Restoring The 'Home On The Range'

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

Stay up-to-date with KAKE News:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A restoration project is underway to save an historic home in Kansas that you may never have heard of. But the people involved hope you'll recognize the home's significance to Kansas history and chip in to make sure this "Home on the Range" never disappears.

You may not recognize the small one-room cabin in North Central Kansas near the town of Athol, or even the name of the man who once lived here, but you'll almost certainly recognize the poem he wrote here nearly 140 years ago.

"Have you heard the phrase the latch string is always out?" asks El Dean Holthus as he opens the lock on the cabin from the outside. "You're welcome to enter the cabin."

Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play.

The words were first penned by Brewster Higley in 1871 as the poem 'My Western Home.' A local band gave it the famous chorus and thus history was made.

Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

This was Higley's home. A doctor by trade, Higley lived in this small, one-room, dirt-floor cabin near the tiny town of Athol, KS.

"There are a lot of state songs out there," said Orin Friesen, a member of the Prairie Rose Wranglers and local cowboy historian. "Deep in the Heart of Texas and Tennessee Waltz, to name a couple... But none of the state songs are as well known as Home on the Range."

El Dean Holthus is partly in charge of the trust left behind by his aunt and uncle to take care of the cabin.

"This really is a 4-fold tribute to Dr. Higley, to the song, to the cabin, but also to our Aunt and Uncle Pete and Ellen Rust," Holthus said.

The Rusts came to own the property where the cabin rests many years ago. They had opportunity to sell it, but never did because Holthus says the Rusts felt the people interested didn't have the right intentions. The cabin remains preserved today, but it needs some help.

"It's going to take new footings," Holthus explains. "This north wall has been pushed in by the dirt settling. That has to be brand new. Now, the ends... both ends are original and the logs on the south side are 1870 circa."

Holthus estimates it will take at least $80,000 to restore the cabin. The trust needs to raise 20% of that in order for the Kansas Historical Society to provide grant money for the rest of the project.

It is an amazing piece of not only Kansas history, but of world history right here in the center of the United States. If you would like to donate to the cause, you can donate to:

The Ellen Rust Living Trust
213 W. New York
Smith Center, KS 66967

Following is the entire poem written by Brewster Higley in 1871:

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Chorus:
Home, home on the range.
Where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars.
I've stood there amazed and asked as I gazed,
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

The air is so pure and the zephyrs so free
And the breezes so balmy and light.
I would not exchange my home on the range
For all the cities so bright.

The red man was pressed from this part of the West
He's likely no more to return
To the banks of the Red River where seldom if ever
Their flickering campfires burn.

Oh, I love these wild flowers in this dear land of ours
The curlew I love to hear cry.
And I love the white rocks and the antelope flocks
That graze on the mountain slopes high.

Oh give me a land where the bright diamond sand
Flows leisurely down in the stream;
Where the graceful white swan goes gliding along
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.

How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gaze
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

Yes, give me the gleam of a swift mountain stream
And the place no hurricanes blow.
Oh, give me the park where the prairie dogs bark
And the mountains all covered with snow.

Oh, give me the hills and the ring of the drills
And the rich silver ore in the ground.
Yes, give me the gulch where the miners can sluice
And the bright yellow gold can be found.

Oh, give me the mine where the prospectors find
The gold in its own native land.
And the hot springs below where the sick people go
And the camp on the banks of the Grand.

Oh, give me the steed and the gun that I need
To shoot game from my own cabin home.
Then give me the camp where the fire is a lamp
And the wild rocky mountains to roam.

Yes, give me the home where the prospectors roam
Their business is always alive.
In those wild western hills 'midst the ring of the drills
Oh, let me live there 'til I die.


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
KAKE TV 1500 N. West Street Wichita, KS 67203-1323 (316) 943-4221
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 118868759 - kake.com/a?a=118868759