 and the Misty family ponies were without a home. The Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm owned by Paul and Helen Merritt and their son Greg Merritt became the home of Misty's family for nearly two decades. Visitors from all over the country and the world visited the farm to see Misty's family up close. Many members of the Misty family were born, died, and were buried at the small farm at the corner of Maddox Boulevard and Deep Hole Road. The Pony Farm, Paul Merritt, and Greg Merritt were in Misty's Twilight. In A Pictorial Life Story of Misty the Farm and its famous residents were written about and pictured. Cloudy, Wisp O' Mist's only foal, became somewhat famous as he entertained the farm's visitors with the many tricks taught to him by his previous owner, Mr. Ed Clark. Stormy spent most of her life at the Pony Farm. Paul Merritt retired in 1990 and started selling off Misty's descendants. The Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm finally closed after Pony Penning 1995. Rainy's son Rainy's Boy was the last Misty descendant to live on the property. In 2004, the famous red barn that housed Misty's family for so many years was torn down after it had stood vacant for several years. The gift shop and cinder block building that was once the "Misty Museum" still stand.
When the Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm closed there was no longer a place for Chincoteague visitors to see Misty descendants. The Chincoteague Pony Centre opened on Chicken City Road in 2000 with the mission to showcase the Chincoteague Pony. The Centre's ponies are owned by Chincoteague Pony breeders Kendy and Keith Allen who are most famously known as the owners of Misty II. Misty family and veterans of the pony swim are on display. The ponies and the Chincoteague Pony Drill Team show off their talents in a nightly pony show. The museum has a large collection of Misty memorabilia including pictures, books, model horses, and artwork. Misty's last grandfoal, Misty II, spent her last summer at the Centre and is buried on the property. The Pony Centre is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Marguerite Henry's Mole Meadow and the barn where Misty lived still stands. It is located on Army Trail Road in Wayne, Illinois. In 1996 Misty II visited her grandmother's former home. Down the road from Mole Meadow is Misty's Meadow, a small three acre park that maintained by the village.
Ralph and Jeanette Beebe's son Billy King Beebe developed the old Beebe Ranch at 3062 Ridge Road into a museum. Beebe Ranch reopened for visitors in 1999, and was open every year through 2010. The house's kitchen is where Misty stayed during the nor'easter described in Stormy, Misty's Foal. Old photos, memorabilia, and the preserved Misty and Stormy were on display. The barn with Misty and Stormy's stalls are also on the premises. The house of Clarence and Ida Beebe, illustrated in the Misty books, burned down in April 1996. The property on Ridge Road where the famous house once stood has been overtaken by development. The preserved Misty and Stormy were lent to the Chincoteague Museum in 2011.
The Misty of Chincoteague Foundation was formed by Marguerite Henry and Rebecca Guisti in 1990. The Foundation's mission was to promote reading and to preserve the Misty legend. Money was raised to purchase a small portion of the old Beebe Ranch and to erect a Misty statue. The statue on Chincoteague was formally unveiled on July 29, 1997. It was originally placed at "The Thicket" on Ridge Road which is a portion of land that once had been part of Beebe Ranch. The property was donated to the MCF by Richard and Carolyn Conklin. An identical statue was placed at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. A Misty time capsule, to be opened in 2046, was buried next to the statue. The Misty statue on Chincoteague was moved from "The Thicket" to a park on Main Street and rededicated on June 14, 2006. "Misty's Meadow" near the original statue location was purchased by the Foundation with the intention to leave it as open space. The dedication plaque was later removed and the land was sold for development, a house now stands there. After Marguerite Henry's death, the Foundation was mismanaged and fell apart. While the Misty of Chincoteague Foundation is still in existence, mainly through its website, it is now a shell of what it used to be and is a sad reminder of what could have been.
Clarence and Paul Beebe had unfortunately died before the birth of Phantom Wings. Paul Beebe died at age 21 in a car accident on Chincoteague in April 1957. Clarence Beebe died in June 1957. Ida Beebe died in October 1960. Clarence, Ida, and Paul Beebe are buried on Chincoteague in Greenwood Cemetery on Bunting Road. Maureen Beebe Hursh is still alive and is living on Chincoteague. She has two daughters. Ralph Beebe died of a heart attack in December 1973. Paul Merritt, owner of the Chincoteague Miniature Pony Farm, died in 2005 after a long illness. Helen Merritt is still alive and living on Chincoteague. On November 26, 1997 beloved author Marguerite Henry died in her home at age 95 after several strokes.
Misty herself only had three foals, but her descendants are much more numerous. Phantom Wings had only one known foal, Sandpiper, a colt out of Nora. Wisp O' Mist also only had one foal, Cloudy (1964-1990), a palomino gelding. All of the known Misty descendants alive today are descended from Stormy. Stormy had six foals total; palomino pinto stallion Thunder (1967), chestnut pinto mare Windy (1969-1998), chestnut pinto mare Breezy (1972), chestnut Rainy (1973), chestnut pinto mare Misty II (1974-2000), and chestnut pinto mare Foggy Mist (1978). Misty II was the last living grandfoal of Misty when she died of cancer in 2000. Misty II's grandfoal Misty III carries on the Misty name and traditions. Many of Misty's descendants have become successful show horses. The wild ponies of Assateague are not related to Misty.
Breyer Animal Creations has immortalized Misty and several of her descendants into models. Misty (#20, 1972-current) and Stormy (#19, 1977-current) are two of Breyer's longest running models. Misty's son Phantom Wings (#29, 1982-1987) and her great great granddaughter Misty's Twilight (#470, 1991-1996) were made into models. The character Sea Star (#16, 1980-1987) was also made into a Breyer. To honor Misty's 50th birthday, Breyer made Misty's last living grandfoal Misty II and two of Misty II's daughters, Black Mist and Misty's May Day Twister (#3350, 1996-1999), into models that were sold as a set. Misty descendant Nightmist had a model horse made after him by the Peter Stone Company in 2003 in a run of 100.
Misty may have left us, but she lives on through her books, her many descendants, and the millions of people around the world who have read, and will read her story. As Ida Beebe was famously quoted in A Pictorial Life Story of Misty, "Nothing dies as long as there is the memory to enfold it and a heart to love it".