In 1912, Evangelist Bill Rice was born south of the little ranching community of Dundee, Texas, to Will and Dolous Rice. His father, a lay preacher and Texas state senator, reared eight children including two other sons who were evangelists, John R. Rice and Joe B. Rice. Bill married Catherine Widner in 1936, and together they served the Lord at the Baptist church Bill pastored in Gainesville, Texas.
By 1939, they had moved to Illinois in preparation for God's call to evangelism. It was there in the same year that their baby girl, Betty, became gravely ill with spinal meningitis. Betty survived a close call but lost her hearing as a result of the high fever.
In the following years, Dr. Bill preached the gospel across the country, but even his own daughter could not hear it. The Rices were dismayed that they could find no one who could help them communicate the gospel to Betty. So, with the aid of pictures and a black board, Cathy Rice began to teach her daughter the Bible, beginning with the creation story and culminating with the gift of God's Son.
God used Betty's salvation to open their eyes to the great need of unreached deaf people across the country. The Lord convinced them that if they had a burden to reach deaf people, they should do something about it. They would reach out to the Deaf as they "did the work of an evangelist" in churches across the country.
In 1950, Bill Rice accepted an invitation to preach revival meetings in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Just as God had used their daughter to show them a need, He now used this meeting to show them a place. The place was a ranch nine miles west of Main Street. The Rices determined to buy it and build.
They invited deaf young people from across the state to come to camp free of charge. In 1953, we hosted our first Deaf Week camp with a total of twelve deaf campers. The Ranch grew rapidly as the Rices pioneered gospel outreach to the Deaf world.
Any time the Rices were not hosting revival efforts on the Ranch, they were doing the same work in local churches and revival crusades across the country and abroad. They usually traveled together as a family in the same way that they served together as a family on the Ranch in Murfreesboro. The family turned into a growing team of families and the Ranch's scope developed into expanding opportunities.
In 1955 the Ranch hosted hearing teenagers for the first time, and in 1969 Junior Week camps for elementary-aged campers began. Today, the Ranch hosts events for young and old, deaf and hearing, on the property and across the country for the purpose of revival and evangelism.