O.K. Luther Barn Index
The scenic byway is going to be moving the Luther Barn for a tourist attraction on Highway 2, so more people will be encourage to travel on Highway 2 as they are heading out west. There are a lot of scenic places to visit such as great views of the farming land, and time period restraints. You as you travel Highway 2 and there is plenty of site seeing along the way.
The barn is in the process of being moved it can be the start of the scenic byway. The barn is now located a mile west and one-quarter mile north of Broken Bow, just south of the radio station. The barn will be moved to the east side of Custer County Implement on Highway 2 on the east side Broken Bow on land donated by Bob Allen. The barn could be moved as soon as April if everything works out and the weather cooperates. The barn movers will decide exactly when to move it. After the barn is moved and settled the barn with be completely remodeled, starting with the entrance and working towards the loft upstairs, then the windows, heating and cooling, with restrooms. The blueprints have already been completed.
You may be asking yourself why would anyone go through so much effort to move an old barn. Well, this is no ordinary barn. The O.K. Luther Barn symbolizes the start of the Sandhills and the dreams of homesteaders. In order to understand how the barn has become such a symbol, you need to learn a little bit of its history. Before 1895 the state, owned the land the barn was on and used it for school land. In 1941 there was a barn on the land that was used for sheep and pigs. That original barn was torn down and the main barn was built around 1945 for horses. O.K.?s new barn was huge, but what made it stand out even more was his name painted on the side of the barn in gigantic letters. ?I think he did it [printed his name so large] as a form of advertising, because he was in the road construction business at that time. He would use every means he could to put his name in front of the public.? according to Kem Luther, O.K.?s son.
Perhaps also for advertising, Luther?s barn was the headquarters for the Custer County Rodeo until it had to be moved to the place that they now call the fairgrounds. His barn was a happening place with dances and parties held quite often.
The use of O.K.s barn for community activities was just a symbol of his success. He faced many challenges before he became successful. O.K. came from a large family with many brothers and sisters. As his son pointed out, most of O.K.s family died after a tragic bout of dysentery (diarrhea) and his father remarried Mary Jane Phelps. By the time Omer was sixteen, he was an experienced pioneer farmer and had long traded the luxuries of formal school for a harder classroom. He worked with his father to create a successful farm near Mason City. After a few years of working on the farm, he moved to Broken Bow in 1923 where he started and operated a store where Ace Hardware now stands. The stored he owned traded in cream, eggs, and hides. Each fall O.K. shipped and sold seed potatoes by rail freight. O.K. was one of the first people to truck gasoline in from Lincoln, Nebraska.
O.K. was in no means an overnight success. He had to take an active role in becoming successful, just as most people of the area did. When economy began to improve, he tried his hand at the new business of pumping gravel for the ever-widening system of roads. From 1937 to 1940 he supplied gravel for the Kingsley Dam at Ogallala. During the depression he had been forced to sell all of the land he has acquired in Mason City. After World War II, O.K. married Billie Enid Rodabaugh. Billie and O.K. had one son, Omer Kem Luther, known as Kem (the person that I interviewed for this story).
Kem discussed his fathers legacy with me stating, The importance of his life was the furrows he turned, the land he homesteaded, the businesses he managed, and the friends he made. After O.K.?s retirement, he continued to be active in business and family matters until he was past ninety it wasn?t unusual to see O.K. driving around town, only in the last few years before O.K. passed away his medical problems took a toll on his active ways around town. O.K. passed away in 1989, and was buried in the Broken Bow cemetery.
The community lost a great man when O.K. Luther passed away, but his barn still reminds the residents of the great contributions that he and his era made for each of us. The barn was used for many activities and now is going to be opened for a museum after it?s moved. As future generations visit the museum, hopefully it will remind them of O.K. Luther and the other homesteaders that built our community.