ElDean Holthus, the current steward of the Home on the Range cabin, recognized for his dedication to preserving and promoting an important Kansas landmark
When Dr. Brewster Higley built a cabin in Smith County in 1872, he couldn’t have fathomed how “Home on the Range,” the poem he penned in that location, would influence not only the state but also the world. ElDean Holthus is making sure Higley’s legacy lives on far beyond where the deer and antelope play.
In 1947, “Home on the Range” became the state song, and the owners of the cabin, Ellen and Pete Rust, resisted high-dollar offers to own a piece of history. Today, the cabin and surrounding 240 acres are managed by Holthus, along with other family members. Holthus has lived six miles southeast of the cabin all of his life, in the home his father built in 1914.
“It may sound corny, but there’s no place like Kansas,” Holthus says. “You can’t beat being out in the country like we are. The range is unbelievably quiet. It’s not a static site; it’s dynamic.”
Holthus and his family supervise and monitor the cabin and its history for year-round, daily visitors. He has welcomed visitors from all over the world and all ages, including many school field trips.
One of Holthus’ favorite daily rituals is checking footage on the cabin’s security camera, but not for standard surveillance reasons.
“I see people visit the cabin throughout the day, and they walk in like it’s a cathedral,” Holthus says. “They stand in the center of the cabin silently and look around. When I see the admiration and respect for history they have, that’s a great reward.”