In 1850, Olive Oatman and her family took off from Missouri and headed west out to California. The trip was very eventful and not in a good way. Two separate arguments with other families led to the group splitting up, and then splitting up again. Eventually the Oatman’s were on their own heading toward the California border. They were attacked by Tolkepaya Native Americans who killed everyone in the family except three members. They thought that Lorenzo was dead so they left him behind as they kidnapped two of the sisters, Olive and Mary Ann. Many years later Olive and Lorenzo were reunited and she told her story to the world.The Oatman family left Independence, Missouri in 1850. They were in a wagon train that was headed to California.
The group of disaffected Mormons followed Brewster out west. Once they hit New Mexico, however, they ran into trouble.
Halfway to their destination, near Santa Fe, New Mexico, the group got into several disagreements. They eventually divided up and went two different ways.
After the initial split, they took a southern route with several other families. Once more agreements took broke out, the groups then split up one more time.
The Oatmans had originally left with a group of about 90 people. After this second split they were down only the ten members of their own family to make the rest of the trip.
Even though the family was now on their own, that didn’t mean that their toubles were over. When they were between Phoenix and the border of California they were attacked by Tolkepaya Native Americans.
The 15 year old had been left for dead. He did survive though, only to find that five of his brothers and sisters, along with his parents were dead.
As Lorenzo looked over his murdered family, he noticed something was out of place. Two of his sisters, 14-year-old Olive and 7-year-old Mary Ann, were both missing.
They helped him bury his murdered family and they continued on to California. Lorenzo never gave up hope that he would find his sisters though.
Lorenzo knew that one day he would find out what happened to his sisters. Then in 1856, a woman with a tattoo on her chin, went into Fort Yuma, in Topeka, Kansas.
Six years later Lorenzo’s sister was found to be alive and well. She told her story to the men at Fort Yuma.
When Olive and Mary Ann were kidnapped by the Tokepayas, they only stayed with them for about a year. That tribe is part of the bigger Yavapais tribe.
The tribe then traded the sisters a year later to the Mohave. They were a tribe that lived on the Colorado River.
The Mohave treated the sisters well and eventually a family named the Oach’s adopted them. They gave the sister’s their own family name.
In either 1855 or 1856 Mary Ann died of starvation. She was ten years old at the time and it happened during a horrible drought that didn’t allow food to grow.
True West Magazine says that Olive was free to leave the family and the Mohave anytime she wanted. The only problem was that if she left they wouldn’t escort her to a white community. She would be on her own.
She decided to stay put because she didn’t know where the nearest town was or even how to find one. The elements of the southwest desert along with other not so nice people, had her not wanting to put her life at risk.
Over the course of time and life, Olive was once again reunited with Lorenzo. The rest of the country was just as excited about it as they were.
It garnered press coverage from all across the country. Everyone was enthralled with Olive’s tattoo, that was given to her to match other members of the tribe.
Since Olive was officially a member of the tribe she had to do as they did. She was given her famous tattoo across her chin so she would always be known as one of them.
He wrote a book that was called “Life Among the Indians” and he promoted it heavily across the country. Book sales were used to put both Lorenzo and Olive through college at the University of the Pacific.
Over the years there have been many rumors that Olive said bad things about the Mohave. However, that isn’t true and she cried to soldiers at Fort Yuma that they never hurt her in any way.
Olive insisted that Stratton include “To the honor of these savages let it be said, they never offered the least unchaste abuse to me,” in his book. She wanted everyone to know that they took good care of her.
Olive’s life was well documented in the book written by Margot Mifflin. It is called “The Blue Tattoo: The Life Of Olive Oatman”.
Whenever a photo or depiction of the famous blue chin tattoo is seen, it sparks up the age old story of Olive Oatman and what she went through in her life. The main thing she wanted everyone to remember though, is that she was never mistreated by the Mohave.