Captivity of the Oatman Girls: Being an Interesting Narrative of Life among the Apache and Mohave Indians
Royal B. Stratton
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In 1851, on route to California in a covered wagon, the Oatman family was brutally attacked by Apache Indians. Six family members were murdered on sight, one boy was left for dead, who escaped afterward, and two young girls, Mary Ann and Olive, were taken captive.
Mary Ann, the younger of the two girls, died of starvation in 1852. Olive, however, spent five years in captivity before an incredible rescue. In 1856, she was discovered living among the Mohave tribe, and a ransom was offered in exchange for her release. After years of slavery and bearing a prominent blue tattoo traditional to the Mohave people on her face, Olive was restored to her only living family member, Lorenzo Oatman, the brother who survived.
This book was originally commissioned by Lorenzo Oatman as a factual record of his sisters’ fates, based on true events. The story is one of tragedy and loss, at times fascinating and also horrifying. This edition includes illustrations and Olive’s own observations about the customs of her captors and the geography of the land. The dramatic yet somber words of Lorenzo and Olive, as recorded by Royal B. Stratton, bring readers into the thrilling immediacy of the Apache attack, Lorenzo’s escape, the tragic moment when Olive watches Mary Ann die, and most importantly into the final, happy rescue as Olive is reunited with her brother.
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took from this point the “Cook and Kearney” route, and found the grass for our teams for a while more plentiful than for hundreds of miles previous. Our train now consisted of eight wagons and twenty persons. We now came into a mountainous country, and we found the frequent and severe ascents and declivities wearing upon our teams beyond any of our previous travel. We often consumed whole days in making less than one quarter of the usual day’s advance. A few days after leaving the Rio Grande, one
boys and girls, especially, would make the older ones merry by thus taunting us. It seemed during all this wild and disgusting performance, that their main ambition was to exhibit their superiority over us, and the low, earnest, intense hate they bore toward our race. And this they most effectually succeeded in accomplishing, together with a disgusting view of the obscenity, vulgarity, and grossness of their hearts, and the mean, despicable, revengeful dispositions that burn with hellish fury
that to which they were subjected by their merciless lords. They invented modes, and seemed to create necessities of labor, that they might gratify themselves by taxing us to the utmost, and even took unwarranted delight in whipping us on beyond our strength. And all their requests and exactions were couched in the most insulting and taunting language and manner, as it then seemed, and as they had the frankness soon to confess, to fume their hate against the race to whom we belonged. “Often
conscientious abhorrence, at any hazard. They watched my little corn-patch with hungry and thieving eyes, and, but for the chief, would have eaten the corn green and in the ear. As harvest drew near I watched, from before daylight until dark again, to keep off these red vultures and the blackbirds from a spot of ground as large as an ordinary dwelling-house. I had to do my accustomed share of musquite gathering, also, in June and July. This we gathered in abundance. The Colorado overflowed this
the editor, and found that a letter had been received by him from Commander Burke, at Fort Yuma, stating that a young woman, calling herself “Olive Oatman,” had been recently brought into the fort by a Yuma Indian, who had been rescued from the Mohave tribe; also stating to the editor that she had a brother who had lately been in this vicinity, and requesting the editor to give the earliest possible notice to that brother of the rescue of his sister. Lorenzo says: “I requested him to let me see