Column published in the Smith County Pioneer, December 26, 2013

By El Dean Holthus

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who might read this; Kathy and I have had a very special year personally; not everything was pleasant but never were we unaware of our salvation through our Savior Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gerald Caspers and I have also been blessed in our efforts, directed by the Ellen Rust Living Trust, to improve and restore the Home on the Range Cabin and the surrounding site. The respect of so many, both near and far, for this little historical Cabin was awesome. Thanks to everyone who shared their time and money to make the year a success.

On Wednesday December 10, 2013 Gerald Caspers and El Dean Holthus, Trustees of the Ellen Rust Living Trust, visited the corporate headquarters of Star Seed, Osborne to make a presentation to the owners, Bob Namel and Tom Lutgen.

On July 3, 2013 restoration of the National Historical Home on the Range Cabin in Pleasant Township, Smith County, Kansas was completed; soil movement and native grass destruction was a necessary side effect of this work. The Trustees considered covering a portion of the sloped area with limestone because of potential erosion; the National Historical Society nixed that idea saying to be as authentic as possible we should plant Buffalo grass. The Trustees then contacted Star Seed in regard to the purchase of Buffalo grass seed to replant the damaged areas; after listening to our story of how more than $120,000 had been donated for the Cabin itself they offered to donate the seed necessary to plant the area adjacent to the restored Cabin.

The highest donor level established by the Trustees is that of Platinum which recognizes gifts of $500 or more. The Star Seed donation had a value greater than $500 making them eligible for a collector quality, numbered, scale model of the restored Cabin. These model cabins are individually made and signed by Gerald Caspers.

The public and the Trustees deeply appreciate the donation of Star Seed and their recognition of improving privately owned historical sites and buildings.

Gerald and El Dean presented the Cabin to Mr. Lutgen; Mr. Namel was excused as a result of having a knee operation.

Readers will recall that Gerald and I with approval of the Peoples Heartland Foundation, decided to furnish the cabin austerely, plain and simple, in the manner of a single doctor in 1872 who had “traveled light” in coming to Kansas. There have been public comments and questions in regard to how the Cabin should be furnished; the most common were, “don’t clutter it up” and “don’t fill it with junk”. We believe when you see the furnished Cabin you will agree we have complied with those two thoughts. Gerald has made the following: a travel trunk, a “dry sink”, and a small table with two benches; we have a rationale for each of these but will not detail them here. He has also restored a rocker and a chair that have been in the Cabin over the years. None of these furnishing will be placed on site, in the Cabin until we have video security, someone living on the site every night and who will lock the door at dark.

We ask all of you to mark the afternoons of January 25 and 26, 2014 on your calendars; the Management of the Center Theater has given permission and we will show the Lone Chimney Films documentary, “Road to Valhalla” with matinees on each day starting at 1:30 pm. This film tells story related to what many of us, who remember Kansas history, as “Bleeding Kansas”. It is a story of the guerilla warfare and organized battles between those of Missouri who wanted to keep their slaves and the Free Staters of Kansas. It is a special treat for Home on the Range to have the opportunity to co-sponsor this film as a fund raiser for us and Lone Chimney and an opportunity for as many as possible to meet Ken Spurgeon and his crew.

Why is it important for the residents of Smith and surrounding counties to meet the Lone Chimney personnel? The next major project for Lone Chimney is to produce a one hour documentary, for PBS, based on the Home of the Range story. Smith Center’s own Sharon Black is collaborating with Mr. Spurgeon, having the responsibility of drafting the current chapter of the story (1935-present). They hope to film in Smith County in 2014.

The charge, for each showing, will be $6/person with net proceeds being divided between Lone Chimney and Home on the Range; amounts over $6 will be deductible as both organizations have 501©3 status. Tell your friends and neighbors and plan to spend an afternoon in Smith Center. There are no NFL games, dead week before the Super Bowl.

If a school or organization would like a program on the Cabin call Gerald (785-697-2641) or El Dean (785-695-2347 or 785-476-5216 or We ask only for a donation to the Home on the Range project.