Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Publication: Historical Archives. Posted by
Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Olive Oatman was abducted by Native Americans, and lived among them for years
There are a lot of memorable names from the old west, but there’s one that’s shrouded in a lot of mystery that still isn’t fully known to this day. That name is Olive Oatman, and her tale, albeit confusing at times, is a fascinating one. Oatman was born in Illinois in 1837, and she and her family hitched a ride with other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints out west.
The convoy of wagons that the Oatman family was part of was led by James C. Brewster, and were en route to California. On the way there, many of the followers started to feel a dissent toward Brewster, causing a split in the pack. The Oatman family was part of the group that decided to go toward California through the southern pass in Arizona, and Oatman’s father became the new group’s leader.
Many of the families within the group decided to stay knowing what danger lied ahead, but the Oatman family decided to push on through Arizona when they ran into trouble. After a group of Native Americans stopped the Oatmans from continuing, and a brutal brawl ensued. The Native Americans killed many of the family members with the exception of Olive and two of her siblings.
Olive and her sister Mary Ann were taken by the Native Americans to become slaves, while her brother Lorenzo had been beaten unconscious and awoke to see that his family was massacred. The two girls were escorted to the Harquahala Mountains where they faced a lot of adversity throughout their time as slaves.
This went on for months until Olive and her sister were acquired by Mohave Native Americans in a trade. While it might have seemed like hard times were going to continue for Olive and Mary Ann, things actually started to look up thanks to the Mohaves. Their new tribe looked after them, taking care of them and even giving them their own land.
Olive stated that she sensed a fear of trying to escape, identifying herself as a captive of the Mohave, but that she was treated fairly, especially when compared to the previous tribe. Olive and Mary Ann were essentially tribal members, and it showed when they participated in a ritual that left them permanently marked.
In this photo, you might notice some interesting markings that Olive has on her face. In the Mohave tradition, those that are members of the tribe receive tattoos on both their face and their arms, and the chin area is prominently shown in this portrait of Olive. Times would then become rougher, however, as a drought hit the American southwest, leaving many going hungry. This included Mary Ann, who passed away around the age of 10 due to starvation.
Those that had passed through the Mohave tribal area had apparently spotted Olive during her time there, and grumblings of a white Mormon girl living amongst the Native Americans made their way in the surrounding area. Threats came down from Fort Yuma that if Oatman was not released, that action would be taken on the Mohave tribe.
Just before turning 20 years old, the Mohaves accepted to send Olive to Fort Yuma. It was learned that while she was away, Olive had even gotten married and had two sons that she had to leave behind. Because of this, it seemed that Olive was the only one that wasn’t experiencing any joy upon her return to Yuma despite the fact that she found her brother Lorenzo there. She had presumed that he was killed when her family was attacked a few years prior. However, in later years, Oatman said that she didn’t actually get married to a Mohave man or that she was abused like many of the claims have said.
That’s where things start to get very confusing. Throughout her post-Native American life, Oatman had given a few different recollections of her time there, on top of different rumors that made their way through the grapevine. There were rumors that she couldn’t even have children, rumors that she married multiple times and even rumors that she forgot how to speak English. It’s hard to trace what exactly happened if you weren’t there firsthand to experience Oatman’s tale.
Regardless, Oatman’s life had to carry on after she returned to the life she was accustomed to as a child. She wrote a book about her time post-capture titled “Life Among the Indians” that became a best-seller. When she was 28 years old, Oatman would marry a rancher named John Fairchild, and the two adopted a child.
12 years into the marriage, there were false reports that Oatman had been admitted into an insane asylum all the way in New York City where she passed away at the age of 40. Those rumors turned out to be very false, as Oatman would live to be 65 years old and lived in Texas. She passed away from a heart attack in 1903 in Sherman, Texas, where she would ultimately be buried.
The media couldn’t get enough of the stories when it came to Oatman and her life both during and after her capture. We’ll never know what really happened during those times, and a lot of that has to do with the false reports that were made in the news all those years ago. One thing’s for sure, though, and it’s that Oatman was a remarkably intriguing figure for a lot of things. It was the tattoo on her face that really drew in the crowd and made them want to hear her story, though.