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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame displays new art

  • The Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame recently received the donation of a watercolor by Gary Hawk, an Iola artist.
    Hawk's work depicts the log cabin in Smith County where "Home on the Range" was written by Dr. Brewster Higley in the autumn of 1872.
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  • The Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame recently received the donation of a watercolor by Gary Hawk, an Iola artist.
    Hawk's work depicts the log cabin in Smith County where "Home on the Range" was written by Dr. Brewster Higley in the autumn of 1872.
    The watercolor is matted and accompanied by a copy of the original poem, the story of the cabin and ornaments featuring the state bird, the state flower, the bison and the Santa Fe Trail.
    Hawk created the artwork as a way of helping preserve the cabin. He donated proceeds to the preservation effort.
    The piece was donated to the museum by Connie Ross, who taught music in the Dodge City school system and is an active member of the state Music Educator Association.
    "I wanted music and music education to have a place in the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame," Ross said.
    The piece hangs in a prominent location in the museum's lobby.
    A song that became an icon
    After the Civil War, America was ready to rebuild the south and expand to the west.
    Homestead claims offered pioneers the chance to lay claim to a quarter of ground by paying a small registration fee and establishing a home on the land.
    In western Kansas, early homes were constructed of sod or dug into a bank.
    In eastern Kansas, settlers had other options and log cabins sprung up.
    Most of those early dwellings are gone, eroded by decades of wind and weather or removed once they had outlived their usefulness.
    One cabin along the Beaver Creek in Smith County, Kansas, stands to this day, and for good reason. It was in that tiny log cabin that frontier surgeon, Dr. Brewster Higley, penned the words to "Home on the Range."
    Brewster Martin Higley VI was born Nov. 30, 1823 in Rutland, Ohio.
    He earned a degree from the medical school in La Porte, Ind., and made a name for himself as a surgeon and teacher.
    His first three marriages ended unhappily- his first wife died during an epidemic; his second wife died soon after the birth of the couple's son.; his third wife died from an unknown injury.
    Higley's fourth marriage did not end with the death of his wife, but the relationship was so tumultuous that he was compelled to send his children to live with relatives in Indiana and Higley himself took to drink and moved to Kansas.
    Higley filed a claim on a homestead in Smith County in Sept. of 1871.
    He spent his spare time preparing logs for a cabin and on July 4, 1872, he hosted a house-raising.
    A keg of beer cooled in a nearby spring lightened the work and the helpful neighbors were served a dinner of buffalo roast, brown gravy, new peas, new potatoes, green beans, ripe muskmelon, rhubarb pie, homemade bread and butter and coffee with real cream.
    Page 2 of 3 - Nearly four years later, Higley dissolved his marriage via legal publication of notices and married his fifth wife.
    Four children were born to their union and Higley's practice continued to thrive.
    His skill as a surgeon was widely known. Many of his patients considered him capable of miracles.
    Higley was an accomplished violin player and enjoyed entertaining at community gatherings.
    He often played with two sons of the probate judge who had issued his marriage license, Gene and Cal Harlan and their brother-in-law, Dan Kelley.
    In the fall of 1872, while enjoying life alone in his new cabin, Higley wrote six verses of a poem that would eventually come to be known as "Home on the Range."
    Higley was encouraged to have the words set to music so he called on his fellow musician, Dan Kelley.
    Kelley had been a bugler in the Union army and quickly came up with a tune.
    The song was first played publicly at a spring dance in 1873.
    It was an immediate hit and was soon being sung by cattle drovers, in mining camps, at singing schools and wherever people gathered for programs.
    A group of newspaper reporters serenaded Franklin F. Roosevelt with the song on the night of his first election.
    He asked them to repeat it then pronounced it his favorite song.
    By 1934, "Home on the Range" made it to number one on the country's radio station play lists. It stayed there for six months.
    Admiral Richard E. Byrd played the song on his Edison phonograph while he worked at the South Pole.
    When his phonograph froze up, he comforted himself and warded off loneliness by singing the song, an unclouded sky in his imagination standing in stark contrast to the bleak, frozen landscape that surrounded him.
    Because the song was so successful, it spawned other versions: "My Colorado Home," "My Arizona Home," and other composers began to make copyright claims.
    A $500,000 law suit prompted the Music Publisher Protective Association to send an investigator into the field.
    The inquiry found proof that the song had first been written by Higley in Smith County and Higley's little abandoned log cabin took on historical significance.
    The Kansas legislature officially adopted "Home on the Range" as the state song June 30, 1947.
    Higley's cabin, which was in a state of deterioration, became the focus of preservation efforts.
    A restoration project was undertaken by the Smith County Rotary club, with the cooperation of the owners of the cabin, Mr. and Mrs. Pete Rust.
    The cabin in now on the National Register of Historic Places and maintained by the Rust Family Trust.
    As with all historic structures, maintenance is an on-going issue and financial assistance is needed.
    Page 3 of 3 - And much of the iconic Kansas that Higley described is long gone.
    But his song remains, a permanent reminder of Kansas' pioneer past.
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