Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Judith N. McArthur
Mary Bivins
Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Bivins. Courtesy of the Mary E. Bivins Foundation. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

BIVINS, MARY ELIZABETH GILBERT (1862–1951). Mary Bivins, pioneer and philanthropist, was born on February 12, 1862, in Lebanon, Collin County, Texas, to Miles Green and Lucy Harriett (Williams) Gilbert, Jr. The Gilberts had moved to the area three years earlier from Missouri. Mary was educated at Mary Nash College in Sherman and married Lee Bivins on August 18, 1882. They became the parents of two sons and two daughters, but only the sons survived childhood. Bivins moved the family to the Panhandle in 1890; there he acquired his first ranch, the Mulberry Pasture, south of Claude. By the time the family settled in Amarillo, around the turn of the century, Bivins was one of the largest cattle operators in the world. His wife supervised the building of their new home while he was away on business, and the magnificent three-story structure became an Amarillo landmark. For twenty years after Mrs. Bivins left the building to the city, it served as the public library.

Mary E. Bivins Foundation
Mary E. Bivins Foundation Logo. Courtesy of the Mary E. Bivins Foundation. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Bivins Home
The Bivins Home in Amarillo. Courtesy of the Amarillo Public Library. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Bivins Family Plot
The Bivins Family Plot in Amarillo. Courtesy of the University of Texas Press. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The gift of her home capped a lifetime of largesse. Mrs. Bivins's philanthropies ranged from private gifts, such as furnished houses for needy families, to support for a wide range of public charities, including the preventorium of the Amarillo Tuberculosis Association, the School Children's Relief fund, and the American Red Cross. She donated building sites for the Maverick Club, the West Amarillo Christian Church, and the VFW headquarters; she also initiated the building fund and helped purchase the lot for the Social Center for Girls. Mrs. Bivins donated the chapel at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, and financed the education of a number of young Christian ministers. Until the age of eighty-seven, she was the grande dame of the Amarillo Fat Stock Show and patroness of the young stock raisers; she kept the bidding high at the 4-H and Future Farmers of America auctions and donated most of her purchases for resale. Only in advanced age would she finally allow a grandson to dispatch her bids. Her most important philanthropy was the Mary E. Bivins Foundation, established in 1949 to sponsor medical and social programs for the needy elderly. In 1951 the foundation built the Elizabeth Jane Bivins Home, a retirement center later expanded and remodeled into a social care facility. The Bivins Memorial Nursing Home followed in 1968. The foundation cooperates with regional academic and hospital nursing programs to give nursing students experience in nursing-home work. Mrs. Bivins died in Amarillo on December 31, 1951, and was buried in Llano Cemetery.


Amarillo Globe-Times, December 31, 1951. Amarillo Globe-News, November 18, 1979. Cattleman, February 1952.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Judith N. McArthur, "BIVINS, MARY ELIZABETH GILBERT," accessed November 19, 2018,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on August 10, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox