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Kansas Day Music - January 29, 2016

Dr. Brewster Higley wrote a poem titled “My Western Home” to describe the beauty of the site he had chosen for his Kansas Homestead in 1871. He penned this now-famous work on the bank of the West Beaver Creek in Smith County, Kansas, where along with the help of a few friends, he also constructed a cabin on July 4, 1872. (Flickr Photo by Jody Halsted)

Q: Happy Kansas Day! On this date (January 29) in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as the 34th state! Every REAL Kansan knows the official state song is “Home on the Range.” But do you know WHO wrote the words to that song? Do tell!


A: Dr. Brewster Higley

Dr. Brewster Martin Higley VI's claim to fame is that he wrote the words to "Home on the Range," the official state song of the state of Kansas.  

Higley was born in Ohio on November 30, 1823. He studied medicine in Indiana and briefly practiced there before moving to Smith County, Kansas, in 1871. In 1872, Higley wrote a poem called "My Western Home," which was later published in the Smith County Pioneer newspaper. Eventually, the words to that poem were set to music and became the lyrics for the famous American folksong "Home on the Range." Brewster spent most of his adult life in Kansas, but he died in Shawnee, Oklahoma, in 1911.
Because Higley wrote "The Western Home" while living in Smith County and because Kansas lawmakers felt it described the state very well, the Kansas Legislature voted to make "Home on the Range" the official state song in 1947.  
According to the Kansas Historical Society, Daniel Kelley, a friend of Higley's, was credited with picking out a melody on his guitar to serve as the tune. Kelley was a Civil War veteran who moved to Smith County in 1872.  
Fun Factoid: Today, you can visit the restored Smith County cabin where Dr. Higley lived when he wrote the words to “Home on the Range.”  
Sad Fact: Dr. Higley married five times. His first three marriages are reported to have ended tragically when his wives succumbed to injury or disease.

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