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| The name honors Charles M. McClain, a member of Oklahoma's 1906 Constitutional Convention.|
In 1740 the French Canadian brothers Pierre and Paul Mallet traveled along the Canadian River in a quest to reach Santa Fe. The brothers and other French traders and trappers were the earliest Europeans in the area. After the United States acquired Louisiana Territory in 1803, American explorers and traders traversed the region, including Stephen H. Long (1821), the Dodge-Leavenworth Expedition (1834), Josiah Gregg (1839-40), Nathan Boone (1843), and Randolph Marcy (1849). In 1835 Maj. Richard Mason established Camp Holmes (also known as Camp Mason) near present Lexington to negotiate peace between the Plains tribes and the eastern Indian Territory nations. In August 1835 the Treaty of Camp Holmes was signed, and the federal troops soon abandoned the site. Auguste P. Chouteau then constructed a trading post there that closed after his 1838 death. The location thereafter became an important regional landmark on the California Road, which Marcy blazed in 1849, when he escorted a number of emigrants across present Oklahoma.
In 1850 the U.S. Army erected Camp Arbuckle, northwest of present Byars in McClain County, to protect the California Road. In 1851 troops abandoned the site, relocating to present Garvin County. Soon, a group of Delaware Indians led by Black Beaver occupied the camp, which was called Beaversville, but they left prior to the Civil War. After the war Montford T. Johnson moved to the location and it became known as Johnsonville or Johnson. In the 1850s Jesse Chisholm also operated a trading post near present Lexington.
After 1837 the Chickasaw began relocating to Indian Territory, joining the Choctaw, who had already been granted the land. In 1855 the Chickasaw officially separated from the Choctaw, acquiring their own domain, with present McClain County a part of the Chickasaw Nation's Pontotoc County. Few Chickasaw occupied this region, due to hostilities with western tribes such as the Kiowa. After the Civil War rancher Montford T. Johnson, using Chisholm as a negotiator, worked out an agreement with the tribes under which they would allow ranching as long as whites were not employed. Johnson then established a ranch near present Washington and hired Chickasaw freedman Jack Brown to operate it. Johnson also had ranches near present Byars and present Newcastle, where, again, he hired a freedman, Nate Burney, to run the spread.
The California Road was not the only transportation artery that traversed the area. Others included a military road connecting Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fort Sill, a road to Fort Arbuckle, and, just west of the present county, the Chisholm Trail. In 1886-87 the Southern Kansas Railway laid tracks south from Kansas to present McClain County, and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway (both of which were controlled by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, AT&SF) built a line north from Texas, meeting at and founding the town of Purcell. In 1900-04 the Eastern Oklahoma Railroad (later acquired by the AT&SF) laid tracks from Newkirk to Pauls Valley, cutting through eastern McClain County. In 1906 the Oklahoma Central Railway (sold to AT&SF in 1914) built a line that traversed McClain County from the southeast to the northwest. It ran through Byars and Purcell, and established Washington, Cole, and Blanchard.
|McClain County Cemetery Listings|
Oklahoma Birth Certificates
State of Oklahoma Genealogy Records Guide
Oklahoma State Archives
Oklahoma Genealogical Society Library and Archives
121 North 2nd Ave., Suite 305
Purcell, OK 73080
121 North 2nd St., Suite 231
Purcell, OK 73080
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