Royse Oatman Family
ROYSE OATMAN FAMILY
Arriving In Ustick Twp 1846
The circumstances of the massacre of most of the Oatman family by Indians, while on their way to seek a home in Southern California, a brief reference to which has been already made in the history of the township, will be remembered by many of the residents of Ustick, and adjoining towns. Royse Oatman came from Ohio to Illinois in 1834, and located in LaHarp, Hancock county, and in 1842 moved to Ustick, and settled on section 32, where he mained until 1849 when he sold his farm to Henry Bond, and during the next year started with his family, consisting of his wife and seven children, for Southern California, taking the overland route by the way of Independene Missouri, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The journey had been pleasantly made until the family had reached the junction of the Gila and Colorado rivers, in the present Territory of Arizona, about one hundred and sixty miles from Fort Yuma, where they were suddenly attacked by a band of Indians, and Mr. and Mrs. Oatman, and four of the children, barbarously murdered. Loreuzo, one the boys, was left as dead by the Indians, but recovered, and finally reached the settlements in safety. Two girls, Olive, and Mary Ann, aged respectively nine and seven years, were carried into captivity. Mary Ann died two years afterwards of starvation, and Olive was finally rescued after five years search, and restored to her friends, during which time she suffered untold hardships, having been several times bought and sold as a slave, and branded on the face with the slave mark. Mrs. Oatman was a sister of Mrs. A. M. Abbott, of Ustick, and was a woman of fine social and intellectual accomplishments, having enjoyed excellent advantages in her early days. [Source: Bent & Wilson History of Whiteside County 1877]
Settlers never knew the terror of attack and massacre by the Indians in Whiteside County but seven members of a family which lived in Ustick briefly and then emigrated west were destroyed in a treacherous ploy that became infamous in a history that was noted for its tales of hardships and brutalities.
In the spring of 1846, the Royse Oatman family settled on a small farm in Ustick and started to improve it. But the lure of far places was too potent; the Oatmans decided to go to the Territory of New Mexico, there to settle at the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. In 1850, they joined a wagon train and the group made its way slowly and painfully westward. The wagon train dwindled. The Oatmans lost a fine team of horses to rustlers. At Pimo Village, Royse Oatman decided to continue even though the other migrants stopped. A scientist, Dr. LeCount (LeConte?) offered to hurry on ahead and obtain aid from the Fort Yuma Post. His horses were stolen but he reached the fort. The commanding officer refused help.
On March 18, 1851, the family camped on what was to be called later Oatman Flats. It was decided to sleep by day and travel by night. The meal of bread and bean soup had just been completed when a group of Indians appeared. They smoked the peace pipe and demanded food.
Suddenly they uttered terrifying screams and drew their war clubs from under their wolf skins. In a few minutes, seven of the whites lay on the ground. Two of the daughters were made captives. The maurauders started on a forced march of 200 miles to their camp. Olive Oatman, age 14, and her sister, Mary, age seven, entered a life of slavery.
After about one year, a band of Mohave Indians bought the girls. In the Mohave village at the end of a 350-mile march, their degrading life went on. The younger girl died from mistreatment and starvation. Olive Oatman was ransomed in 1856.
One of the bodies left for dead was Lorenzo Oatman, age 15. He recovered and was rescued by a wagon train. The brother and sister were reunited when she was rescued.
The graves of the massacred family were forgotten for many years. In 1921, the Arizona Chapter of the D.A.R. marked and protected them at the location which is about 12 miles from Agua Calante.
Mrs. Royse Oatman was a sister of the late Mrs. Asa M. Abbott and the Oatman farm is now part of the Abbott holdings in Ustick. Before she left on her westward search for happiness, Mrs. Oatman gave a slip of her lilac bush as a parting gift. It flourished and descendants of the original plant still blow each spring on the Abbott farm, fragrant but silent reminders of the parlous days of the past. [Source: Wayne Bastians - History of Whiteside County 1968]
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