Okay is located in the southeastern corner of Wagoner County on State Highway 16. The community lies on the east bank of the Verdigris River in the Three Forks area about fifty miles southeast of Tulsa. Mississippian Culture Mound Builders occupied this region prior to European contact. In 1806 French trader Joseph Bogy settled in the Okay area and established a trading post on the Verdigris River. The post had many visitors. American Indians came to barter for ammunition, or in the case of the Choctaw, came to rob the post as revenge on Bogy for trading with their enemy, the Osage. By 1823 the Barbour and Brand Company had a trade business on the east side of the Verdigris, south of present Okay. They sold the operation to Col. Auguste P. Chouteau, who used the post to build boats that carried cargo to New Orleans. In 1828, 780 Creeks landed via steamboat at the mouth of the Verdigris. The United States placed the area within the Creek Nation, following the removal of the Creeks to future eastern Oklahoma.
The St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway gave the name Coretta to a switch near the present town of Okay, and a post office was designated. In 1900 the post office was redesignated "Rex," redesignated "North Muskogee" in 1911. In the early twentieth century the settlement was also sometimes called Falls City, apparently for the nearby falls or rapids of the Verdigris. The town grew, and the postal designation became Okay in 1919, honoring the O. K. 3-Ton Truck and Trailer manufactured there by the Oklahoma Auto Manufacturing Company.
The ruins of a stone building that once stood at the southwest corner of town, near the Verdigris River, became a symbol of Okay's role in early-day industry. In 1908 G. D. "Gid" Sleeper, a local rancher, began building a meat-packing plant at Rex. However, the building's first occupant was the Rex Stove Manufacturing Company. The building then housed the J. B. Woods Plow Works, the Oklahoma Auto Manufacturing Company, and finally in 1929 the Okay Airplane Company. All of these businesses financially failed. The factory ruins remained visible into the twenty-first century.
By 1930 Okay claimed 248 residents. In 1936 a fire destroyed most of the business district, including two general stores, a church, the post office, and two vacant buildings. Only two businesses, a filling station and a blacksmith shop, survived the calamity. The post office had been located in the Okay First National Bank building, the bank having closed in 1928. The 1940s construction of Fort Gibson Dam gave the town a boost, creating tourism and new jobs. By 1950 the population had increased to 427, to 419 in 1960, to 554 in 1980, and to 597 in 2000.
In 1932 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a historic marker just south of Okay. The marker calls attention to the area's location on the Texas Road, its proximity to the Three Forks of the Arkansas, Grand, and Verdigris rivers, and its location on the trail traveled by Washington Irving in 1832. In 1992 the Rio Grande Ranch Headquarters Historic District (NR 92001191), three miles east of Okay, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Liz McMahan, Okay, Where Oklahoma Began: A Short History of Okay, Oklahoma (N.p.: N.p., 1989). "Okay Becomes Boom as Dam Construction Nears," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 26 August 1946. Wagoner County History (Wagoner, Okla.: Wagoner County Extension Homemakers Council, 1980).
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