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The speaker is a 79-year-old White man with a college education from Smith Center, Kansas;
he was recorded in 1967.
0:30-2:55



County: Smith
State: KS

Commentary:
In this segment the informant tells of a poem entitled "The Western Home," written in 1873 by Dr. Brewster Higley, who lived in Smith County, in north central Kansas. The poem was given by its author to a neighbor, Daniel E. Kelley, a carpenter by trade and a composer and member of the Harlan Brothers Orchestra, together with his brothers-in-law. Kelley arranged the verses into a song that became "Home on the Range," which became the state song of Kansas in 1947.
Inf: Yes, Mr. Cook. I'd like to visit with you about something that happened in our county quite a number of years ago, in fact about 1872. A Dr. Higley uh, who was a medical doctor, come to our county, and homestead that year. And uh, he was a rather an eccentric, or a rather an interesting character. Did uh, prac-, he practiced uh, his profession among the early settlers of this county. One of his hobbies was writing poems, and among those poems that he wrote was uh, a poem with approximately five verses. And it was first called uh, "The Western Home."

He uh, let this poem lay around his house for a number of months, but took it down to his neighbor as he called him, his buddy, uh, Dan Kelley. And said, "Dan, eh, what do you think of this as a poem?" And uh, Mr. Kelley, who was an old bandmaster in the Civil War, read it over a number of times, hummed it, and he said, "Well, Doc, I believe I can uh, turn this poem into a song." And he did.

And he uh, took the poem home with him and uh, on a foolscap he wrote it out in the uh, notes. And uh, worked it over a number of times. And uh, his brother-in-law, uh, his two brother-in-laws, uh, Gene uh, Harlan and uh, Cal Harlan, had what they call an orchestra they played at uh, country dances. An' they took this uh, we might call it a piece of paper, foolscap, as we call it those times, and to a country dance. And it's first played in Keystone, uh, Township in Osborne County. It was just, county just south of Smith County. And it was quite popular at that time.

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