Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gold Rush Lady

In the mid 1800’s the “Gold Rush” started in the United States, but it wasn’t until 1915 that a $10 million gold strike was discovered in the Black Mountains of Arizona. A tent city named Vivian quickly arose and the population grew to over 3500 in one year.

When the gold mines played out, the population shrank to about a hundred hardy souls and lots of mules that were turned loose when the miners left. Today the town, renamed, still exists as a tourist attraction. Descendents of the original miner mules roam freely around the town.                   

The photo is a United States Geological Survey photo taken in 1921. My poem is an effort to relate the story behind the name change in a poetic form.


The appealing advice, “Go west, young man, go west!”
Sent many families westward with gold as their quest
As the picks and shovels began moving rocks and sand
“Thar’s gold in dem dar hills!” was the call of the land

In 1851, two years after the hectic gold rush had begun
An Illinois family headed west toward the setting sun
Father, mother and their seven kids felt the lure of gold
A formidable challenge with grave dangers un-foretold

Passage was very difficult near the California state line
Hot dry weather and Indians! They never got to a mine
The family was viciously attacked by angry rebel braves
Two girls survived, but were forced to serve as slaves

Alas, there is more to this saga of trauma and strife
One son, thrown off a cliff, left for dead, clung onto life
When he came to, realizing that his sisters were prisoners,
He vowed to find Mary Ann and Olive, his missing sisters

What plans did fate have for these two reluctant slaves?
Will they ever regain the freedom they’ve known and crave?
There were many rumors. Will the suffering soon cease?
Destiny was not kind to Mary Ann; She rests in peace!

Five years passed before Olive was located; alive and well
Tribal tattoos graced her face; Oh, the stories she could tell
With the efforts of her Mohave son, she did claim her fame
The small mining town of Oatman, AZ carries her last name

Poem by Herm Meyer
In researching the Oatman, AZ story I found a number of discrepancies in the facts. For example, one source gives the Apache Indians as the tribe that attacked the Oatman family; another source names the Yavapai Indians.

Concerning Olive:

One source claimed the facial tattoos indicated a Mohave marriage; another source disagreed. Yet there was a Mohave son involved, but he used Oatman for his last name.  It was this son that was responsible for the town changing its name from Vivian to Oatman after Olive had passed away.

One source said she was released in 1855 near the town of Oatman. Another source claims she left the tribe and was found 200 miles away in Yuma, AZ.

Olive did remarried later in life and was active with public speaking engagements


* Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel in 1939.

* The hotel claims to have a friendly ghost named “Oatie”

1 comment:

  1. Hello Herm. I think I would have stayed awake in class if history were written this poetically! Thanks for a visit to our Arizona roots.