Indian scout had connections in area

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By The Staff

Perry Commodore Oller was born in Bourbon County, Ky., on Feb. 4, 1819, and would go on to become one of the foremost Indian scouts in America.

What would become his career began one day when Perry was 12. His parents, George and Elizabeth Taylor Oller, had moved to Illinois by this time, and were attacked by Indians near Swan Lake.

It was Perry who traveled the 70 miles through an unknown wilderness to carry a message to the frontier village of Kaskaskia about the attack.

In April 1855, Oller and Elizabeth Snook were married in Montgomery County. Elizabeth’s grandfather had been one of George Washington’s bodyguards. Oller farmed and Elizabeth bore him three sons; Amos, Thomas and Jacob. She died in 1862, and Oller placed his sons in the care of their grandfather.

He headed west, conducting a wagon train across the plains. It would be eight years before his family heard from him again.

During these years, he was scouting and carrying messages for various army officers of the West, and gained an intimate knowledge of the Indians, their habits of living and means of warfare.

In 1869, after a brief visit home, he headed to the Yukon Valley of Alaska, and scouted from there to Mexico. This time his family would not hear from him for 30 years. He had long since been given up for dead when he returned to Montgomery County. Here he would live out his life in the home of his son, Amos, who was 5 years old when his mother died and his father headed west.

During the 30 years of his absence, Oller gained an Indian name "Cultus Boston Man" – a bad fighter. He was a crack shot, and won $1,000 and the championship in St. Louis by killing 10 pigeons on the wing in nine shots, thrown from traps two at a time.

On another occasion, he was captured by Indians and was to be burned alive at the stake. "But when the Indians went to untie him from the tree, he slipped his hand through the noose, jerked a knife from the Indian’s belt, thrust it into his captor’s body, picked up pistols dropped by his foe and quicker than thought started a dozen braves on their way to the happy hunting grounds.” Oller got away.

Not long after Custer’s death, a band of Sitting Bull’s braves captured two children after killing their parents in cold blood. Oller followed the trail and finally succeeded in locating the band. Hiding his weapons in the brush 50 rods away, he boldly rode into the Indian’s camp, leading a horse.

Disarming suspicion, he had a smoke with the chief and managed to drop a note where the oldest child could read it. The note directed one of the children to mount the lead horse in sport, get off and on to allay suspicion. The scheme worked like a charm.

In a short time, the Indians became careless. And before they could realize what was happening, he had leaped into the saddle and was off like a shot, the other horse following with the children. They escaped with hard riding.

In 1902, a writer for the publication, "The Gatling Gun," interviewed the old Indian scout at the home of his son in Litchfield. The reporter wrote, “In conversation with Mr. Oller, one feels that he is talking with a man of the heroic age, to the companion of Kenton, Boone and Crockett.

“He is the perfect type of man of brawn and brain and iron who blazed the way through the wilderness for advancing civilization from Jamestown to the Golden Gate.”

The old Indian scout died on Jan. 1904, in Litchfield, shortly before publication of the book, "Past and Present of Montgomery County, Illinois," which carried his photograph and colorful story.