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This information is from 4 generations of Barr Grandchildren, authorized by Mary (Barr) Norris

The Official story of "Home on the Range"

After doing some research the Dan Kelley played a Violin not a guitar. The guitar that was, and played by Clarence Harlan on the dance where "Home on the Range" was first played. The guitar Had belonged to Virginia D. Harlan who had died in 1866 at the birth of young Virgie, who sang the first playing of the song.

The origin of the story on the writing to the music and words of "Home on the Range" are as follows. The words were written from a poem that Dr. Brewster M. Higley had written he was an early Pioneer of in Smith County, Kansas in 1871. The poem was called "Oh give me a Home". Record show that probates judge, John Carter Harlan, father to Eugene and Clarence, also father-in-law to Dan Kelley, the three composed the Harlan Brother orchestra, and Kelley who wrote the music and played the song.

John Carter Harlan was born in Adams Twp., Clinton Co. Ohio. He married Sarah Jane Doxey on December 28, 1843 in White Co. Indiana. He died on September 29, 1878.

The first time Dr. Higley went to Gaylord, Kansas, he took his verses with him and showed them to Dan Kelley. Kelley, a member of the Harlan Brother orchestra, had been a bugler in the Union army during the Civil War and had the ability to compose music. On the way home he hummed while he thought of the words Dr. Higley had written. As soon as he got home he got a piece of wrapping paper and put down the notes, then he hummed the tune and played it on his violin until it was safely fixed in his mind.

The next evening, Kelley went to the home of Judge John Harlan and Mrs. Sarah Jane Harlan near the present town of Harlan to call on their daughter, Miss Lulu, and to see how her brother, Cal and Gene, liked the tune. The song was first played that night with Gene and Dan playing violins and Cal plucking his guitar. Judge Harlan pronounced it a good song but told them it should have some sort of a refrain. The three worked it out together, the words being slightly different than now. " A home, a home where the deer and the antelope play", was the first line instead of, "Home, home on the Range, where the deer and the antelope play,"as it is commonly sung today.

Mrs. Harlan liked the song and the tune and the refrain the boys had composed. Judge Harlan's little granddaughter, Virgie, age 9, caught up the song quickly and sang with the men as they played the new melody and sang the song. "Why don't we have a dance and surprise everybody? We"ll sing this song for them , "all of us", the little girl suggested.

The dance was held on a Friday night in April 1873, at the Harlan home. Young people from miles around came for the social event. Dancing stopped for refreshments at 11 o'clock. Afterwards Kelley began to play the music on his violin and he and Virgie sang the words. (I have a copy of that recording). It was a hit from the start and it spread over the country as if magic.

In Later years, a Lawsuit was filed on the original writing and music of "Home on the Range". The sudden success of the song, which was being played on every radio station in the land, caused William and Mary Goodwin of Tempe, Ariz. To bring suit for infringement of copyright against 35 individuals and corporations, including National Broadcasting Co. and many large publishing houses in the courts of New York in 1934. They asked $5000,000 damages. They claimed that Goodwin had written the words of a song entitled" My Arizona Home" and Mrs. Goodwin the melody and that the copyright had been registered on February 27, 1905.

The suit caused the song to be taken off the air. Publishing ceased and professional singers no longer used it.

Samuel Moanfeldt, a New York lawyer, was employed by the Music Publishers Protective Association to investigate the claimants and to discover, if possible, the origins of the words and music. His search took Moanfeldt into several states where he found various versions of the song, including "Colorado Home" and it pre-dated "My Arizona Home". In the meantime the lawyer was receiving many letters that pointed to Smith County, Kansas as the origin of the song and one lady wrote she had a scrapbook which indicated that the song had appeared in Smith County Pioneer in 1873. He went to see her but found that the article was a reprint and file for that early year was not available.

Moanfeldt then contacted L.T. "Trube" Reese of Smith Center, who told him of the time he discovered the words on the piece of fool scrap paper in Dr. Higley's cabin back in 1873. "He then found Clarence "Cal" Harlan 1873. Clarence "Cal" Harlan, then 86 years old. Discovering that Mr. Harlan was a member of the former Harlan Brothers orchestra, he asked Mr. Harlan to sing it. Although nearly blind at the time , Mr. Harlan brought out his guitar and played and sang the song from memory. "He didn't miss a word," Mr. Moanfeldt reported and he sang it as it appeared in the Pioneer reprint. The lawyer made recordings of Mr. Harlan's rendition of the song to use as evidence.

With the above evidence and affidavit from numerous other people, Moanfeldt returned to New York, City in 1936 with the proof that the song originated in Smith county, Kansas, that the words were written by Dr. Brewster M.Higley and that Dan Kelley supplied the music.

The result was that the Goodwins lost their lawsuit and the old cabin on Beaver creek became a place of historical importance. Following the establishment of the fact that "Home On the Range", was written in Smith county, Kansas, Dr. I. E. Nickell, State Representative in 1947, introduced a bill into the House of Representative of Kansas Legislature to make it the official state song. Hal Harlan of Manhattan, a son Gene Harlan, carried the bill in the State Senate, previously mention as a member of the Harlan Brothers orchestra. The bill passed both houses and the song was officially adopted June 30,1947.

Here are the originated words that Clarence (Cal), Eugene (Gene) Harlan and Dan Kelley came up with on their first singing on April-1873, with young Virgie Harlan.

The Western Home

Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play'
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.

"Chorus"
A home, a home
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
Oh, give me land the land
There the bright diamond sand
Throws its light on the glittering stream
Where glideth along
The graceful white swam
Like a maid in her heavenly dream.

Oh, give me the gale
Of the Solomon vale
Where the life stream of buoyancy flows
On the banks of the Beaver
Where seldom, if ever
Any poisonous herbage doth grow.

I love the wild flowers
In this bright land of ours,
I love, too, the wild curler's scream
The bluffs and white rocks
And antelope flocks,
That graze on the mountain so green.

A home, a home
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard
A discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.

How often at night
When the heavens were bright
By the light of the twinkling stars,
Have I stood here amazed
And asked as I gazed
If there glory exceeds that of ours.

The air is so clear,
The breeze so pure,
The zephyr so balmy and light;
I would not exchange
My home here on range
Forever in assure so bright.

A home, a home
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where never is heard
A discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.


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