The Saw that Started it All

For over 100 years, the red-colored Round Barn in this Oklahoma County community has proven to be more than an unusual landmark; it’s become an important piece of history for residents and visitors alike.

And for 97-year-old Luther native and Arcadia resident Vivian Keely, memories of the Round Barn in its heyday are still clear in her mind as she takes time to come back to the restored barn and speak with Edmond Outlook about the rusty old saw blade that was used to cut the wood to create the barn.

As Keely tells it, flanked by her son John Keely and nephew Wilbur Holbrook, the old saw, given to her as a gift, had sat in her own barn, on her property a mile or so away, for many years.

”I got to thinking that maybe it needed to be here,” she said.

The path Keely took to get to this point started many years ago, on the eve of the Great Depression, when she moved to Arcadia to work as a teacher. She said while working in Arcadia, she “taught everything they handed me,” including English and home economics.

It was during this time that Keely met the man who would become her husband – fellow teacher, Preston Keely. But in those days, rules were such that male and female teachers couldn’t date, so Keely took a job teaching in Perkins, which allowed her to still see her beau and continue making a living teaching.

By the mid-1930’s, she had married into the Keely family, which was related to the Odor family and Round Barn builder, William Odor. As it happens, William Odor’s wife, Myriam Keely, was sister of Henan Keely.

As a member of the family, Keely got to know William Odor and one day he gave her the old saw blade.

“He said I might enjoy talking about it someday,” she said. “And that I might enjoy talking about (the barn) and it turns out he was right. I’m talking about it today.”

Keely said she was told by Odor how he cut the burr oak trees on his property, using the saw which was allegedly powered by a Delco power source. Odor then soaked the cut wood in Soldier Creek, which made it more pliable and flexible. This allowed Odor to make the wood bend and therefore create a round structure, which would become the immediately popular and unique Round Barn.

“We square danced in here, my husband and I,” Keely said. “It was a social gathering place at that time.” But it was primarily used for its original purpose – to house hay and feed cattle.

Keely said a question she gets from visitors is why Odor built the Round Barn so close to Route 66.

“It wasn’t a highway in those days,” she said.

And now, with the Pops gas station and restaurant nearby, more and more travelers are making time to swing by the Round Barn to admire its shape and the unique and informative historical items – including Keely’s saw – that are overseen by the Arcadia Historical Society, which takes care of the barn.

When asked why she thinks the Round Barn is so important, Keely smiles and replies, “It’s amazing; I think because it is round.” She adds that William Odor told her building the structure was hard work.

“He didn’t know anything but hard work,” she said.

As for the old saw, propped up against the south “wall” of the barn, Keely is hoping folks will take time to have a look at it.

“We want people to see it,” she said.

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