Mayes County is located in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma. All of the land comprising Mayes County was formerly a part of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, with the exception of one township on the south, being a part of the Creek Nation. In 1841 the area now comprising Mayes County became part of the Saline District of the Cherokee Nation. The creation of Mayes county began with the constitution for the proposed State of Sequoyah in August 1905. The document designated forty-eight counties. Nine of these, including Mayes, became part of the state by the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention, effective at statehood on November 16, 1907. The county name honors Cherokee Chief Samuel H. Mayes. Pryor or Pryor Creek, named for early trader and Indian subagent Nathaniel Pryor, became the county seat
Mayes County’s 683.51 square miles of land is divided by the Grand River, and of the total area 27.37 square miles is surface water. The eastern half lies on the edge of the Ozark Plateau, or Ozark Uplift, characterized by flat areas divided by deep, V-shaped stream valleys. The western half of the county lies in the Prairie Plains. The county’s incorporated towns include Adair, Chouteau, Disney, Grand Lake, Langley, Locust Grove, Pensacola, Pryor Creek, Salina, Spavinaw, Sportsman Acres and Strang.
Mayes County has numerous prehistoric sites, with one Paleo-Indian (prior to 6000 B.C.), thirty-five Archaic (6000 B.C. to A.D. 1), twenty five Woodland (A.D. 1 to 1000), and thirty-one Plains Village (A.D. 1000 to 1500). The locations of most of these is confidential, and man-made lakes now cover some of them. The state’s earliest mission, school, church and white cemetery were created in 1820 with the establishment of Union Mission in, five miles southeast of present day Chouteau. In 1828 the Western Cherokee acquired this region in present Oklahoma for its land in Arkansas. In the 1830’s Eastern Cherokee arrived from Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, where they had lost their homeland. In 1835 Rev. Samuel a. Worcester installed Oklahoma’s first printing press at Union Mission.
During the Civil War military action occurred in the area. In July 1862 near present Locust Grove a skirmish occured when Union Col. Willaim Weer and three hundred of his troops surprised a Confederate force of a similiar number. Approximately one-third of the rebels surrendered, and the rest escaped. In July 1863 the first Cabin Creek engagement developed as Col. Stand Watie attempted to intercept a Union supply train traveling to Fort Gibson. Federal Col. James Williams defeated the famed Cherokee Confederate leader, who had expected reinforcements. In September 1864 Brig. General Watie and Brig.General Richard Gano successfully captured a Union supply train near the same location in the second Cabin Creek engagement. This led to a skirmish at Pryor Creek when Col. James Williams’s Union force-marched his troops to reclaim the supply train. The Confederates escaped.
Early transportation routes helped the region develop. The East Shawnee Trail, an early cattle trail, followed the Grand River through present day Mayes County. The Texas Road passed through, with two stage stops in the area. Two railroads provided services. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad was built in 1871-72 and was joined later by the Missouri, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway, whose “Golden Spike” was driven at Strang in February 1913.
Some of Mayes County’s most notable citizens are Ben Tincup (1894-1980), born in Adair County, Ben was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian who played major-league baseball. On June 18, 1917, he pitched a perfect game for the minor-league Little Rock Travelers. Willard Stone (1916-1985), A Cherokee sculptor inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1970. Carl Belew(1931-1990), was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 for his award-winning country songs, then in 1993 two years after his death he won the Music City News award for Best Song “Look At Us” a No 4 hit for Vince Gill in 1991. Bill Rabbit (1946-2012) one of the most successful Native American Artist iin the world, Bill recieved numerous awards and recognitions throughout his lifetime for his artwork. Including the Cherokee National Treasure, Five Civilized Tribes Master Artist and IACA Artist of the Year.
There are currently six locations within Mayes County listed in the National Register of Historic Places: the Farmers and Merchants Bank (NR 83002091)in Chouteau, The Territorial Commercial District of Chouteau (NR 83002093), The Pensacola Dam (NR 03000883), Union Mission Site (NR71000668) near Mazie, Cabin Creek Battlefield (NR 71000669, and the Lewis Ross-Cherokee Orphan Asylum Springhouse (NR 83002092) in Salina.