Lets talk about..... Olive Oatman


The West Team
Community Manager
We want to try something else here in the team.

The idea with these 'lets talk about ...' is that every month there will be a presentation with either a story, article or a topic, which is based on some slightly different and perhaps obscure things from the history of the West. Maybe we can all learn a new thing or something, but if nothing else then there is a topic that can be discussed and maybe even give us all an aha experience - Have fun with this first edition:

Olive Oatman - The girl with the blue tatoo

To this day, tattoos are not uncommon, gradually it is closer to the rule than the exception. But in the 1850s the case was different, and in 1856 the young Olive Oatman became almost a celebrity because of her very conspicuous blue face tattoos.

The new Jerusalem
This story starts like many others in that time.
In early August of 1849, The Oatman family, Mr. and Mrs. Oatman, as well as their 7 children: Lucy, Lorenzo, Olive, Mary ann, Roys Jr., Charity Ann and Roland, along with 93 other Brewsterites (a mormon group), following their prophet James Brewster, set off on the Santa Fe Trail. Their journey to Bashan was well over one thousand miles, and the travelers knew they had an arduous and dangerous task ahead of them.

The Santa Fe Trail offered a variety of threats to its travelers, ranging from disease, starvation, exposure, and potentially hostile Native Americans. All of these dangers were foremost in the mind of Roys Oatman as his family started off toward their New Jerusalem.

In preparation for the journey, Roys Oatman sold the family farm and all of the possessions that they could not take with them for fifteen hundred dollars. Finally, in May of 1849, Roys Oatman, full of religious fervor, loaded up his wife and seven children into wagons and started southeast, to the Brewsterite rendezvous point; Independence, Missouri.
August 10, 1850 The so-called Brewster wagon train, left Independence, Missouri, seeking a life in the Land of Bashan, headed west in 43 wagons, loaded down with eight months worth of provisions.

The romance and fairytale of the journey would wear off quickly. As the journey went on, the travelers began to see that Brewster was no Joseph Smith or even Brigham Young. He was a visionary and a prophet, but did not have the temperament or experience to be an effective leader.
So the good times did not last, as is often the case when many travel together and there is no clear and distinct leadership. Small, petty arguments, alternative visions and illness took their toll. Disagreement began to grow in the group, and slowly the group began to divide and break apart.

Still together they reached the banks of the Arkansas River, and followed it to Bents Fort, which is in present-day Colorado. Here, the group faced a fork in the road.
One route, the southern route was about one hundred miles closer to Santa Fe, but also required crossing a sixty mile wide desert with no supplies or water. The northern route, while longer, was better supplied and safer. This decision served as the boiling point for the already growing division within the group.
Brewster wanted to go north. Mr. Oatman and several other families wanted to go south. They could not come to an agreement, and after some argument, Oatman and the families who agreed with him, decided to split off from the Brewster party and continue on the southern road. Splitting the wagon train made it more alot more difficult for everyone, as they now collectively had fewer supplies and were more susceptible to Native American raids.
The carriages had been reduced to three. They were still far from their goal.


The group, now being led by Roys Oatman continued on. They struggled through the desert, and forged their way, along the trail through the New Mexico territory. The group was constantly low on supplies and forced to stop often due to bad weather and the need for rest and recuperation. They began to have more interaction with Native Americans, who they were already suspicious of. The increased Indian presence scared them greatly, but it was a risk they had to take in order to reach the Edenesque Land of Bashan.

Likely sometime in early 1851, around seventeen months after they had left Independence, the Oatmans and just two other families left Tucson to continue on their journey. For days they struggled through a desolate ninety mile stretch where they were constantly on guard for possible Indian attacks. They finally reached Maricopa Wells, where they stopped to recuperate.
At Maricopa Wells, the weary travelers were told it was not safe to continue on the trail. There had been numerous reports of hostile Indian attacks. Natives had been known to murder and rob settlers along this part of the trail. The two families traveling alongside the Oatmans had heard enough, and elected to stay in Maricopa Wells until they had recuperated enough to make the journey, but Mr. Oatman chose to press on. And that’s how Royce, his wife Mary, and their seven children, aged 1 to 17, found themselves trekking through the most arid part of the Sonoran Desert on their own.

Sure enough, about 90 miles east of Yuma, on the banks of the Gila River, the family was waylaid by a group of Native Americans, likely Yavapais, who asked them for food and tobacco. The details of what happened next aren’t known, but the encounter somehow turned into an attack. Apparently, all of the Oatmans were murdered—all except Lorenzo, age 15, scalped and tossed over a cliff, survived the ordeal.
When Lorenzo came to, he found six bodies, not eight: Two of his sisters, 13-year-old Olive and 7-year-old Mary Ann, were nowhere to be seen. Badly injured, Lorenzo walked to a settlement and had his wounds treated, then rejoined the group of other Mormon emigrants, who returned with the teenager to the scene of the crime. Because the volcanic soil was rocky and difficult to dig, it was not possible to bury the Oatmans, so cairns were built around their bodies instead.

But where were Olive and Mary Ann?


Did Olive Oatman Want to Be Rescued?
Mary Ann was eight years old when she and her 13-year-old sister Olive were kidnapped by Western Yavapais west of present-day Gila Bend, Arizona. The raiding party killed her parents and four of her siblings, although a brother, Lorenzo, 14, survived. The sisters marched, barefooted, some 90 miles north to a village, where they were treated brutally, as slaves.

After a harrowing year of hunger with the Yavapais, the girls were sold to the Mohaves for two horses, blankets and vegetables. Olive lived through another four years with the Mohaves, who treated her like family and marked her like they did the other women in the tribe, tattooing blue lines on her chin that ran from her mouth, as well as her arms. Tragedy struck when famine came in 1855, and Mary Ann died.

This following part is unclear and rather controversial.

Here’s the essence of the heated disagreement regarding what happend here: Olive and her sister either spent their time with the Mohaves as houseguest-slaves (this is Olive’s version, after her release), or Olive was married to a chief’s son and had two of his children. Even more, a newspaper account claimed both Olive and Mary Ann married Mohave chiefs. If true, this makes the tale all the more sordid because Mary Ann couldn’t have been more than 12 years old.

One glaring omission in Olive’s version of her post-captivity story is that Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple’s railroad expedition came through the Mohave Valley in February 1854 and spent a week there meeting with the prominent chiefs and traversing the area where Olive claimed to have been held. If she wanted to be saved, why didn’t she make herself known?
Were the two girls hidden from the visitors? Or were they hiding themselves because they didn’t want to be found? The latter gains some credence when we take into consideration Olive’s later account of exactly when Mary Ann died of starvation. She kept moving the date, trying to avoid the obvious question: If Mary Ann was ill in February 1854, why didn’t Olive reach out to the U.S. expedition? The inevitable conclusion, at least to some, is Mary Ann had already died, and Olive had assimilated into the tribe, had children by a Mohave and didn’t want to be found.

Not every historian agrees that Olive had children while she was a captive.
Author Margot Mifflin says no: “Olive almost certainly didn’t marry a Mohave or bear his children. If she had, it would have been a highly unusual, thus memorable, piece of tribal history.”

The Mohaves released Olive in the spring of 1856. She reunited with her brother, Lorenzo, and the pair moved to Oregon to live with their cousin. Despite Rev. Royal Stratton’s attempt to twist Olive’s story in Captivity of the Oatman Girls, the love she had for the Mohaves bled through his pages and in the public lectures she gave. Olive married John B. Fairchild in 1865, and nearly 40 years later, on March 20, 1903, she died in Sherman, Texas.

Olive and her brother Lorenzo is pictured here above

Final thoughts:
Olive was caught between a punishing Christian culture and an exhilarating and hedonistic Mohave culture: suppression begets overflow. In modern terms, she went with the flow. She wasn’t alone. Other captive stories offered similar outcomes. Comanche captive and mother Cynthia Ann Parker comes to mind. In the 1970s, psychologists labeled the bond that can form between captives and their captors “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Olive did what she had to do, as we all do in this world. What’s amazing about her is that she adapted, at such a young age, and she survived her ordeal.

  • What are you thinking?
  • Would you have made the same decisions as Mr. Oatman?
  • Did Olive marry a native and have children with him?
  • Did she do things just to survive, or did she actually want to?
  • Do you think this happened more often, than we hear from history?
  • Are there topics you want us to address here?

Share below:

Article pieces and photos are from:

- True west magazine
Heart Gone Wild
Did Olive Oatman want to be rescued?
February 26, 2018

TV’s Eva Toole Based on Historical Olive Oatman
If you’re a fan of the strong-willed tattooed character, Eva Toole, from TV’s western drama, Hell on Wheels, you may be interested to know that she’s based on a real person from America…

E-book Oatman girls

Margot Mifflin's book on Olive Oatman, The Blue Tattoo, is available at bookstores everywhere and from the University of Nebraska Press at 800-755-1105.
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Well-Known Member
Well, for sure we need a more active forum for this. It is great, just nobody use this forum anymore :D What if you make a west newspaper in every month (first ask the hungarians how not to make news, because what they make is not a newspaper, just a piece of crap), and you grab a section for these stories?


Well-Known Member
One of the best parts of playing a themed game is the interests it inspires. If articles like this one leads people to do more research on their own, to make their play more interesting, The-West has done a good thing for it's community.

Killer Bonnie

Well-Known Member
We used to have a Awesome newspaper Monthly apparently everything about it has been deleted because I cant find a link to post But It was very exciting Told us about upcoming events and quests Things about the West game and featured a Legend article about Players that played for so long ( the 10 years or more players) Also some understanding gear that was being released. It was a very good read. But I cant even find a link to post the last one about Dec 2020 ish.


The West Team
Community Manager
We have tried the last couple of months to restart 'the west times', but it was unfortunally not the right time now. The team, who was in charge had alot of stuff RL - so maybe its possible to 're-live' on a later date!

But for now, we try to make some theme inspired conversation pieces here, also to make the forum more active :-))
I'm the type of person who, every time they do something, is very interested in the story behind it - and especially the obscure things, and those that are not just presented as known knowledge ... it must be something that makes my 'noggin' to rotate.

And I was teased by this story, which I have encountered in the past, in connection with some work on another task. I found the book that is also linked to above very interesting, but also very one-sided and it left me with a lot of questions such as: 'what really happened'


Well-Known Member
I wouldnt do such thing. Juan Cortina was Mexican rancher, politician, military leader, outlaw and folk hero. Yet i am getting pissed off because set being overtuned, its best to keep actual stories for sake of these people.