ALLIANCE — Dobby Lee started Dobby’s Frontier Town 30 years ago. His goal was to have a “living history” town much like the one he grew up in. People would be able to see businesses and artifacts from the early 1900’s. Several friends of the family helped rejuvenate buildings that became part of the town. Every year Dobby’s Frontier Town hosted a fall festival, and dozens of people volunteered for this event.
The Town is located at 320 East 25th Street, Alliance. Dobby, Dennis, and Liz (Elizabeth) Lee all lived in the house at this site. When Dobby died (2009), the house, land, and buildings passed to Dennis and Liz.
In 2009 they hosted a community meeting to see if volunteers would help preserve the Town. Several people volunteered resulting in a board, and Dobby’s Frontier Towners was formed. They created a 501c3 nonprofit corporation.
In 2012 Dennis and Liz conveyed the real estate to Dobby’s Frontier Towners, Inc. The Lees maintained the right to use the residential property rent-free, but they would be responsible for utilities and real estate taxes on the house.
Dobby had amassed a lot of metal, lumber, furniture that was beyond repair. The Frontier Town volunteers worked to clean up the village and hauled many loads to the landfill and to the salvage yard. Occasionally Dennis would see something loaded on a trailer that he wanted to keep, and demanded the volunteers unload everything so he could get it. This happened often enough that the Board asked him to have all his personal property separated from Village property by October 2015.
In 2016 Dennis and Liz announced that they were looking for another place to live, as Dobby’s Frontier Town was still too demanding, with expectations as they still resided on the property. They officially moved out Dec. 31, 2016. After this the Frontier Towners paid all the utilities and other expenses for the residence as well as the buildings of the Town.
Volunteers at Dobby’s moved the Lee’s possessions to their new home west of Alliance from December 2016 until May 2017. This was dozens of loads in their pickups and trucks for 1,612.8 miles and 884 hours of volunteer labor. Both Dennis and Liz indicated that they had everything they wanted, and they had no room at their new place for more.
When their son Phillip, who lives in Texas, learned that they had transferred this property, real and personal, to the nonprofit organization, he was upset and demanded the right to go through the Town and reclaim many of the valuable antiques that are displayed in the buildings. He eventually hired an attorney who asked that the Towners give specific items back to the family. Dennis and Liz, however, already had most of these items, but had never unpacked them.
Phillip’s attorneys, acting on behalf of Dennis and Elizabeth Lee, filed a lawsuit against Dobby’s Frontier Towners in December 2017, to which the Towners have responded and await a reply.
Since the formation of the nonprofit corporation to run Dobby’s Frontier Town, volunteers have logged over 29,000 hours. Nine buildings have been added to the town. Dobby's hosts several special events like school groups, class reunions and receptions. There is no charge to visit, so the town relies solely on donations, memorials, and grants. (The Messersmith family, Mission Store, Lions Club, and many others have been especially generous.) Every dollar received is immediately spent on a building repair or upkeep of the facility. Dobby’s Frontier Towners receive no monetary benefit for their work in the village. They support Dobby’s original vision of having this living history available to the people of the area.