McClain County, Oklahoma

Last updated
McClain County
McClain County Courthouse.JPG
McClain County Courthouse
Purcell, OK, 23SEP2014
Map of Oklahoma highlighting McClain County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Oklahoma
Oklahoma in United States.svg
Oklahoma's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 35°00′N97°26′W / 35°N 97.44°W / 35; -97.44
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Oklahoma.svg  Oklahoma
Seat Purcell
Largest city Newcastle
  Total580 sq mi (1,500 km2)
  Land571 sq mi (1,480 km2)
  Water9.6 sq mi (25 km2)  1.6%%
  Density60/sq mi (20/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
  Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 4th

McClain County is a county located in south central Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,506. [1] Its county seat is Purcell. [2] The county was named for Charles M. McClain, an Oklahoma constitutional convention attendee. [3]


McClain County is part of the Oklahoma City, OK Metropolitan Statistical Area.


The Chickasaw tribe began moving into this area in 1837, when the land had already been assigned to the Choctaws by the U.S. government. In 1855, the area became part of the Chickasaw Nation, after the two tribes officially separated. The present McClain County became part of Pontotoc County, Chickasaw Nation and remained such until Oklahoma attained statehood. Few Chickasaws lived here because of hostilities with western tribes (e.g., Kiowa). Major Richard Mason established Camp Holmes (also called Camp Mason) in 1835, near the present city of Lexington, while negotiating a treaty between the western tribes and the newly arrived Choctaws. Federal troops abandoned the camp in August 1835, after the Treaty of Camp Holmes was signed. [3]

Auguste Pierre Chouteau built a trading post at the Camp Holmes site, but it closed after Chouteau died in 1838. Randolph Marcy is credited with bringing the California Road through this area in 1849. The U.S. Army built Camp Arbuckle in 1850 to protect the road, but the troops were withdrawn to what is now Garvin County, Oklahoma in the following year. [3]

Jesse Chisholm also operated a trading post in this area around 1850. A group of Delaware Indians occupied the former camp, then known as Beaversville, but left before the outbreak of the Civil War. [3]

Montford T. Johnson, a rancher, moved to this area after the Civil War. He and Jesse Chisholm, who acted as the negotiator, obtained an agreement with the Chickasaw leaders to allow ranching on their land, provided no whites were employed. Thereafter, Johnson built a ranch and hired a Chickasaw freedman to operate it. He then established other ranches and hired another freedman to run those. [3]

The Southern Kansas Railway built a line south from Kansas to present McClain County in 1886-7, 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. Eastern Oklahoma Railroad (later acquired by the AT&SF) laid tracks in 1900-04 from Newkirk to Pauls Valley, passing 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. [3]

Purcell was a starting point for the Land Run of 1889. It also was at the dividing line between Indian Territory, where alcohol could not be sold, and Oklahoma Territory, where alcohol sale was legal. The town of Lexington, across the river from Purcell, had numerous saloons. In 1899, the Purcell Bridge Company built a toll bridge across the river, profiting from the alcohol trade. [3]


Map of McClain County McClain County, Okla.svg
Map of McClain County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 580 square miles (1,500 km2), of which 571 square miles (1,480 km2) is land and 9.6 square miles (25 km2) (1.6%) is water. [4] The county lies largely in the Red Bed Plains region of the Osage Plains. The western part of the county is hilly and covered with black jack oak trees, while the eastern part is level lowlands. The South Canadian River forms the northern border, The Washita River flows through the southwestern corner, and is fed by several McClain County creeks. [3]

Adjacent counties


Historical population
1910 15,659
1920 19,32623.4%
1930 21,57511.6%
1940 19,205−11.0%
1950 14,681−23.6%
1960 12,740−13.2%
1970 14,15711.1%
1980 20,29143.3%
1990 22,79512.3%
2000 27,74021.7%
2010 34,50624.4%
Est. 201940,474 [5] 17.3%
U.S. Decennial Census [6]
1790-1960 [7] 1900-1990 [8]
1990-2000 [9] 2010-2013 [1]
Age pyramid for McClain County, Oklahoma, based on census 2000 data. USA McClain County, Oklahoma age pyramid.svg
Age pyramid for McClain County, Oklahoma, based on census 2000 data.

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 34,506 people, 12,891 households, and 9,785 families residing in the county. The population density was 59.5 people per square mile (23/km²). There were 13,996 housing units at an average density of 24 per square mile (9.3/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.5% white, 0.7% black or African American, 6.4% Native American, 0.4% Asian, less than 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.7% from other races, and 5.3% from two or more races. Seven percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,891 households, out of which 37.4% included children under the age of 18, 61.3% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 24.1% were non-families. Individuals living alone accounted for 20.1% of households and individuals 65 years of age or older living alone accounted for 8.1%. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the county, the population was spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.4 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $56,126, and the median income for a family was $67,948. Males had a median income of $42,262 versus $32,821 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,898. About 8% of families and 12% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11% of those under age 18 and 8% of those age 65 or over.


Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of January 15, 2019 [10]
PartyNumber of VotersPercentage
Democratic 6,74728.44%
Republican 13,65157.54%
Presidential elections results
Presidential elections results [11]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2016 78.1%13,16917.2% 2,8944.7% 795
2012 77.7%11,11222.3% 3,194
2008 75.9%11,19324.1% 3,551
2004 72.9%10,04127.2% 3,742
2000 64.1%6,75034.9% 3,6791.0% 110
1996 46.2%4,36339.8% 3,75314.0% 1,323
1992 40.6%4,37731.4% 3,37828.0% 3,021
1988 56.4%4,77142.5% 3,5941.0% 88
1984 69.8%6,05629.4% 2,5490.8% 67
1980 56.9%4,28439.7% 2,9903.4% 259
1976 37.2% 2,44461.6%4,0481.2% 80
1972 73.2%4,24123.3% 1,3503.6% 206
1968 37.0%2,04733.3% 1,84229.8% 1,647
1964 31.1% 1,63869.0%3,638
1960 51.9%2,54748.2% 2,365
1956 41.1% 2,08158.9%2,981
1952 42.1% 2,32657.9%3,201
1948 20.8% 90879.2%3,451
1944 31.1% 1,49268.8%3,3010.2% 8
1940 33.0% 1,86266.8%3,7680.2% 11
1936 22.5% 1,19177.2%4,0920.3% 17
1932 13.9% 81886.2%5,087
1928 55.1%2,39943.9% 1,9131.0% 44
1924 30.7% 1,23362.8%2,5196.5% 259
1920 40.3% 1,73353.9%2,3155.8% 250
1916 25.0% 68056.7%1,54118.2% 495
1912 25.6% 58356.0%1,27318.4% 419


The county economy has been based primarily on agriculture and cattle raising. Each town had its own cotton gin early in the 1900s. Purcell had a flour mill. Otherwise, there was little industrial activity. Many county residents commute to work in the Oklahoma City area. Mid-America Area Vo-Tech opened in 1971 to provide vocational education to students. Duke Energy North America built a power plant (which it sold to NRG Energy, Inc., that year) near Newcastle in 2001. The Chickasaw Nation operated a gaming casino at Newcastle. [3]


Pioneer Library System operates branch libraries in nine cities in Cleveland, McClain and Pottawatomie counties. [12] The Purcell Public Library at 919 N. 9th Street in Purcell is the only library in McClain County that is part of the Pioneer System.


Major highways

The busiest highway in the county is Interstate 35, which enters the county on the north at Goldsby on the McCall Bridge. It then parallels the Canadian River through the county seat, Purcell. It eventually turns southward and leaves the county at its border with Garvin County.

Another important interstate highway is Interstate 44, which runs through the northwestern part of the county. The H.E. Bailey Turnpike Norman Spur connects this highway to the US-62/US-277/SH-9 intersection.

SH-9 enters McClain County via the McCall bridge, duplexed with I-35, and immediately turns due west, running along the northern edge of Goldsby until its intersection with U.S. Highway 62/U.S. Highway 277 south of Newcastle, Oklahoma. From this intersection the three highways, continue southwest towards Blanchard and further on to Chickasha in Grady County.

County roads

Example of McClain County road signage. McClain county road 300.jpg
Example of McClain County road signage.

Like many counties, McClain County contains an extensive network of county-maintained roads. They form a grid with parallel roads generally placed 1 mile apart.

To dispel confusion and assist the small cities introducing new 9-1-1 systems, the county road system was recently renamed and signed throughout the county. East-west roads are numbered, with 100th St. located along the southern edge of the county, and the numbers gradually increasing toward the northern tip of the county. North-south streets are named, generally indicating the name of the road in the Oklahoma City grid that the county road best aligns with. (e.g. Santa Fe Avenue would, if extended northward, eventually connect with the street of the same name in Oklahoma City.)


Contaminated water supply

In 2010, the EPA ordered local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests for hexavalent chromium 6 (AKA The Erin Brockovich Chemical). From 2013 to 2015, utilities took more than 60,000 samples of drinking water and found chromium-6 in more than 75 percent of them. [13] The Purcell water supply tested positive for an average of 11.53ppb, 577 times the original recommendation from the scientists at the respected and influential California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of 0.02ppb. [14]


Local landmarks

The following sites in McClain County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

US 77 James C. Nance Bridge between Purcell and Lexington

The US 77 Purcell/Lexington James C. Nance Bridge was originally built as a circa 1938 deck truss 2-lane bridge and in 2019 rebuilt as a concrete pier 4-lane bridge [15] crossing the Canadian River between Purcell and Lexington, Oklahoma. The bridge carries U.S. Route 77 (US-77) and Oklahoma State Highway 39 (SH-39) from McClain County to Cleveland County. The bridge is named for James C. Nance, longtime newspaper publisher and former member of the Oklahoma Legislature.

The Nance bridge allows travel time from Purcell (west side of the Canadian river) to Lexingon (East side of the river) to be only 3 minutes by car, according to google maps. When the bridge was closed for emergency repairs, the same trip was 43 minutes when re-routed North to the nearest bridge, or 1 hour and 4 minutes when re-routed Southeast to the nearest bridge.

The 1938 construction of this bridge enabled communities from West and Southwest (Byars, Cole, Dibble, Paoli, Pauls Valley, Purcell, Rosedale, and Wayne) side of the river to reach the communities on the East side of the river (Lexington, Slaughterville, and Wanette). Traffic using the bridge allows trade and commerce to freely flow in this retail trade area of southern McClain County, southern Cleveland County, Southern Pottawatomie County, and northern area of Garvin County, and eastern portion of Grady county. The 2019 rebuilt bridge features the same design elements with concrete post and wrought iron railings with protected turn lane and sidewalks. [15]

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, "History was made Friday July 26, 2019 in Purcell and Lexington, just as it was more than 80 years ago when the two cities celebrated the grand opening of a new bridge connecting their communities. The new US 77 Purcell/Lexington James C. Nance Bridge that links the twin cities, located less than one mile apart, fully opened to traffic with much fanfare on Friday, July 26, 2019, the culmination of a major two-year, expedited reconstruction project." [15]

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Oklahoma State Highway 145 highway in Oklahoma

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U.S. Route 77 in Oklahoma section of U.S. Highway in Oklahoma, United States

U.S. Highway 77 (US-77) in Oklahoma is a 267.21-mile-long (430.03 km) U.S. Highway in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. It travels from south to north, paralleling Interstate 35 (I-35), connecting Texas to Kansas through the central part of the state. It travels through many major cities, including Ardmore, Oklahoma City and its suburbs, Guthrie, and Ponca City. It has four lettered spur routes.

James C. Nance Memorial Bridge

The US 77 James C. Nance Bridge connecting Purcell and Lexington was originally built as a circa 1938 deck truss two-lane bridge and in 2019 rebuilt as a concrete pier four-lane bridge crossing the Canadian River between Purcell and Lexington, Oklahoma. The bridge carries U.S. Route 77 (US-77) and Oklahoma State Highway 39 (SH-39) from McClain County to Cleveland County. The bridge is named for James C. Nance, longtime community newspaper chain publisher and Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, President Pro Tem of Oklahoma State Senate and Uniform Law Commissioner.

James C. Nance American politician

James Clark "Jim" Nance was a leader for 40 years in the Oklahoma Legislature in the U.S. state of Oklahoma and was community newspaper chain publisher 66 years. Nance served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate. During his legislative career, Nance wrote the "Honest Mistake" law which became a model for other states. Nance then became a key sponsor and Legislative Chairman of the U.S. Uniform Law Commission (ULC), sponsored by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a non-partisan advisory panel which drafted uniform acts and uniform state commerce laws. Nance became known as a legislative expert in a 40-year legislative career as one of two Oklahomans to hold the top posts in both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature. The state's largest newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman wrote he was the "longest serving Oklahoma Legislator" and "A Legislator's Legislator." Nance, a Democrat, is the only Oklahoma House Speaker elected through a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Fiercely Independent, Nance considered public policy work to be a service and did not ever accept a salary or pension for any of his 40 years in the legislature and 24 years on the Uniform Law Commission. Nance refused to work as a lobbyist, although he had many offers after leaving office.


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  13. "Occurrence data unregulated contaminant monitoring rule #3".
  14. "U.S. EPA, Occurrence Data for the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. April 2016".
  15. 1 2 3 Department of Transportation, website. . "US-77 James C. Nance Bridge between Purcell and Lexington". Accessed 26 July 2019.

Coordinates: 35°00′N97°26′W / 35.00°N 97.44°W / 35.00; -97.44