Blog Post
Olive Oatman
You can take I-40 from Needles, California to Kingman, Arizona on your drive to Flagstaff, or you can take a detour once you cross the Colorado River that still gets you to Kingman — northbound on County Road 10.

The twist-and-turn road takes you through the city of Oatman, population about 100. And if you continue, it will dump you into livable, lovable Kingman.

Oatman” was chosen for the name of the town in the posthumous honor of Olive Oatman (her story at this link is an interesting read), a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mojave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1855 near the current site of the town.

Miners pulled a LOT of gold out of the ground and then the place dwindled as the gold and some silver, played out. Fort Mojave, down on the Colorado River, on the Mojave Road**, provided army protection to the area from the infrequent Indian uprisings.

**The Mojave Road was a mail road that connected East to West. That’s another exploration route for you if you’re so inclined. I’ve made the trip from Camp Caddy/Barstow to Ft. Mojave along that road more than once. Each trip was an adventure in itself.

Oatman, AZ today
Today, Oatman is one of those ‘living mining towns’ that you can find here and there in the West. I don’t want to call the place a tourist trap. It’s more of a byway for those who aren’t in quite as much of a hurry to get from here to there on the Interstate.
Oatman, AZ; Silverton, CO; Virginia City, NV; Bodie, CA — and a few more cities in Arizona like this one. Each has a story. Each story is interesting and a bit larger than life. I made a report on this blog on a visit to Jerome, AZ, a month or so ago.
On the road to the White Wolf Mine
Wild burros roam the streets in Oatman and you can buy pellets in any of the local stores to feed them if you’re inclined. Naturally I’m a soft touch and I feed them. They are descendants of the burros that miners used well over 100 years ago to haul ore and equipment. They’re part of the local color that makes the place an interesting stop.
The City of Oatman is not near the White Wolf mine, on Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. However, it’s on the way if you’re leaving California…and the crowds…and the mawkish politicians…and all of the progressiveness.

You never know what you find it you take the road less traveled in the Old West.

An old pipe tobacco can used as a mining claim marker. It’s
common to find cans used for that purpose in mining country.
The shoring in old mines is often not as neat as
you would think that it should be. This is a good
example of the use of native timber to solve the
shoring problem.

14 thoughts on “Oatman

  1. I know I'm comfortable in a strange town when I see ATVs on the street. Sure sign of laid back people.

  2. I enjoy old, historical places like this. And it always reminds me that the peeps back then were a lot tougher than we are today. Air-conditioning? We don't need no Air-conditioning.

  3. To me the Territorial Prison in Yuma – in the summer – when it can get into the mid 120's is the ultimate heat torture. A lot of prisoners died from heat stroke.

  4. Great story about Oatman. I loved the character loosely based on he in the Hell On Wheels series. Such a great show. Now I need to find this book that was written about her.

  5. The Blue Tattoo, by Margot Mifflin

    Olive Oatman's story was similar to that of Cynthia Ann Parker in that she was forcibly returned to American society. In the case of Oatman, the Army threatened to start a war with the Mojave Indians and the Mojave knew it was a war that they could not win. The Mojave (pre-reservation) were known for their love of practical jokes and laughter. By all accounts, the "redemption" of white captives who had been captive for a long time was exceptional painful for the captives. Women such as Oatman were considered 'soiled doves'.

  6. I'd like to visit Oatman and, oddly, one branch of the LSP family invested heavily in burros in the 1920s. Wave of the future, they thought…

  7. Bodie in Eastern California is well worth a visit, especially if you come in and out the back way. The back road from there to Hawthorne is especially pleasant. Good times….

  8. They've come back in Oatman. I'd say that was good foresight. If you find a horse trailer, I'm sure that I could pick one up (lure it into the horse trailer with some oats) and bring it to Hillsboro. It would be a fitting mascot along with Blue Destroyer.

  9. Hopefully I'll be able to post some cool stories about what I find in the Fort Collins area.

    I've already started reading up on the local history.

  10. During your travels and down time, there's a ton of old Sinagua people ruins near Camp Verde.

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