Starting to lock everything down today. Dan Harshberger made his pass at the 12-page layout on the Olive Oatman cover story and this morning Robert Ray and I will take another pass at the entire package. Lots of moving parts, three inter-related articles, that should track through, so now we are splicing, cutting and editing. What to leave out, what to add in. A glorious mess that needs some major straightening out. It's an ordeal. I hate it. I love it. It's what I do.
Five Who Knew The Truth
• After five years in captivity, when Olive was repatriated to Fort Yuma, she was so thoroughly assimilated into Mojave culture the commander did not recognize her as a white woman. Someone, had to pull back her hair and show the whiteness behind her ear to finally convince him.
• Her brother Lorenzo miraculously survived at least four death blows to his head with a war club, and, after being rescued by two Pima tribesmen, Lorenzo made it to Fort Yuma where he was successfully treated and rehabilitated. Moving on to California, Lorenzo tirelessly pleaded with any authority who would listen, to try and find his sisters. When he rushed back to Fort Yuma five years later to meet his only surviving sister, they sat in a room together for an hour and said nothing. He did not recognize her and was stunned at her transformation.
• After her reunion with her brother, Lorenzo and Olive traveled by stage to Monte (today El Monte), California, and stayed with Susan Thompson, who had been on the Brewster Wagon Train with them. Years later she confessed that her friend Olive was a "grieving, unsatisfied woman" who "somehow shook one's belief in civilization." Susan went on to say Olive confessed to being the mother of two children and that having to leave these children behind when she left the Mojaves was the source of her grief.
• A Methodist Minister, the Reverand Royal B. Stratten met Olive in Yreka, California and interviewed her at length for the book that became a national best seller. In the book he admits there were episodes and facts that were purposely left out. Since the book was first published by an arm of the Methodist Church it's not hard to imagine what subject Stratten left out, or glossed over.
• Sharlot Hall has the honor of being the first woman to hold an office in the Arizona Territorial government and a museum in Prescott, Arizona is named in her honor. She wrote a letter to an early researcher declaring, "Olive had two children while among her captives, and one of them sometimes visits Fort Yuma."
In conclusion, here's what I believe: Olive was caught between a punishing Christianity and an exhilarating, hedonistic Mojave culture: suppression begets overflow. In modern terms, she went with the flow. She wasn't alone. There are other captive stories with similar outcomes. Cynthia Ann Parker comes to mind. Some say it was Stockholm Syndrome but that implies, to me, that she was somehow out of her mind. I think she did what she had to do, as we all do in this world, but what's amazing about her is that she adapted and survived the ordeal.
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."