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October 22, 1999

Some of the best material for a column such as this, with historical anecdotes as its principal focus, comes from unexpected sources. More about that later, but let me just say that today we're going to look at Perry's first physician, Dr. Thomas McIntyre Cullimore, M.D. We don't hear much about him now and that's a shame because his story, although it has a tragic ending, sheds welcome light on our understanding of the era of the Cherokee Outlet land run, the greatest event of its kind in all of history.

We'll call on Clarence M. Cullimore Mercer, the great-grandson of Dr. Cullimore, to tell the tale. It begins here:

"My father's paternal grandfather was Thomas McIntyre Cullimore, M.D., of Jacksonville, Ill. He was a Congregationalist and a gentle man. According to family stories, Thomas and his sons, Clarence, age 3, and Reginald Allen, aged 5 (?), were among the assembly on the line of the opening of the Cherokee Strip in a black, two-wheel buggy. He must have been concerned at the harsh language and unreserved attitudes of his fellow runners; obviously (they were) not Victorian men of fashion.

"My grandfather told me when I was a teen, and (this) was re-related by his surviving spouse, Rosemary Thieland Cullimore, that his dad drove his buggy into the distance at the sound of the cannon, and lit on a well-placed piece of land, near water, and started to drive his stake and set up a monument of stone around it. Several well-armed and burly riders came up on horseback and told him the land was already taken. He pointed out that the land was, according to the military, unoccupied. For his remark the men took him, beat and kicked him to unconsciousness and put him in the wagon with his crying boys. Reginald was forced to drive away. (Dr. Cullimore) regained consciousness and took to looking for another parcel. As he was preparing to drive his stake two men rode up, swore at him, dismounted and pistol whipped him, robbed him and put him back in the wagon.

"Reginald drove until he came to a settlement. It was Perry. With the help of some kind people there, the boys set up their tent and cared for the horse. They were fed and looked after until Thomas finally healed enough to walk and drive. But he had many internal pains, black stools and occasionally coughed up blood. He owed money to the folks that had cared for him and his boys, so he hung a shingle on his tent. At that point, he was the only M.D. between Kansas and Guthrie. He did what he could to pay his debt and make enough to return by train to Illinois because he was not up to the long wagon trip. (Editor's note: Dr. Cullimore remained in Perry three years. He died March 3, 1899, in Jacksonville, Ill.)

"In the story of 'The Widow's Gun, in a historical society publication, there is reference to the 'Buggy Doctor.' It was Thomas McIntyre Cullimore. In the remaining six years of his life he tried to cure himself of his internal injuries, but eventually he died from them. His wife, Mary Joy Cullimore, moved to Berkeley, California, and resided there well into the 20th century. Reginald became dean of the New Jersey University of Engineering, and Clarence's life almost ran like the chronicles of Indiana Jones -- being an officer in World War I, a historian, archaeologist, a teacher, builder and architect, and one of the innovators of the California Junior College System. I believe both Reginald and Clarence were listed in 'Who's Who' in the 1940s and early 1950s."

More on this subject in the next Northwest Corner.