Langley is located in Mayes County on State Highway 82 on the west end of the Pensacola Dam, which holds back the Lake O' the Cherokees, most commonly called Grand Lake. The Pensacola Dam project was started in 1935 and completed in 1941 at a cost of approximately $22 million. It is a concrete multiple-arch dam with hydro-power generation facilities. The project, owned by the state of Oklahoma and operated by the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA), was created by the legislature in 1935. The sister town of Disney, which is located on the east side of the dam, Langley sits on a bluff approximately two hundred feet above the lake. The town had its official opening Sunday, May 15, 1938. Clifford Bogle, the original land owner of Langley, divided the land into lots and developed the townsite. He named the town in honor of J. Howard Langley, a prominent Mayes County attorney who later became the first chair of the Grand River Dam Authority and an Oklahoma Supreme Court justice.
The town remains on the original site. It instantly became a boomtown with a large opening ceremony. Free entertainment included two big bands, a stage show, horse racing, and a boxing exhibition. Schools were established, churches were organized, a power plant was built, and a water system was installed. H. L. Allen edited the Langley News, which promoted the community. There were lumberyards, hotels, barbershops, cafés, taverns, and grocery and drug stores. Langley was incorporated November 20, 1935, and a post office was established January 20, 1939.
In 1941, after completion of the dam, many construction workers moved, and the town began to promote its recreation industry. The original town had a population of three hundred people, but over the years that figure rose and fell until there was a population of 669 at the end of the twentieth century. A Bank of the Lakes branch is located in Langley, as it was in the town's beginning, and three of the original churches remain: the First Baptist Church, the First Christian Church, and the St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church.
Langley lost its school system in the 1950s. However, it has a library, a growing number of food establishments, and three convenience stores. Langley is also the home of South Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce building complex. The chamber is composed of eleven towns located in three counties with a membership of 550. When completed, the complex, known as the million-dollar view, overlooking Pensacola Dam, will house a Visitor Center, GRDA Tours, a Community Building, a South Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce office, an Oklahoma Parks Department office, Grand Lake Association offices, the Grand Lake Monitor Program, the Naturalist Group, and a museum of history of the Pensacola Dam, Grand Lake, and Lake Hudson.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Historical Highlights of Mayes County (Pryor, Okla.: Mayes County Historical Society, 1977). W. R. Holway, A History of the Grand River Dam Authority, State of Oklahoma, 1935-1968, 2 vols. (Tulsa, Okla.: N.p., 1968-69). Mayes County (Oklahoma) Democrat, 12 May 1938.
Dorothy Dell Welsh
© Oklahoma Historical Society