Turning the Page: the Overstreet-Kerr
Historical Farm is Closed to the Public
In July, one chapter in the story of the Overstreet Farm ended and a new one began.
The Kerr Center has sold the 100-acre farm with its historical home and outbuildings to a private party. The Overstreet-Kerr Historical Farm, located about ten miles south of Sallisaw on highway 59, is now closed to the public.
Just short of twenty years after the Kerr Center opened the house to visitors, the economic downturn and changes in programming at Kerr Center led to the difficult decision to sell the farm.
The first chapter in the Overstreet farm story began in 1871 when Margaret Victor, a Choctaw, and her husband Tom Overstreet of Missouri, came to Indian Territory. After twenty years of farming and ranching, the Overstreet family was prosperous enough to build a stately farmhouse near Short Mountain, just south of the Arkansas River in what is now northern Le Flore County in eastern Oklahoma.
The grand two-story home with its fifteen rooms, hand carved fireplaces, gingerbread trim and captain’s walk was a wonder to behold in the rural neighborhood of the time.
Members of the large Overstreet family lived on the farm until the 1970s. In the years that followed, the vacant house fell into disrepair.
In the late 1980s, the Kerr Center came to the rescue. After several years of extensive and painstaking restoration and refurbishing, the place was restored to its former grandeur.
In 1991, one hundred and twenty years after the Overstreets established their farm in the Choctaw Nation, the Kerr Center opened the house and farm to the public as a bed and breakfast inn for a short period of time.
In the years that followed the Overstreet farm evolved into a center for education and historic preservation, showcasing an important piece of Oklahoma history and showing thousands of visitors a glimpse of farm life as it was 100 years ago. Area schoolchildren and visitors from across the country loved the annual Fall Farm-Fest, which featured two days of outdoor sorghum cooking and demonstrations of traditional farm skills.
Jim Combs managed the historical farm for the Kerr Center. He became an expert on the history of the farm and Overstreet family. The many thousands of visitors to the farm enjoyed talking to Jim—his tours were notable for being both educational and highly enjoyable.
Over the years he gave tours to everyone from governors and first ladies to local first graders. Not only did Jim educate the public about the farm, he maintained the home and outbuildings in pristine condition and kept the pastures, landscape, gardens and orchard healthy and looking beautiful.
An experienced cattleman and cattle breeder, Jim and the Overstreet farm played a pivotal role in the preservation of the endangered Pineywoods breed of cattle. He also worked extensively with herds of the rare Choctaw ponies and other threatened livestock species. The Kerr Center is continuing the Pineywoods Preservation Program and working with rare breeds of poultry at the center’s ranch south of Poteau.
Jim, Jeremy Henson, and the entire staff at Kerr Center worked together on the annual Farm Fest and other events at the farm. They established the farm’s collection of antique farm equipment and refurbished many pieces.
The Kerr Center has donated the farm’s collection of antique farm equipment to the Arkansas Valley Antique Tractor Club. For many years, the club displayed and demonstrated members’ farm equipment at the fall Farm-Fest. The pieces which had been loaned to the Overstreet Farm collection are being returned to their owners.
The historical farm won several prestigious awards over the years. In 1998 it won a “Redbud” Award for “native beauty” from the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The Redbud is the highest award given to travel destinations in the state. In 2004 it won two more Redbuds—for best attraction and best website-- and a merit award for best event (Fall Farm-fest).
Jim Combs retired upon the occasion of his twentieth anniversary with the Kerr Center.
The Overstreet-Kerr Historical Farm was a labor of love for everyone at the Kerr Center. We would like to thank everyone who shared our love for the place, who supported the farm and participated in activities there.
And to everyone who visited the farm we hope you will remember the lessons you learned and maintain your interest in the rich and colorful history of Oklahoma.
Please read the fall 2010 issue of the Kerr Center newsletter “Field Notes” for a more extensive retrospective.
See links below for information on the farm and its programs from 1991-2010:
History of the Farm
Rare Breeds Preservation
Antique Farm Equipment
Wallace Zieschang Memorial Heirloom Orchard