Skip to main content

Oatman story

 File — Folder: 1
Identifier: MSS 2429

Scope and Contents

This volume compiles the history of the Roys Boise Oatman family, their journey west to California, their massacre in 1851, and the story of the surviving children after the massacre: Olive Ann Oatman and Lorenzo Dow Oatman. The volume also includes those involved in the rescue of Olive Ann Oatman. The volume includes copies of letters, photographs, maps, and an index at the end of the volume. (238 pp.)


  • 1851-1903


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Oatman story must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical / Historical

On 18 February 1851, the Roys Boise Oatman family, en route to California, were attacked by Apache Indians (some sources claim it was the Yavapais) on the Gila River in Arizona. Olive and her sister Mary Oatman were captured, their brother Lorenzo left for dead, and the rest of the family massacred. Olive and Mary lived for a year at a village near the site of modern Congress, Arizona, and then were sold to a Mojave chief near Needles, California, after a march of several hundred miles. Their chins were marked with blue cactus tattoos to proclaim their status as slaves, and they were forced to forage for their own food. In a subsequent year of drought, Mary died of starvation and abuse. Olive stayed with the Mojave tribe until her rescue on 28 February 1856. She was reunited with her brother Lorenzo and the two received national attention and sympathy. Before long, Olive and Lorenzo had a book published (Life Among the Indians [1st edition] or Captivity of the Oatman Girls [2nd edition and other printings] over their experiences and were wanted to lecture all over the United States. After 1859, Lorenzo was no longer needed or wanted to lecture. He later married Edna Amelia Canfield in Morrison, Illinois, on 2 August 1860. He died 8 October 1901. Olive lectured for several years after and then married John Brant Fairchild in 1865. Around the year 1872, she and her husband moved to Sherman, Texas, where her husband founded the city bank. She resided in Sherman until her death on 20 March 1903.


1 folder

Custodial History

The collection was donated to BYU L. Tom Perry Special Collections in October 2002, shortly after its publication in July 2002. Doris Clark, donor and author of the volume.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Doris Clark.


19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.

Register of Oatman story
Rose Frank
1 April 2010
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States