Gravesite of Brewster Higley, Author of the Poem "Home on the Range"
Fairview Cemetery off Harrison St in Shawnee, OK
Dr. Brewster Higley, VI
Writer of One of the Greatest Songs of All Time
"Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam.."
Do you know the next line? People all over the world do. It is consider the "Anthem of the West" and Top 100 Western Songs ever written. You probably don't know the the name "Brewster Higley" the writer of the original poem entitled "My Western Home" which became the song "Home on the Range."
Dr. Brewster Higley VI (1823 - 1911) was an otoloaryngologist (...let's say dentist) who composed the poem in 1871 or 72 in his dugout in Kansas. The story goes, a friend, Trube Reese, brought in a gunshot victim to the nearest "doctor," Dr. Higley. Trube found the poem hidden in a book and convinced Higley to publish in the local paper. Another friend, Dan Kelley, wrote the music.
Originally published in 1872 or 73, the tune was hummed by settlers throughout the west and along the cattle trails. In 1932, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared "Home on the Range" as his favorite song, which launched "Home on the Range" into the world-recognized song we know today recorded by artists from Gene Autry to Bing Crosby, John Denver, Willey Nelson and many more.
Higley lived most of his life in Kansas. Western authors compare Dr. Higley to the outlaw doctor, Doc Holiday for his hard drinking, hard living ways. He died and is buried in Shawnee, OK, USA off Harrison Street with historic signage.
"Everybody changed the words to suit the place they were from. So it became 'My Colorado Home' and 'My Arizona Home,'" says Tom Averill, Kansas Scholar. "The fact that Dr. Brewster Higley wrote it and the fact that Dan Kelley set it to music was completely lost probably within four, five or six years." Some of the modifications stuck, and changed the song forever. The words, "home on the range" never appear in Higley's original lyrics.