The Extraordinary Story of Olive Oatman


The amazing story of Olive Oatman begins in 1837 in Illinois.

She had three sisters and three brothers, all brought up in the Mormon religion.

Her father was Royce and her mother, Mary Ann.


Olive Oatman

Olive Oatman

In 1850, when Olive was 13, the family joined a wagon train bound for California.

This group of people, aged between 85 and 93, were convinced by the prominent Mormon James Brewster that Mormons ought to settle in California and not in Utah as it was decreed by the founder, Brigham Young.

They were set upon by a group of Native Americans, probably Tolkepayas (though Olive would later claim they were Apaches).

The only members of the family who survived were Olive, her brother Lorenzo and the youngest sister, Mary Ann.


Lorenzo Oatman, Olive’s brother.

Lorenzo Oatman, Olive’s brother.


They were carried away to a village.

Lorenzo had been clubbed. But he soon returned consciousness.

He found his family dead and made for a nearby settlement.

He was treated there and rejoined the train 3 days later.

He discovered the bodies of his family members and buried them.

He didn’t find the bodies of Olive and Mary Ann, so he continued his way to California.


Olive (left) and Mary Oatman, Captivity of the Oatman Girls, 1857

Olive (left) and Mary Oatman, Captivity of the Oatman Girls, 1857


Olive and Mary Ann believed they would be killed by their captors.

Instead, they were forced to work: gathering wood, collecting water, finding food and other tasks.

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