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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driving us on before them. We descended the hill, not knowing their intentions concerning us, but under the expectation that they would probably take our lives by slow torture. After we had descended the hill and crossed the river, and traveled about one half of a mile by a dim trail leading through a dark, rough, and narrow defile in the hills, we came to an open place where there had been an Indian camp before, and halted The Indians took off their packs, struck a fire, and began in their own
Months rolled by, finding us early and late at our burden-bearing and torturing labors, plying hands and feet to heed the demands of our lazy lords, and the taunts and exactions of a swarm of heathen urchins, sometimes set over us. But since the coming of these Mohaves a new question had been presented, and a new source of anxious solicitude had been opened. Hours at a time were spent apart, dwelling upon and conversing about the possibilities and probabilities, with all the gravity of men in the
rather live on them in trying to get away than in staying here, or being driven like oxen again three hundred miles.” By this time the little pale face of her sister kindled with such an enthusiasm that Olive could hardly avoid expressing the effect it had upon her own mind. Mary was about to continue when her sister, seeing an Indian near them, bade her hush, and they were about to renew their work when Mary said: “Look! who are those? they are Indians, they are those very Mohaves! See! they
Orders were then given to two Indians to follow my directions in disposing of the body. I selected a spot in that little garden ground, where I had planted and wept with my dear sister. In this they dug a grave about five feet deep, and into it they gently lowered the remains of my last, my only sister, and closed her last resting-place with the sand. The reader may imagine my feelings, as I stood by that grave. The whole painful past seemed to rush across my mind, as I lingered there. It was the
boastful captors. I became very much interested in her, and sought to learn the circumstances under which she had been torn from her home. Of her grief I thought I knew something. She tried to. converse with me. “With much difficulty I learned of her what had happened since the going of the Mohave warriors among her tribe, and this fully explained her extreme melancholy. Their town was attacked in the night by the Mohave warriors, and after a short engagement the Cochopas were put to flight; the