Blanco's Buggyman: Dennis Moore loves antique buggies from the Old West so much he created a museum and filmmakers came calling
By John Goodspeed
Dennis Moore loves antique buggies from the Old West so much he created a museum and filmmakers came calling
Dennis Moore’s motto is: "Have carriage, will travel."
His only problem is choosing from among his 150-plus antique vehicles, one of the largest private collections in the nation. "I’ve always liked old stuff. I always joked that I ought to open a museum and charge people to come look at my junk," Moore says.
He did just that and more with millions of people viewing part of his collection in such films as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and the recent remakes of True Grit and The Magnificent Seven. His collection also can be seen at Moore’s Buggy Barn Museum, which includes such famous ones as an elegant carriage that was featured in Gone With the Wind, a wagon used in Lonesome Dove that is undergoing restoration, a beautiful hand-carved Dutch royalty wagon, and one of his favorites — an elaborate German hearse from the 1860s.
Moore earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1977 at Texas State University and followed it two years later with a master’s degree in agricultural education while commuting to San Marcos and running his road construction company. All the while this fifth-generation Blanco resident nurtured a fascination with the Old West and collected memorabilia. About 20 years ago, he bought a carriage to drive his son and daughter to high school dances and to use in photos alongside the Old Blanco County Courthouse.
That’s when the buggy bug bit. "What started as a hobby now is an obsession," he says. Moore sought to buy every type of carriage he did not have on trips to the far corners of Texas, California, Washington, Montana, Indiana, Michigan, and Georgia. They overflowed from the barn on his home property about the same time a building he leased to a business became vacant. So he moved his buggies to that location just north of downtown Blanco on U.S. Highway 281.
Even before the move was complete, the filmmakers came knocking. The first film to feature one of his buggies was There Will Be Blood (2007), starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Moore added more buildings at the museum and built a replica of an Old West town he named Pine-Moore as a film set. Moore established the museum in 2011 as a nonprofit for the preservation of horse-drawn transportation and commerce.
Helping Moore and his wife, Kelly, operate the museum is their daughter, Amanda Smith (B.S. ’10). Like her father, Smith also has appeared as an extra or has had brief speaking parts in films. In August 2017, she was the location manager and an extra in Judgement, directed by Bentley Mitchum, grandson of actor Robert Mitchum. "We got to throw a woman out of a window," Smith says, of her scene in the film. "It was awesome."
Smith has two children, daughter Avery, 8, and son Trent, 12, who has also appeared in films. Even the family’s German shepherd, Kira, gets in on the act. She played a mean dog in the HBO series "The Leftovers."
"I love this place so much. To have my own Western town in the back is really cool. I tell people that once you come here, you’re not going to want to leave," Smith says.
Moore has had a hand in some 25 film productions providing wagons, horses, and props. He also works as a wrangler and has supplied wagons and carriages for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Western Heritage Parade, weddings, and various events across the state. The Buggy Barn Museum hosts a fundraiser the first weekend of November with hands-on activities for children and demonstrations of life in the late 1800s.
"One of my favorite things is working on movies with Amanda and Trent," Moore says. "I’m blessed to do what I do. It’s a hobby that’s fulfilling my dreams and a lot of other people’s dreams with the Westerns and re-enactments." ✪