Pre-Civil War-The Fantastic Story of Olive Oatman

Olive Oatman (1837 – March 20, 1903) was a woman from Illinois whose family was killed in 1851 when she was fourteen in today’s Arizona by a Native American tribe, possibly the Tolkepayas (Western Yavapai), who captured and enslaved her and her sister and later sold them to the Mohave people. After several years with the Mohave, during which her sister died of hunger, she returned to the white world, five years after being carried off.
In subsequent years, the tale of Oatman came to be retold with dramatic license in the press, in her own “memoir” and speeches, novels, plays, movies and poetry. The story resonated in the media of the time and long afterward, partly owing to the prominent blue tattooing of Oatman’s face by the Mohave. Much of what exactly occurred to her during her time with the Indians remains unknown.

FACTS: Olive cried into her hands when she was delivered to the U.S. Army at Fort Yuma. She paced the floor and wept at night after she moved to Oregon to live near their cousins. A friend described her as a “grieving, unsatisfied woman” who longed to return to the Mohave. And when Olive heard that a tribal dignitary named Irataba was traveling to New York in 1864, she went to visit him. As hard as Stratton tried to twist her story into an indictment of the “degraded bipeds” who raised her, Olive’s love for the Mohave bleeds through the pages of Stratton’s book, and it is also clear in the interviews she gave soon after her ransom.

What Happened to Her: She married a rancher who became a wealthy banker, and they adopted a child and lived a comfortable life in Sherman, Texas. But in her forties, Olive battled debilitating headaches and depression. In 1881, she spent nearly three months at a medical spa in Canada, largely in bed. Oatman seemed to suffer from some chronic form of post-traumatic stress for most of her later life.

Sources: WIKI and 10 Myths About Olive Oatman Photo Color by StaceyPalmer@CivilWarParlor

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