We all know and love Al Carraway, the “Tattooed Mormon.”

But have you heard the interesting story of Olive Oatman, who was the original “Tattooed Mormon?”

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Unless you grew up around Sherman, Texas, or are a huge history buff, you might not have heard of the famous marked woman; her interesting (and somewhat tragic) story became as famous as her facial tattoos.

 

Young Life

Roys Oatman, Olive’s father, and his family were Brewsterites, a splinter group who followed the teachings of James Colin Brewster, who rose to prominence following the death of Joseph Smith. Brewster claimed the true gathering place for Mormons was in California rather than Utah, and he attracted a small following who went west.

Roys and his family met with other Brewsterites in Missouri to begin their journey together to California. However, the Oatsman family eventually moved ahead of their company and traveling partners, and traveled alone through a hazardous region of Arizona known for Indian attacks.

You can probably guess what happened next . . .

 

The Oatmans were soon surrounded by 20 Yavapai Indians.

Soon, Roys Oatman, his wife, and four of his seven children dead.

15-year-old Lorenzo was beaten and left for dead. But he survived and made it back to the rest of the settlers traveling on the trail.

Lorenzo soon noticed that 13-year-old Olive and eight-year-old Mary Ann were missing, and assumed them to be kidnapped.

And he was right.

Life with the Yavapi

Olive and Mary Ann were alive, and they had been brought back to the Yavapai village and made to work as slaves for a year.

The sisters were made to endure cruel suffering and harsh treatment from the tribe.

Eventually, the sisters were traded to a Mohave tribe for horses and blankets.

Life with the Mohave

Unlike the Yavapai, the Mohave accepted and integrated the sisters into their tribe. They even tattooed the sisters to identify them as tribal members, a symbol of love and acceptance.

Over time, a famine took the life of Mary Ann. Olive survived, however, and eventually it became public that there was a white woman living among the Mohave Indians. The federal government caught wind, and decided to step in to rescue her.

The tribe, who considered Olive a family member, fought valiantly to keep her.

INTERESTING NOTE: Olive had almost forgotten how to speak English at this point.

The U.S. government prevailed, however, and Olive was returned to live among white settlers.

Later life

Olive Oatman was something of a spectacle and a national sensation after her discovery. She was reunited with her brother, and wrote a book and toured the country giving lectures about her life and the Native Americans who had captured her. While lecturing, she met John Brant Fairchild, and they were married.

After her marriage, Oatman settled in Sherman, Texas and adopted a daughter.

She died in 1903 and is buried in Sherman.

The book about her life is called, Captivity of the Oatman Girls.

Check out some more information about Olive Oatman at the links below:

Mental Floss

Wikipedia

True West Magazine

Mashable

Women History blog

Wide Open Country