The Oatman massacre has a Mecca connection.
Later this month, Dianne Moran is going to portray Olive Oatman at the Ohio Chautauqua. For those not familiar with the Oatman family, I would like to shed some light on their background and ultimate fate.
Olive's parents were Mary Ann Sperry and Royce Oatman. Both families were early settlers of Mecca here in Trumbull County.
The Sperrys came from New York State and the Oatmans from Vermont. They lived in the same neighborhood in Mecca where the young couple became acquainted. Both families went west with the Mormon movement. Royce and Mary Ann married, but it is not clear whether they married here in Ohio or Illinois. There is no record of their marriage in Trumbull County.
It was while they were in Illinois that Royce Oatman encountered a religious man by the name of Jim Brewster who was going to California and encouraged Royce Oatman to join his religious group.
They were not very successful in luring others to their group. In August 1850, 55 people in 20 wagons began their trip to California. By the time they got to Soccorro Park, N.M., the leader of the group, along with others, decided they had enough and decided to settle there.
Three families, including the Oatmans, decided to go on to California. By the time they got to Maricopa Wells, two of the families decided they would settle there to rest and plant some crops for food to continue their venture at a future date.
Royce Oatman decided to go alone with his family. The family was attacked and massacred by Indians, Feb. 18, 1851, near what is now Gila Bend, Ariz. The eldest son, Lorenzo, was knocked out and thrown over a cliff, where he was presumed dead. Two daughters, Olive and Mary Ann, were taken and held captive by the Indians. Mary Ann died during this period.
While in captivity, both of the girls' faces were tattooed. The tattoos consisted of five vertical lines from lower lip to chin. The skin was scratched open and the juice from a blue cactus was applied.
Lorenzo survived and, with help from some friendly Indians, buried his family. He spent the next five years searching for his sisters. Olive was located through a friendly Indian who paid a ransom to have her released.
Olive was held captive near a town by the name of Vivian, Ariz. In 1908, the town's name was changed to Oatman, Ariz., in honor of Olive Oatman.
Thomas J. Kachur