Lorenzo did survive, and he was still searching. At some point during the winter of 1855-56 the U.S. Army received word that Olive was living with the Mojave and began negotiations for her return. On February 28, 1856, Olive Oatman was ransomed and reunited with Lorenzo Oatman at Fort Yuma, Arizona. According to the Sherrie McLeRoy, Olive was ransomed for a horse, blanket, and beads.
Joan Reiter reports in The Women that Olive's skin was browned and burnt by years of exposure to the sun and she was barely recognizable when she was finally reunited with her brother. She refused to speak and seemed to have trouble remembering the English language. She was wearing a skirt made of bark and other Mojave garments, but members of the community provided her with clothing and her brother and cousins helped her adjust. She wore a veil to cover the tattoos.
Olive spent days with her face hidden in her hands, perhaps because those who rescued and cared for her recoiled in prejudice and horror when they saw that tattoos, but this is my speculation. I also believe she suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress.
Tours and Lecture Circuit
Shortly after she was rescued, the Reverend Royal B. Stratton wrote the story of Olive and little Mary Ann in Life Among the Indians, which was wildly successful because it was one of few published stories about what happened to captives. Lorenzo and Olive received enough payment from sales of the book to pay for their educations at the University of the Pacific. After graduation, they moved to New York with Stratton and Olive toured the city, lecturing to promote the book. During these tours she removed the veil from her face to show the tattoos.
The Marriage of Olive Oatman and John Brant Fairchild
In 1865, Olive Oatman met and married a cattleman, John Brant Fairchild (1830-1907). Fairchild burned all copies of Stratton's book and the tours ended.
The couple lived in Detroit for a short time then moved to Texas. Fairchild was the president of the City Bank of Sherman, Texas and eventually became wealthy through land investments. Olive and John adopted a daughter and Olive tried to work with orphaned children, but suffered often from depression.
Continued Post Traumatic Stress
According to Mifflin, and contrary to popular misconceptions, Olive was never admitted to an insane asylum, though she did spend three months at a medical spa in Canada. In contemporary times, it would be recognized that she suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the rest of her life.
However, the Reverend Stratton was committed to an asylum and died there in 1875.
Lorenzo Oatman married Edna Amelia Canfield on August 3, 1860 in Illinois. He died in Nebraska on October 8, 1901.
Olive Oatman Fairchild died of a heart attack on March 20, 1903. She is buried in West Hill Cemetery in Sherman, Texas. According to the TSHA, a Texas historical marker was placed on her grave in 1969.
There is conflicting information regarding the details of Olive Oatman's life in captivity and after she was returned to her family. I have created this article using what I consider to be the most reliable sources available.
- Margot, Miffin. "Ten Myths About Olive Oatman." True West Magazine. Published August 1, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- McLeRoy, Sherrie S. "FAIRCHILD, OLIVE ANN OATMAN," Handbook of Texas Online. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- Reiter, Joan Swallow. "The Great Marriage Boom." The Old West: The Women. Canada: 1978.