From the time that Columbus discovered America, in 1492, up to the year 1541-2 or about fifty years after the discovery of America, the Territory comprising Mayes County had very little if any mention historically, probably the first white people to lay foot on Mayes County soil was in 1541 when De Soto the Spanish explorer and his expedition passed through what was then the Province of Mayes County to be. Other Spanish explorers and French explorers, explored this part of the country the following century and a half, the Spanish explorers seeking gold and the French a fur trade. The Bernard De La Harpe expedition of 1721 is probably responsible for so many of the streams and some of the towns having French names.
In 1802 before. Napoleon Bonaparte compelled the Kingdom of Spain to return the Province of Louisiana to France (and before the Thomas Jefferson administration acquired the Province in 1804) the first white settlement was made in the Province of Louisiana which comprises Oklahoma. This was a trade post which was established by the Chouteau brothers (Frenchmen) of St. Louis. It was located on the east bank of Grand River in what is now Mayes County upon the site of the present Town of Salina.
In 1820 the first mission in Oklahoma for the purpose of educating the Indians and converting them to the Christian religion was established near the mouth of Chouteau Creek which is in Mayes County. This was some eighteen years before the Cherokee were transferred to this part of the country. At that time the principal inhabitants were the Osage Indians.
Grand Saline (or what is now known as the old Saltwells), is located in Mayes County and is only one of the many historical spots of the county. Here is where salt was manufactured and sold to the Indians at fifty cents a bushel. Ox teams came from hundreds of miles and salt was hauled away by the wagon loads. The huge salt kettles used, came from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and were transported down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and up the Arkansas and Grand rivers to a ford near where the Salina bridge, east of Pryor, is now located.
The country now comprising Mayes County furnished no less than four Chiefs for the Cherokee and many of the Councilmen and Senators.
Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.