ATHOL, Kan. — The north-central Kansas cabin where the iconic song "Home on the Range" was written more than 140 years ago is restored and open to visitors, after a grassroots effort raised thousands of dollars to save it.
The cabin in Smith County near the Nebraska border, built in 1872, was once home to Brewster Higley, a frontier doctor who wrote a poem that later was put to music and became "Home on the Range," the state song of Kansas. It was in ruins until 2011, when a grassroots effort began that eventually raised $113,000 to restore it and add nature walks and other amenities, The Wichita Eagle reported.
The cabin, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is still bare inside but supporters plan to add furniture such as a travel trunk, dry sink and a wood-burning stove — although no fires will be allowed — before Flag Day June 14, when the Daughters of the American Revolution plan to install a flag pole.
The cabin was last inhabited by humans in 1888 and was used until the 1950s as a chicken shed.
"We will keep it very minimal and not put anything in the loft," said El Dean Holthus, whose aunt and uncle Ellen and Pete Rust owned the property for nearly 75 years. "He was single when this cabin was built, so that's why we only have one cot. And the less stuff you have, the less trouble you have with rodents."
"I challenge anyone, when they go there, that they will have a better sense of what it was like when the cabin was built," said Mark McClain, a Smith Center native who remembers touring the cabin as a child in the 1960s.
People from Nevada, South Carolina, Illinois, Colorado, Nebraska, Florida and Ohio have visited, as well as Kansans from across the state.
The cabin will be rededicated on Oct. 3-5, with a weekend of celebrations planned across the state.
Supporters hope to make the cabin and surrounding acreage a tourism destination, perhaps providing a spot for meetings and reunions, or chuck wagon suppers and horse rides. That could include a way to note the American Indians who inhabited the land before Higley, and farm equipment to help tell the story of the land during the 1930s.