Bessie Heard, born May 26, 1886, in McKinney, established the Heard Wildlife Sanctuary and Museum. The child of John Spencer Heard and Rachel Caroline (Wilson) Heard, Bessie inherited her family's business fortune and dedicated her life to improving her community and supporting preservation projects.
Later in life, as Bessie saw more concrete poured around Collin County, she envisioned a place for young people to experience and learn about nature, so she began researching the project and started a foundation.
Construction on the museum and sanctuary began when Bessie was in her seventies. Her personal collections of natural objects and illustrations, including originals by naturalist painter John James Audobon (1785-1851), formed the nucleus of the museum's collection. Opened in 1967, when Heard was 80, the sanctuary is still operating today — and welcoming almost 100,000 visitors per year.
Bessie died March 22, 1988, at 102 years, but her legacy and the work of the sanctuary continue. School groups, scouts, and families with children visit frequently. Children especially enjoy visiting and observing live animals in the natural setting and exploring the interactive museum.
After 47 years, the sanctuary continues Miss Bessie's desire for education, preservation, and conservation for communities in Collin County. Click HERE to visit the sanctuary's website.