History of the Snow-Redfern Foundation
Shaping the Future of Youth
In the beginning…..
Any organization that is created, and that is intended to last forever, requires very careful planning. The creator of Snow-Redfern Memorial Foundation is no exception. This article is the first of several that will provide the history of the development of Snow-Redfern Memorial Foundation (SRMF). In order to do so, we must look at Arvilla Snow-Redfern’s personal history, as it had a major impact upon her decision to establish the Foundation. It is important to understand that Mrs. Redfern created the foundation FIRST, having a vision to provide a place for children who needed a home in which to live. Beyond that, she counted on the original Board to assist her through the process. In fact, the clear vision of Nebraska Boys Ranch evolved as the years passed. That process will be covered in Part 2. Now we will look at what events led to her decision to create - what is now LEGENDARY!
Charlie and Alice D. Snow, Arvilla’s Grandparents, moved to Alliance, Nebraska in 1894, lived and worked in town. Charlie Snow homesteaded in Morrill County, Nebraska in 1902. He began purchasing land surrounding the homestead, grew the original Snow Ranch into over 20,000 acres. Their son Jason and Alice (Streeter) Snow were the parents of Arvilla and her two brothers Charles and Chester, who also grew up in Alliance. The three children were born in New York state and all three rest in peace in the Alliance cemetery. The Jason Snow family moved to Hemingford in 1892, where Jason worked in a lumber yard.
The Snow Ranch came into existence when Charlie Snow homesteaded property in 1902. He began purchasing property around the homestead with his first purchase on May 4, 1907. He continued to expand the Snow Ranch until he had acquired over 20,000 acres. This property was located 17 miles SE of Alliance, a few miles into Morrill County, Nebraska. With the passing of Charlie and Alice Snow, their son Jason, and Grand-daughter Arvilla continued to work the ranch. Brother Charles lived out his life in Alliance but were not as involved in the ranching business. Brother Chester moved to Alaska, where he became a very well know political figure. It was Arvilla who shared her Grandfather Charlie and Father Jason’s interest in ranching. In letters she exchanged with her attorney’s she shared about the rigors of the ranching business, especially the caring for the cattle, and how time consuming and exhausting it was to her. She was not one to just stay in the house, as she was a typical ranch woman who had to be involved in all aspects of ranching. It was not an easy life for Mrs. Redfern spending years on the ranch, and it took it’s toll on her physically.
Ironically, it was an incident/accident that took an emotional toll on her that appears to have been the driving force to create a Foundation in her memory. Perhaps, not her own memorial, but for her son Monte. We all experience life changing events in our lives, and Monte’s death was clearly an event that consumed Mrs Redfern’s remaining years. Before looking in more detail at her decision, it is necessary to look at some other background.
On June 21, 1920, Arvilla Snow married (Charles)Montgomery Redfern. In their first year of marriage Arvilla conceived a child. Tragically, prior to their child being born, Mr. Redfern passed. When their son Monte was born on October 21, 1921, Mrs. Redfern was faced with being a single, widowed mother. Not being deterred by yet another challenge, she stayed on the ranch, determined to raise Monte by herself.
Mrs. Redfern, who herself taught at St. Agnes Academy for a short time, saw the value of a solid education. Her teaching skills benefited Monte, but she felt he needed more formal education, so he attended Junior Military Academy in Bloomington Springs, Tennesee for 5 years. He had graduated in the spring and was to go on to the Wentworth Military Academy in the coming fall (1921). But Monte enjoyed ranch life and as a true cowboy, he especially loved the horses. There are always stories about tragic endings, usually very embellished. The most common one heard was how he was attempting to break a horse to ride. It reared back and the saddle horn punctured his abdomen. However, the story in the Alliance newspaper tells it a little differently. It seems he was riding his own pony, now an unbroken horse. His pony did rear back and the saddle horn did injure him. It punctured his leg and complications eventually led to his death. It is not clear how long he lingered, but he died on 7/10/1935, short of his 14th birthday. This incident/accident changed Mrs. Redfern’s life forever! One can only imagine the emotional loss she experienced, as HE was the center of her life!
With having dedicated her life to raising her son, her desire to continue caring for children took a new turn. From 1935 to 1940, it appears her heart was very slow to heal, and she desperately sought creative means to help the process. In a letter written by one of her friends, to one of the first Board presidents, it indicates she was persuaded to move to San Clemente, California. Here she became involved in the creation of the California School of Applied Metaphysics in May 1939, with the Snow Ranch serving as the collateral. Within a very few months, Mrs. Redfern realized that she was not going to find the peace she sought and returned to Nebraska. Once back to Nebraska, she created a new school, the Institute of Psychic Science, still searching for that peace. Again, taking from the letter from a friend, it was perceived that some people were trying to take advantage of her continued grieving, and perhaps were even trying to take over her land holdings named the Snow Ranch. Again, no answers were to be found, and the Directors of the Institute returned the land to Mrs. Redfern in December 1939.
After these experiences, and without success in some way keeping her bond with Monte, Mrs. Redfern sought a new approach to fill her void. Between 1940 and 1951 she began taking in foster children and those who may have been orphans. Personal letters estimate that she probably cared between 12 and 14 youth. This was the time period when Mrs. Redfern began to visualize a more wholistic picture of how she might help youth in need, long after she would be gone from this earth. It was also the time where she began gathering a group of trusted and successful Alliance residents. The knowledge and guidance of this team led to the creation of the Snow-Redfern Memorial Foundation AND the beginning of the process of creating a plan AND fulfilling Mrs. Redfern’s vision!
Part two of this history will cover the people first involved in the process of forming the Articles of Incorporation and other actions of the first Board of Directors. This time period will cover from the late 40’s to 1965.