ADA — On the outskirts of Ada a one room log cabin waits patiently for its fate to be determined. Robert S. Kerr, former Oklahoma governor and U.S. Senator, was born in that cabin Sept. 11, 1896, and his birthplace currently rests behind a chain-link fence.

Rising from very humble beginnings, Kerr became the first native born Oklahoma governor and the “uncrowned king of the U.S. Senate.” The age of the cabin alone makes it a remarkable historical monument for Ada, but the fact that Sen. Kerr was born there, to many, makes it priceless.

Science and Natural Resources Foundation (SNRF) owns the land on which the cabin resides. SNRF board members have refurbished it twice since they have owned it; the last time being approximately 35 years ago. The cabin, due to weather and time appears to be in need of repair once again. According to Billie J. Floyd, member of Preserving Area Stories in Time (PAST), the cabin’s roof and cement floors are in poor condition.

In a letter to the editor in Friday’s Ada Evening News, Floyd voiced her frustration. “The roof had holes in it and the floor was buckling and not fit or safe to walk on,” she wrote. Floyd went before SNRF and asked if PAST could take responsibility for maintaining the interior of the cabin and replacing the roof and floor. According to Floyd, SNRF’s board members granted her permission and said they would furnish the materials for the roof and floor if she would furnish the manpower.

Contacted about the letter, Floyd said Kerr’s descendants moved his remains to an Oklahoma City cemetery from his Ada grave site recently because of maintenance issues. Floyd said this increased her concern for the fate of the cabin. “I feel strongly that the citizens of Ada should honor such an outstanding person,” she said. Floyd said that is why PAST wants to create a living memorial inside the cabin, turning it into a small museum honoring Robert S. Kerr and his family.

According to Randy McFarlin, director of Ada parks and public facilities, members of SNRF and the city of Ada have been working together to create a proposal to present to the Kerr family. An unofficial committee was formed after the decision to move Kerr’s remains was made and Chesapeake Energy (an independent natural gas producer) began leading an effort to move the Kerr Cabin to Harn Homestead. The committee includes members of SNRF. “The Kerrs want to be assured it will be perpetually maintained,” McFarlin said. He said the committee is looking at various aspects of maintaining the cabin and grave site. “We can maintain it if that is the wishes of everybody [SNRF and the Kerr Family].” The city is concerned with looking at the area as a whole, which includes the grave site. Even though Kerr’s final resting place is no longer on the hill above the cabin, it is still a historical site, according to McFarlin. If the area became part of the city of Ada’s jurisdiction then cost of maintenance would be the responsibility of the city of Ada. “We have the opportunity to show his whole life,” he said. Talk of moving the cabin to another Ada site has been circulated, but McFarlin said would be a mistake. “If we moved it, would be just another cabin. It would lose tremendous historical significance if it was moved. It would lose its historical accuracy because Kerr was born in that area and laid to rest in the area,” McFarlin said.

According to SNRF, no major decisions will be made until the Kerr family has been consulted. “We have always worked closely with Sen. Bob’s heirs,” SNRF President Randy Ethridge said. “No decisions will be made without keeping them in the loop.”

Floyd said she is frustrated with how slowly the plans are proceeding. “No one will say exactly what they are going to do,” she said. “That is exactly why I wrote the letter.

A memorial to pay proper respect to “Ada’s favorite son,” SNRF’s goal, as well as the city of Ada and PAST, but the memorial’s fate ultimately rests in the hands of the Kerr family. SNRF and the city of Ada officials say they want to work together to create a proposal that will please the family as well as preserve an important piece of history for the Ada area. “The importance is the history,” McFarlin said.

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