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Kay County, Oklahoma facts for kids

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Kay County
Kay County Courthouse in Newkirk (2010)
Kay County Courthouse in Newkirk (2010)
Map of Oklahoma highlighting Kay County
Location within the U.S. state of Oklahoma
Map of the United States highlighting Oklahoma
Oklahoma's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Oklahoma
Founded 1893
Seat Newkirk
Largest city Ponca City
 • Total 945 sq mi (2,450 km2)
 • Land 920 sq mi (2,400 km2)
 • Water 25 sq mi (60 km2)  2.7%%
 • Total 46,562
 • Estimate 
 • Density 46/sq mi (18/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 3rd

Kay County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2020 census, its population was 43,700. Its county seat is Newkirk, and the largest city is Ponca City.

Kay County comprises the Ponca City micropolitan statistical area. It is in north-central Oklahoma on the Kansas state line.

Before statehood, Kay County was formed from the "Cherokee Strip" or "Cherokee Outlet" and originally designated as county "K". Its name means simply that. Kay County is the only county to keep its same name as the Oklahoma area moved from a territory to a state.


After the Civil War, the Cherokee Nation had to allow the Federal Government to relocate other Native American tribes to settle in the area known as the Cherokee Outlet, The Kansa (Kaw) arrived in June 1873, settling in what would become the northeastern part of Kay County. The Ponca followed in 1877. The Nez Perce came from the Pacific Northwest in 1879, but remained only until 1885, when they returned to their earlier homeland. Their assigned land in Oklahoma was then occupied by the Tonkawa and Lipan Apache people.

The Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, north of Newkirk, was a boarding school for Indians that operated from 1884 to 1980. Its enrollment peaked at 1,300 in the 1950s and its graduates include members of 126 Indian tribes. The distinguished old buildings of the school were constructed of local limestone.

In 2010, the Keystone-Cushing Pipeline (Phase II) was constructed north to south through Kay County to Cushing in Payne County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 945 square miles (2,450 km2), of which 920 square miles (2,400 km2) is land and 25 square miles (65 km2) (2.7%) is water. The highest point in Kay County, Oklahoma, is west of North Sage Lane, at greater than 1,310 feet above sea level. The northern boundary is the border with Kansas and its eastern boundary is with Osage County. Kaw Lake, a large reservoir on the Arkansas River completed in 1975 includes most of the water area of the country. East of Kaw Lake and the Arkansas River is the region called the Osage Hills or The Osage, a tall-grass prairie region of large livestock, mostly cattle, ranches. West of the Arkansas River the land is flatter and a mixture of cultivated lands and livestock ranches. Principal rivers flowing through the county are the Chikaskia River, the Arkansas River and the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River.

Major highways

  • I-35.svg Interstate 35
  • US 60.svg U.S. Highway 60
  • US 77.svg U.S. Highway 77
  • US 177.svg U.S. Highway 177
  • Oklahoma State Highway 11.svg State Highway 11
  • Oklahoma State Highway 156.svg State Highway 156

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 22,530
1910 26,999 19.8%
1920 34,907 29.3%
1930 50,186 43.8%
1940 47,084 −6.2%
1950 48,892 3.8%
1960 51,042 4.4%
1970 48,791 −4.4%
1980 49,852 2.2%
1990 48,056 −3.6%
2000 48,080 0.0%
2010 46,562 −3.2%
2020 43,700 −6.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

As of the census of 2000, there were 48,080 people, 19,157 households, and 13,141 families residing in the county. The population density was 52 people per square mile (20/km2). There were 21,804 housing units at an average density of 24 per square mile (9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 84.16% White, 1.79% Black or African American, 7.53% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.98% from other races, and 4.00% from two or more races. 4.25% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 19,157 households, out of which 31.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.70% were married couples living together, 10.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.40% were non-families. 27.90% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 26.40% under the age of 18, 8.80% from 18 to 24, 25.00% from 25 to 44, 22.80% from 45 to 64, and 17.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,762, and the median income for a family was $38,144. Males had a median income of $30,431 versus $19,617 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,643. About 12.40% of families and 16.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.70% of those under age 18 and 9.50% of those age 65 or over.

Life expectancy

Of 3,142 counties in the United States in 2013, Kay County County ranked 2,619 in the longevity of male residents and 2,642 in the longevity of female residents, both among the lowest 25 percent of all U.S. counties. Males in Kay County lived an average of 72.5 years and females lived an average of 77.7 years compared to the national average for longevity of 76.5 for males and 81.2 for females.

In the 1985-2013 period, the average longevity in Kay County for females declined by 0.8 years while male longevity increased by 2.0 years. Compared to the national average for the same period of an increased life span of 5.5 years for men and 3.1 years for women, Kay county ranked in the worst performing 10 percent of all counties. High rates of smoking and obesity for both sexes and a low level of physical activity for males appear to be contributing factors to the relatively short life expectancy.




Unincorporated communities

NRHP sites

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

  • Big V Ranch House, Ponca City
  • Blackwell Armory, Blackwell
  • Blaine Stadium and Fieldhouse, Ponca City
  • Chilocco Indian Agricultural School
  • Bryson Archeological Site, Newkirk
  • Deer Creek Site, Newkirk
  • Daniel J. Donahoe House, Ponca City
  • Electric Park Pavilion, Blackwell
  • First Presbyterian Church of Tonkawa, Tonkawa
  • Gov. William W. Jenkins Homestead Site, Newkirk
  • Kaw City Depot, Kaw City
  • Kaw Indian Agency, Washunga
  • Kay County Courthouse, Newkirk

Notable people

  • Joseph James, Mixed-blood Kaw native American, died in Kay County in 1898.
  • Les Layton, baseball player.
  • Jim Reese, former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and since 2011 the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, was born in Kay County c. 1957.
  • E.W. Marland, 10th Governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Congressman, and Oil tycoon who gained and lost a fortune in the Oklahoma oil fields.
  • The Miller Brothers - Joseph, George and Zack - who inherited the famous 101 Ranch from parents G.W. and Molly Miller, who encouraged their children to go big or go home.
  • Lew Wentz - oil tycoon and philanthropist

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Kay para niños

Black History Month on Kiddle
Famous African-American Activists:
William L. Dawson
Claudette Colvin
W. E. B. Du Bois
Anna J. Cooper
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