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William and Elida (Heaton) Oller, photo from the Diamond Jubilee booklet.

William & Elidah (Heaton) Oller

William Oller, was born in Taylorville, Illinois, on November 22, 1859. He was the 6th child of eleven children born to Abigail and Peter Oller. He came to Comanche County to the town of Avilla, in October of 1884. He arrived in Avilla by Stage Coach, with only $1.80 in his pocket. He then walked three miles south of Avilla to a Mr. T.C. Heaton's place, where he took Bill to some land he could homestead. With the help of Mr. Heaton and his four sons, Bill built his dugout. In order to homestead the land, the Government required you to plant five acres, so Bill planted his to corn. He had to borrow a team of oxen and a plow from Mr. Heaton to do his work.

The Prairie grass was so tall you couldn't see above it and Bill stood 5 feet 10 inches tall, so he would drive a stake in the ground, with a white cloth on it and place it by his door so he could find his way back home. Also the grassfleas were so bad, Bill would soak up the rags dipped in oil and lay by the front of his dugout door to keep them out.

After Bill had his corn planted that fall, he went up into Northern Kansas to shuck corn, so he could make money to buy a team of horses and a wagon.

After spending many months up there working, he managed to get a fine team and wagon, so he decided it was time to start back home. His first night out, the mare he had just bought died, so he hooked the other horse up to the wagon and he held up the neck yoke on the wagon tongue and walked for about three miles, where he met a horse trader with about 15 head of horses, so Bill traded his rifle that he had bought for five dollars for a little buckskin mare, and started off again for home to do his spring farming.

By meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Heaton and family, he also met his future wife, Elidiah Heaton, whom he married on June 5, 1888. Bill wrote to his family in Illinois that he was fine, and had settled up a quarter of land, and had married an Indian squaw. His family was so against his coming out West, because they had heard it was such an uncivilized place, with Indians running wild.

As grasshoppers, drouth, and many other things happened to the settlers around Bill; they would pull up and leave, and he would buy up their land. He ended up buying 3,300 acres of land, giving from .50 cents an acre to $25.00 an acre.

Bill and Elidiah Oller, raised five children, four sons, Albert, Roy, Ernest and Ralph, and a daughter Mabel. They were all born and raised on the land Bill had homesteaded. In later years, Bill and Elidiah bought a home in Coldwater, Kansas, and turned the farming over to their sons. Bill lost Elidiah on November 20, 1928. He continued to live in their family home in Coldwater until his death February 20, 1940.

-- Comanche County History, page

The Western Star, January 27, 1922


A few Reminiscences of Pioneer Life in Comanche-co.

Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of articles on the above subject which will be printed in the Western Star from time to time. Every surviving Comanche-co pioneer, no matter where he or she may live, is invited to contribute to this column. Write a brief story of your first few years here, with an account of the experiences which made a lasting impression on your memory. Send the letter to the Star, and same will be printed as soon as we can make room for it.

(From an interview with Wm. Oller)

My parental home was not far from Taylorville, Ill., but while yet quite a young man I resolved to "go out west," as we called it, and seek a home. Kingman-co, Kansas, was my first objective point. I stopped there one season and put out a wheat crop with my brother, Sam, who settled in that county. That was during the early fall of '84 (1884). Having finished sowing wheat, I decided to look the country over on out further southwest, so came to Comanche-co., which was then just beginning to be settled. That was about the last of September or the first of October that year. I drove out, as I wanted to bring along a couple of horses. I recall that on the way I met some fellows who had been out here, and they told me about the country, and advised me to settle near the new town of Avilla, so I made for that place. The trail passed through Nescatunga, which then consisted of half a dozen or so houses. About half way between Nescatunga and Avilla I happened to meet a man - Jim Murray, by name - who told me a good deal about where to look for a good piece of land. I followed his suggestion and found that he knew what he was talking about. He had lived back in Illinois close to where I did and he remembered me well when I told him my name. We had quite a visit. Jim afterwards lost his wife in a well down in the southeastern part of Avilla-tp.

I picked out a quarter of land and began the task of making improvements. During the ensuring six months one of my horses died, so a while before wheat harvest the next summer I rode my one remaining horse back to Kingman-co. and looked after the harvesting of my wheat crop there. Before returning to Comanche-co. I traded that horse for a yoke of oxen, which I drove out. With those oxen I broke out 40 or 50 acres of sod for myself and perhaps 100 acres for my neighbors. I built a sod house, which was used for several years. I think I know what pioneer days meant in hardships. Money was scarce and hard to get, and crops were uncertain and prices low. In '87 (1887) I did considerable work on the railroad, which was built though this county that year. I received for myself and team the sum of $2.50 per day, and was glad to get that. Our supply of wood came principally from the canyons some six or eight miles south and southwest of the old Avilla town site. I got some fine cottonwood poles down there with which to build my first stable and shed. Occasionally when we early settlers went after wood we were intercepted by some fellow, usually a well known cattleman, who would proceed to order us to cut no more timber on government land. I recall that once when I was returning with a load of poles with which to build my stable and sheds, I was met by Capt. Wash Mussett, who gave me quite a calling down for cutting and hauling away that load of cottonwood poles. He produced his authority all right, and I told him that I had all the timber I wanted, but that I wanted that load mighty bad. He rather insisted on the wood being unloaded at once, but when I had reasoned the matter with him, he finally told me to take along the poles and to be more careful thereafter - and I was. That was where Cap and I first got acquainted, and afterwards we became the best of friends. As stated, Cap was not bluffing at all - he had his authority all right, for he was speaking as a deputy United States marshall. When I first saw Avilla there were perhaps three or four houses and from fifteen to twenty tents there. But the town grew rapidly. Later, in the early '90s (1890s), it disappeared about as rapidly.

Those were strenuous days, but we all enjoyed ourselves, and there was enough going on - claim jumping, county seat fights, and the like, to make things lively. The comforts and conveniences then were quite different from those of today, but no one complained; in fact I sometimes think that we were really happier then than we are today. Our mode of living was of the simple, old fashioned kind, to be sure, but as we view it now we are glad for all those experiences.

Oller - Nokes
Ralph C. Oller of Avilla-tp. and Miss Gertrude Nokes were united in marriage at the home of the bride's parents in this city at 11:30 o'clock a.m. on last Sunday, August 23, 1925, Rev. J. B. Handy officiating. The ceremony was performed in the presence of a few of the near relatives and was made a beautiful and impressive one. The couple went at once to the Oller farm in Avilla-tp., where they will make their home. The groom is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Oller, who were among the early settlers of the county. He has lived all his life in this county and is well known here. After attending the rural schools of the county, he attended the Coldwater schools for several terms. He was a Junior last year. The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Nokes of this city. She is one of Coldwater's best known young ladies and has won many friends here. She was graduated from the Coldwater high school with the class of 1924. Since that time she has spent considerable time as a clerk in the post office and at other places. The Western Star joins in extending to these young people sincere good wishes as they enter upon married life. -- The Western Star, August 28, 1925.

A memorial to William & Elida Oller, sponsored by their children, was published in The Diamond Jubilee Historical Souvenir Program.

The Western Star, 18 January 1890 : "1889 Marriage Licenses": June 5. William Oller, 29, and Lydia E. Heaton, 21.

Clarence "Clancy" Oller, son of Roy Oller, was killed in action during WWII.

Eva B. (Heaton) Overocker, sister of Elida (Heaton) Oller.

Thomas Bryan Robinson, husband of Mabel Oller.

Obituary: Mrs. T.C. Heaton, The Western Star, July 29, 1921.

Obituary of T.C. Heaton, father of Elida Oller, from The Western Star, 20 July 1917.

(For stealing wheat from William Oller)
The Western Star, June 25, 1920.

James W. Dappert: Reminiscences of Early Days in Comanche-co.
The Western Star, January 15, 1926.

This web page was added to this site by Jerry Ferrin on 30 Mar 2003. Thanks to Bobbi (Hackney) Huck for her help with the webmastering.