married to the son of the Mojave chief and that she gave birth to two boys when married
to him. Whether she was raped or not, or whether she was married and had two
Mojave babies, was never determined for certain.
Olive Oatman Fairchild died of a heart attack in 1903, at the age of 65. The town of
Oatman, Arizona is named in her honor.
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|Answer to Quiz #104
April 8, 2007
|Comments from Our Readers
|What is the significance of the tatoos on this young woman's face?
How did she get them?
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Oatman was originally named Vivian, after Vi-vian Mining
Company. In 1904, a year after his mother died, John
Oatman (Olive Oatman's alledged Mohave son), influencee
the town to change its name to Oatman, as honor for his
mother. (There is much historical evidence disputing the
claim that John Oatman was Olive's son.)
Oatman is still going today. Strike after strike kept Oatman
alive, the biggest seems to be the 1915 strike of $14 million.
The town had its own paper, the Oatman Miner. The
population of Oatman went from a few hundred to over
3500 within a year which lead to long waits at the
restaurants. In 1921, a fire burned much of Oatman, but the
town was rebuilt. Mining was somewhat sporadic through
the next forty years, and Oatman still survives today.
|Answers: Olive Oatman was tatooed by the Mohave Indians to show she was a
slave. Other accounts say that the Mohaves believed that without the tatoo the
individual would not be able to enter Sil'aid, land of the dead.
For a description of the picture, click here.
weakened by disease and all the hardships she had undergone, died.
In the winter of 1855-56, the army located her and began negotiations to free her. On
February 28, 1856, wearing a bark skirt and able to speak only a little English, Olive
was ransomed at Fort Yuma, Arizona, for a horse, blankets, and beads. There she was
reunited with Lorenzo.
The girls, from the Mojave point of view, were lucky to have fallen into their hands,
away from the Tonto Apaches. The chief attached them to his household, and they
were afforded the best Mojave facilities, seeds for planting, love, divergence from
In 1856, a Mojave named Francisco traveled to Fort Yuma, where he reported that
Olive was being kept by the Mojaves. The military outpost stationed there traded some
The drive through Oatman was a real hair-raiser! I'll tell you more about it some day.
We were driving a 35' motor home while dragging a tow-car behind, on winding,
narrow roads, many hundreds of feet above chasms... If you've EVER been on that
section of Hwy 66 you'll know what I mean. I really thought we were "goners" a
couple of times...and VERY happy when we got to Hwy 95, just a bit south of Ft.
Mojave.... Whew! Jinny Collins
Fascinating story, easy to research. Tom Pincince
Being from New Zealand, I immediately thought that the tattoo on the young lady's chin
was a Maori one, typically seen in photos of Maori men and women from the
nineteenth century. However, I soon realized that it was from the United States, rather
than New Zealand. The main clue lies in the writing at the bottom of the photo mount,
"Olive Oatman, Survivor of ??." According to Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_Oatman Olive Oatman (1838-1903) was a woman
from Illinois famous for her abduction and forced slavery by the Yavapai. Although I
can't quite make out the exact spelling of the last word, I suspect that it is an attempt
at "Yavapai." There are many pages on the web which discuss Olive Oatman, and
several that have images of her. It appears that she was on the lecture circuit, and I
believe that photos were probably fairly commonly distributed... Too easy!
Tatooing is away for people in power to mark their prisoners as in the numbering of the
Jewish prisoners in the extermination camps. With some individuals where they seek
tatoos themselves out of their own free will, it is a mark that they are proud to show
either being decorative, seeking a unique appearance or showing they can endure pain.
on hot coals without shoes. Yavapai children
beat them with rods and burned them with
flaming sticks. The girls were held as slaves
for a year at a village near the site of modern
Ultimately, the sisters were to the Mohaves
for two horses, some vegetables, several
pounds of beans and three blankets. They
once again had to survive inhuman
conditions, as the Mojave forced them to
walk for about ten days, only giving each one
small piece of meat along the way. Chief
Espanesay and his wife saw the Oatman
sisters as their own daughters and gave them
a home, providing them with food and love.
Olive and Mary's chins were marked with
indelible blue cactus tattoos to proclaim their
status as slaves. In 1854 during her stay at
Chief Espanesay's home, Mary Ann,
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|Tattoo Trivia - Submitted by Delores Martin
Inuit women's chins were tattooed to indicate marital status and group identity.
The first permanent tattoo shop in new York city was settled up in 1846 and began a
tradition by tattooing military service men from both sides of the civil war.
Samuel O'Reilly invented the electric tattooing machine in 1891.
Olive Ann Fairchild, Indian captive and lecturer,
daughter of Royse (Royce) and Mary Ann (Sperry)
Oatman, was born in Illinois in September 1837 or 1839.
She was one of eleven siblings, including one that was
In 1850 the family joined a wagon train along the Gila
Trail led by James C. Brewster, a Mormon leader who
convinced his followers that he had a divine call to take
them to an imaginary territory named Bashan. The train
was bound for the part of the Colorado River now in
Southern California. The train split several times until the
Oatman's and their seven children were left to travel
On February 18, 1851, Yavapai Indians attacked them
on the Gila River in Arizona. Roys Oatman, his pregnant
wife, and three of their children, Lucy Roy Jr. and C. A,
were killed. The only survivors were Lorenzo Oatman,
Olive Oatman and their seven-year-old sister, Mary Ann .Lorenzo was left for dead
with wounds to his head, but recovered and returned to Casa Grande, one of the last
rest stops of the Oatmans. Olive and her sister Mary were captured.
The girls were roped together and stripped of their shoes, then forced to run the
entire night without sleep. The next day, the sisters almost choked to death,
overcome by the sand and dust of the Arizona desert. But they suffered even more
hardship; if they began to lag behind the Yavapais, they would be beaten. When Olive
and Mary Ann asked for rest and water, the Yavapais responded by pricking them
Once they arrived at their destiny, they were forced into hard labor, and into walking
goods to the Mojave in exchange for Olive. Her
brother Lorenzo had spent five years looking for
her and Mary Ann. Upon receiving the news that
Olive was in Fort Yuma, he ran to her side and
the two were overjoyed about seeing each other
again. This meeting made headline news across
In 1857, a pastor named Royal B. Stratton wrote
a book about Olive and Mary Ann. The book sold
30,000 copies, a best-seller for that era.
In November, 1865, Olive married John B.
Fairchild. Though it was rumored that she died
in an asylum in New York in 1877, she actually
went to live with Fairchild in Sherman, Texas,
where they adopted a baby girl, Mamie.
Rumors of Olive Oatman being raped by the
Yavapai were denied vehemently, leading her to
declare in Stratton's book that "to the honor of
these savages let it be said, they never offered
the least unchaste abuse to me".
In 1981, a writer named Richard Dillon reported
in a famous western magazine that there was
evidence that Olive had told a friend that she was
|To view video about Oatman, AZ
It is commonly believed that the original root word of 'tattoo' comes from the Samoan
or the Tahitian word tatau, meaning to mark or strike twice (the latter referring to
traditional methods of applying the designs). The first syllable "ta", meaning "hand", is
repeated twice as an onomatopoeic reference to the repetitive nature of the action, and
the final syllable "U" translates to "color". The instrument used to
pierce the skin in Polynesian tattooing is called a hahau, the syllable "ha" meaning to
"strike or pierce". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tattoo