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Olive Oatman and the Indian Massacre

Updated on July 3, 2015

Olive Oatman and the Indian Massacre

Olive Oatman was born to a Mormon family in 1837. When she was about thirteen they joined a wagon train at Independence, Missouri, going towards California. They started out in 1850. The Oatman Massacre occurred in the early months of either February or March of 1851. Royce Oatman and his family, pioneers looking to find a new life in California, were traveling towards Fort Yuma from Tucson. After difficulties arose among the pioneers, Olive's father chose to strike out alone, leading his family into the hostile desert where the Apache were at war with the white man.

As their neighbors had warned them, the family was savagely set upon by Apache indians. Olive and her seven-year-old sister, watched as their family was massacred. Their 15 year brother, Lorenzo had been clubbed and left for dead. He survived by pretending to be dead. Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, were taken as slaves.

About a year later, Olive and her sister were sold to a Mojave chief. They had been bought for blankets, horses, and vegetables. Seemingly a human soul was worth practically nothing. The Mohave chief and his wife may have adopted the girls.

Both sisters were tattooed on their chins and arms in keeping with Mojave custom for those who were tribal members. Olive later claimed she was tattooed to mark her as a slave, but that wasn't Mojave tradition. They were given only to their own people.


Around 1855, when Olive was 19, there was a severe drought. Mary Ann died of starvation, along with many Mojaves. Olive had now lost allof her family. What she didn't know was her brother had not quit looking for his sisters. Remember, she had no idea he was still alive. He had eventually reached a settlement and rejoined the original wagon train. He was able to find the bodies of his massacred family and gave them a proper burial.

Around this time people began hearing stories about a white woman living with the Mohaves. A messenger was sent to ask for Olive's return. After four years living with the Mojave, she was ransomed to the military at Fort Yuma.

When she arrived, she was given a set of clothes as she was dressed in Mojave attire, meaning she was topless.Then she was reunited with her brother. A book was written about the Oatman family by Royal B. Stratton.

To promote the book, Olive toured the country giving lectures telling about her life among the indians. Not much is known about what happened to them after that. What is known is sketchy and contradictory.Lorenzo to seems to have run a hotel in Illinois.

In 1865 she married John Fairchild, a cattleman.She quit lecturing after that. The Fairchild’s adopted a daughter and settled in Sherman Texas. .

Olive died in 1903. The town of Oatman, Arizona in Mohave County was named after Olive Oatman.








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