Oatman is in the Black Mountains at an elevation of 2,700 feet, not very high for Arizona. Oatman is located 28 miles southwest of Kingman on the original Route 66. It is approximately 30 road miles southeast of Laughlin, Nevada. Oatman was originally called Vivian, after the Vivian Mining Company.
Even though this settlement was mined since the late 1800s the big break came in 1915 when some miners discovered a gold vein, which eventually produced over ten million dollars worth of gold. The strike only lasted for a few years before it ran out. Oatman is now one of the most famous ghost and tourist towns in Arizona.
Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed carrots and “burro chow”. Both are available in many stores in town. The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors. They are protected by the US Department of the Interior.
Clark Gable and Carol Lombard were married in Kingman and honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel in March, 1939. They returned to Oatman frequently because they enjoyed the solitude of the high desert and Gable liked to play poker with the local miners. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the hotel.
How Oatman got it’s name is interesting. It started when Royce Oatman left his farm in northern Illinois to pursue the American dream in the southwest. In March of 1851 as the family was trekking along the Gila River their wagon train was attacked by a small party of Yavapai Indians.
Royce, his wife Mary Ann, and four of their seven children were killed. Lorenzo, their fifteen-year old son was left for dead but survived. Their two daughters Olive and Mary Ann were taken captive and used as slaves. Olive was fourteen at the time and Mary Ann somewhat younger.
After about a year, the Yavapai sold the girls to a tribe of Mohave Indians. They were treated somewhat better there. Mary Ann died a few months later, possibly from malnutrition. Olive was adopted into the tribe. She even had her face tattooed in the tradition of Mohave women.
She was finally released from the tribe in 1856. Olive became a celebrity because of her ordeal. In 1909 the town of Vivian was renamed Oatman in honor of Olive Oatman.
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