The physical area where Olney lies was first discovered by cattlemen who used it as a roundup area for their cattle because there was a cool, clear lake and plenty of tall, succulent grass for grazing.
The first settlers would carry pans and buckets to the lake for their household water supply and then began digging shallow wells in the Springcreek area where water was close to the surface. The lake eventually filled with silt, becoming useless but by that time, several families were homesteading in the area.
The Naming of Olney: There’s some controversy as to how Olney got its name. In order to be established as an official town with a post office, the settlement had to be given a name. Several suggestions were made and rejected. Some historians say it was named after Richard Olney, a northern politician that one of the men respected. Others claim that it was named after Olney, Illinois, where another popular politician lived. And of course there is Olney, England.
Olney Chamber of Commerce History: As the cattle trade grew and the land was found to be fertile for wheat and cotton, more families were drawn by low land prices ($4.00 an acre) and hopes for the future. There was news that a railroad would be laying track through the area and a large tract of land, just north of the community, was offered to the company, so that it would come through the township. The railroad readily accepted the land and then offered the surrounding areas for a larger fee per lot to any businesses that would relocate. All, realizing that close proximity to the railroad would increase their revenue, purchased lots and rebuilt north and south of the railroad – what is now known as Main Street (Hwy 114). Thus was the demise of the original site of Olney (just south of the present day downtown area). Then a plentiful supply of crude oil was discovered in the area. The Swastika (German for Good Luck) well gushed in the 20’s and then oil derricks sprung up almost over night. The township became a rough-and-tough town with plenty of notoriety with saloons, houses of ill repute and plenty of gun play before the townspeople and a strong sheriff and law force decided they had had enough, voted in new laws and created the town we have today.
Presently, Olney has a beautiful 9-hole golf course built over rolling hills with plenty of challenges that draw both local and out of town people. Northwest of Olney are two lakes – Olney Lake and Cooper Lake. A large municipal swimming pool and lighted tennis courts also offer other options.
Today, Olney is a center for agricultural activities, including wheat, cattle, cotton, oats, sheep, and hogs, as well as petroleum.
Many enjoy coming to Olney to take part in excellent hunting opportunities during dove, quail, migratory waterfowl, wild turkey, and white tailed deer seasons.