The town of O'Kean is located in the southeast corner of the county, nearer to Walnut Ridge (Lawrence Co.) than to the Randolph county seat of Pocahontas.
Locally, the town is pronounced "Oh-Cane" rather than "Oh-Keen."
Strangely,Dalton does not include a history of the settlement in the section of his History of Randolph County that names and describes the communities of the county.However, there is ample evidence in his writings to make the following observations:
1.O'Kean is a product of the coming of the Iron Mountain railroad.The railroad was originally surveyed as early as 1852, but it was not constructed until several years later. Communities sprang up along the railroad where there were suchfacilities as water stops for filling the steam engines,sidings to allow trains to permit passing trains,maintenance crews assigned to monitor a section of track, etc. Also, the presence of the railroad created a market for local merchants.Storekeepers used the rail system to provide them with goods for sale, ordered and shipped down the line from cities as far away as St. Louis.People did not have to travel to Walnut Ridge or Corning to obtain supplies, seek medical help, etc. Given that there were no "established" communites along the railroad between Walnut Ridge and Corning, it can be argued that such towns as O'Kean, Delaplaine, Peach Orchard, and Knobel all sprang from the coming of the railroad.Incidentally, the town of Walnut Ridge in it's present form is a product of the railroad."Old Wanut Ridge" was a settlement about five miles northwest of the present town.When the railroad came,Walnut Ridge just picked up and moved down the way, leaving a ghost town at Old Walnut Ridge.
2.The name of the town clearly derives from Father James P. O'Kean,a Catholic priest.Dalton credits Father O'Kean with being the driving force behind the presence of the RomanCatholic churce in Randolph county.Father O'Kean did not arrive in the county until 1867, well after the civil war.While there were members of the Catholic faith in the county for many years before this,Father O'Kean apparently was the first ordained/full-time priest in the county and his aggressive efforts to establish the parish, acquire land, build the church, etc. were recognized by naming the new communitty after him.