ATHOL, Kan. — Restoration work is expected to wrap up soon on a 140-year-old cabin where the state song was written.
In fall 1872, frontier doctor Brewster Higley wrote a six-verse poem he called “My Western Home” at the cabin along Beaver Creek in Smith County. It was later set to music and became “Home on the Range.”
With the exception of two end walls, the cabin has been nearly completely reconstructed. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
The stone wall on the north side was disassembled and rebuilt, using what good stones were left. The rest of the stones came from the area.
On the south, the oak and walnut logs were removed, cleaned, returned and then anchored to end walls using nails and dowel rods. Crews will use a mix of concrete and fiberglass strands to fill the gaps.
They’re also rebuilding the roof, making a sharply higher peak to allow for a loft.
“I am totally and completely impressed,” cabin trustee El Dean Holthus said of the work done so far. “I’ve never been involved with a restoration before.”
The project will cost more than $100,000, but he said it’s well worth it.
“It’s going to be a new, old cabin,” he said.
While the work will wrap up soon, official dedication won’t be until October 2014. There’s still landscaping to be done and a nature trail nearby to be completed, along with two bridges to cross Beaver Creek.
Eventually, ownership of the cabin and a nest egg to maintain it will be turned over to a nonprofit foundation.
“I’m 80 years old,” Holthus said, “so I’ve got to get as much done as fast as I can.”