Digital-Desert : Mojave Desert Visit us on Facebook -- Desert Gazette -- Desert Link
Introduction:: Nature:: Map:: Points of Interest:: Roads & Trails:: People & History:: Ghosts & Gold:: Communities:: BLOG:: :?:: glossary
- Captivity of the Oatman Girls CHAPTER VI

Lorenzo Oatman His Stay at Fort Yuma Goes with Dr. Hewit to San Francisco His constant Misery on Account of his Sisters Dark Thoughts Cold Sympathy Goes to the Mines Resolves to go to Los Angeles to learn if possible of his Sisters His earnest "but fruit less Endeavors The Lesson Report brought by Mr. Koulit of two Captives among the Mohaves The false Report of Mr. Black Mr. Grinell Petitions the Governor Petitions Congress The Report of the Rescue of Olive Mr. Low.

WE now ask the reader to trace with us for a few pages, a brief account of the movements and efforts (mainly by her brother) by which this scene had been waked up in the captive home of Miss Olive, and that had extended this new opening for her rescue. In chapter third we left Lorenzo disabled, but slowly recovering from the effect of his bruises, at Fort Yuma. Of the kindness of Dr. Hewit we there spoke.

We here give a narrative of the winding, carethorned course of the boy of scarce fifteen years, for the next five years, and the ceaseless toil and vigilance he exercised to restore those captive sisters; as we have received the items from his Own mouth. It is worth the painstaking that its perusal will cost, showing as it does, a true affection and regard for his kindred, while the discretion and perseverance by which his promptings were guided would do honor to the man of thirty.

He was at Fort Yuma three months, or nearly that time. Dr. Hewit continued to watch over him up to San Francisco, and until he went East, and then provided for him a home. Besides, he did all in his power to aid him in ascertaining some traces of his sisters. At the fort Lorenzo knew that his sisters were captives. He entreated Commander Heinsalman, as well as did others, to make some effort to regain them, but it was vain that he thus pleaded for help. The officers and force at the fort were awake to the reasonableness and justice of his plea. Some of them anxiously longed to make a thorough search for them. They were not permitted to carry the exposed family bread and needed defense, but had been out and seen the spot where they had met a cruel death, and now they longed to follow the savage Apache to his hiding-place, break the arm of the oppressor, and if possible, rescue the living spoil they had taken. The short time of absence granted to Lieutenant Maury and Captain Davis, though well filled up and faithfully, could not reach the distant captives.

At times this brother resolved to arm himself, mind take a pack of provisions and start, either to accomplish their rescue or die with them. But this step would have only proved a short road to one of their funeral piles. In June of this year the entire force was removed from the fort to San Diego except about a dozen men to guard the ferrymen, On the 26th of June, with Dr. Hewit, Lorenzo came to San Francisco. After Dr. Hewit had left for the States he began to reflect on his loneliness, and more deeply than ever upon his condition and that of his sisters. Sometimes he would stray upon the hills at night in the rear of the city, so racked with despair and grief as to determine upon taking his own life, if he could not secure the rescue of the captives. He found the stirring, throbbing life of San Francisco beating almost exclusively to the impulses of gold-hunting. Of acquaintances he had none, nor did he possess any desire to make them.

" Often," he says, "have I strolled out upon these sidewalks and traveled on until I was among the hills to which these streets conducted me, to the late hour of the night, stung by thinking and reflecting upon the past and present of our family kingdom." He was given employment by the firm in whose care he had been left by Dr. Hewit. He soon found that tasks were assigned him in the wholesale establishment beyond his years and strength. He seriously injured himself by lifting, and was compelled to leave. " This I regretted," he says, " for I found non-employment a misery."

Every hour his mind was still haunted by the one all-absorbing theme ! His sisters, his own dear sisters, spirit of his spirit, and blood of his blood, were in captivity. For aught he knew, they were suffering cruelties and abuse worse than death itself, at the hands of their captors. He could not engage steadily in any employment. Dark and distressing thoughts were continually following him. To wonder that he would often break out with utterances like these : " O my God ! must they there remain ? Can there be no method devised to rescue them ? Are they still alive, or have they suffered a cruel death? I will know if I live."

He had no disposition to make acquaintances, unless to obtain sympathy and help for the one attempt that from the first he had meditated ; no temptation to plunge into vice to drown his trouble, for he only lived to see them rescued, if yet alive.

Thus three years passed away, some of the time in the mines and a portion of it in the city. Frequently his sadness was noticed, and its cause kindly inquired after, upon which he would give an outline of the circumstances that had led to his present uncheered condition. Some would weep and manifest much anxiety to do something to aid him in the recovery of his lost kindred ; others would wonder and say nothing ; others strangers ! were sometimes in credulous, and scoffed. He knew that the route by which he had reached this country was still traveled by emigrants, and he resolved upon going to Los Angeles with the hope that he might there obtain some knowledge of the state of things in the region of Fort Yuma. Accordingly, in October of 1854, he started for that place, and resolved there to stay until he might obtain some traces of his sisters, if it should take a whole lifetime. He found there those who had lately passed over the road, and some who had spent a short time at the stopping-places so sadly familiar to him. He inquired, and wrote letters, and used all diligence (as some persons now in that region, and others in San Francisco can bear wit ness) to accomplish the one end of all his care. He worked by the month a part of the time to earn a living, and spent the remainder in devising and setting on foot means to explore the region lying about Fort Yuma and beyond. Thus, in the most miserable state of mind, and in utter fruitlessness of endeavor, passed away almost a year. During the spring of 1855 several emigrants came by this trail. Of them he could learn nothing, only that they had heard at Fort Yuma of the fate of the " family of Oatmans."

One company there was who told him of a Mr. Grinell, a carpenter at Fort Yurna, who had told them that he knew of the massacre of the Oatman family, and of the captivity of the girls, and that he intended to do all in his power to recover them. He said that their brother, who was left for dead, was now alive, and at Los Angeles; that a letter had been received at the fort from him concerning his sisters, and that lie should exert himself to find them out and rescue them. This Mr. Grinell also stated that he had come to Fort Yuma in 1853, and had been making inquiries of the Yumas ever since concerning these captive girls. Beyond this, no ray of light broke upon the thickening gloom of that despairing brother. He tried to raise companions to attend him in the pursuit of them to the mountains. At one time names were registered, and all preparations made by a large company of volunteers, who were going out for this purpose, but a trivial circumstance broke up the anticipated expedition and frustrated the whole plan. And at other times other kindred plans were laid, and well-nigh matured, but some unforeseen occasion for postponement or abandonment would suddenly come up. He found friends, and friends to the cherished ambition of his heart, in whom flowed the currents of a true and positive sympathy, and who were ready to peril life in assisting him in the consummation of his life-object. And often he found this concealed under the roughest garb, while sometimes smooth words and a polished exterior proffered no means of help beyond mere appearance.

He says : " I learned, amid the harassings of that year two things : 1. That men did not come across the plains to hunt captives among the Indians ; 2. That a true sympathy is oftenest found among those who have themselves also suffered." He found that to engage an ally in an undertaking dictated by pity for suffering friends, one must go among those who have felt the pang of kindred ills. Often, when he thought all was ready to start with an engaged party to scour the Apache country, did he find some trifling excuse called in to cover a retreat from an undertaking with which these subjects of a " show sympathy " had no Teal interest from the first. Thus he came to learn human nature, but was not discouraged. Could we turn upon these pages the full tide of the heart-yearnings and questionings that struggled in that young man's heart, by daylight, by twilight, by moonlight, as he strolled (as often he did) for reflection upon old ocean's shore, on the sandy beach, in the wood, it might cause the heart of the reader to give heed to the tales of true grief that daily strew his way, and kindle a just contempt for a mere artificial sympathy.

The year 1855 found him undaunted, still pressing on to the dictates of duty to his beloved sisters. Every failure and mishap but kindled his zeal anew. Parties of men organized late in 1855 to hunt gold on the Mohave River, about one hundred miles from San Bernardino. He joined several of these, with the promise from men among them that they would turn their excursion into a hunt for his kindred. Once he succeeded in getting as far as, and even beyond (though further north) Fort Yuma. But still he could not prevail upon a sufficient number to go as far as the Apache country to make it safe to venture. Many would say that his sisters were dead, and it was useless to hunt them. He joined surveying parties with this same one object in view. In 1855 a force equal to the one that was there in 1851 was again at Fort Yuma, and several of the same officers and men. The place of Commander Heinsalman had been filled by another man. In December, 1855, a party of five men resolved to join Mr. Oatman and search for his sisters until some definite knowledge of them might be obtained. They spent several weeks south and west of Fort Yuma, and had returned to San Bernardino to re-supply themselves with provisions for a trip further north.

"While at this place Lorenzo received a letter from a friend residing at the Monte, and stating that a Mr. Rowlit had just come in across the plains; that he spent some time at Fort Yuma, and there learned from the officers that, through the Yuma Indians, Mr. Grinell had gathered intimations of the fact of there being two white girls among the Mohaves, and that these Yumas had stated that they were a part of a family who had been attacked, and some of them murdered, in 1851, by the Apaches. That the Apaches had since sold these girls to the Mohaves. " This letter," says Lorenzo, " I wet with my tears. I thought of that little Mary Ann, of the image that my last look into her face had left, and then of Olive. I began to reckon up their present age, and the years of dark captivity that had passed over them. Can they yet be alive? May I yet see them ? Will God help me ?"

Lorenzo reached the Monte, after traveling all night, the next day about seven A. M. He saw Mr. Kowlit, and found the contents of the letter corroborated by him. He prepared a statement of the facts, and sent them to the "Los Angeles Star." These the editor published, kindly accompanying them by some well-timed and stirring remarks. This awakened an interest that the community had not felt before. While this was yet alive in the hearts and mouths of the people, a Mr. Black came into town, just from the East, by way of Fort Yuma. He stated that two girls were among the Mohaves, and that the chief had offered them to the officers at the fort for a mere nominal price, but that Commander Burke had refused to make the purchase. Of this statement Lorenzo knew nothing until he had seen it in the "Star." This threw a shade upon his mind, and gave him to think less of poor humanity than ever before. He found that but few placed any reliances upon the report. Mr. Black was well known in that vicinity, and those who knew him best were disposed to suspend judgment until the statement should be supported by other authority.

The editor of the "Star" had published the report with the best intentions, giving his authority. This report reached the fort, and created a great deal of sensation. They sent the editor a letter denying the truthfulness of the report, and requesting him to publish it, which he did. Accompanying the letter was a statement confirming the existence of a report at the fort of reliable intimations of the two girls being among the Mohaves, but that no offer had been made of delivering them up to the whites on any terms.

During this time Lorenzo had drawn up a petition, and obtained a large number of signers, praying of the Governor of California means and men to go and rescue his captive sisters. This was sent to Governor Johnson, at Sacramento, and the following reply was received :

    " SACRAMENTO, CAL., July 29, 1856.
    " ME. LORENZO D. OATMAN. SIE, A petition signed by yourself and numerous residents of the County of Los Angeles has been presented to me, asking assistance of 'men and means' to aid in the recovery of your sister, a captive among the Mohave tribe of Indians. It would afford me great pleasure, indeed, to render the desired assistance, were it in my power so to do. But by the constitution and laws of this state I have not the authority conferred on me to employ either 'men or means' to render this needful assistance; but will be most happy to co operate in this laudable undertaking in any consistent way that may be presented. I would, however, suggest that through the general government the attention of the Indian Department being called to the subject, would more likely crown with success such efforts as might be necessary to employ in attempting the rescue of the unfortunate captive.

    " Very respectfully your obedient servant,
Accordingly, and in accordance with the above suggestion, a preamble stating the facts, and a petition numerously signed, was drawn up and left at the office at the Steamer Landing to be forwarded to Washington. "Two days after," says Lorenzo, "I had resigned myself to patient waiting for a return of that petition, and went to work at some distance from the Monte in the woods." He was still musing upon the one object of the last five years' solicitude. A new light had broken in upon his anxious heart. He had now some reliable information of the probable existence, though in a barbarous captivity, of those who were bound to him by the strongest ties.

He was left now to hope for their rescue, but not without painful fears lest something might yet intervene to prevent the realization of his new expectations. While thus engaged, alone and in the solitude of his thoughts, as well as of the wilderness, a friend rode up to him, and without speaking Sanded him a copy of the "Los Angeles Star," pointing at the same time to a notice contained in it. He opened it, and read as follows :

" An American Woman rescued from the Indians! A woman, giving her name as Miss Olive Oatman, has been recently rescued from the Mohaves, and is now at, Fort Yuma."

After getting this short note he took a horse and went immediately to Los Angeles. He went to the editor, and found that a letter had been received by him from Commander Burke, at Fort Yuma, stating that a young woman, calling herself "Olive Oatman," had been recently brought into the fort by a Yuma Indian, who had been rescued from the Mohave tribe; also stating to the editor that she had a brother who had lately been in this vicinity, and requesting the editor to give the earliest possible notice to that brother of the rescue of his sister. Lorenzo says :

" I requested him to let me see the letter, which he did. When I came to the facts contained in it concerning my sister, I could read no further; I was completely overcome. I laughed, I cried, I half doubted, I believed. It did not seem to be a reality. I now thought I saw a speedy realization, in part, of my long-cherished hopes. I saw no mention of Mary Ann, and at once concluded that the first report obtained by, way of Fort Yuma, by Yuma Indians, was probably sadly true, that but one was alive. Too well founded were the fears I then had that poor Mary Ann had died among the savages, either by disease or cruelty.

" I was without money or means to get to the fort ; but there were those who from the first had cherished a deep and active sympathy with me, and who were ready to do all in their power to aid me in my sorrow-strewn efforts for enslaved kindred.

"This same Mr. Low who had rode from Los Angeles 'to me near the Monte, kindly told me that he would assist me to obtain animals and get them ready for me, and that he would accompany me to Fort Yuma."

Thus outfitted, though not without much trembling and anxiety, questioning as to the certainty and reality of the reports, and of the rescued person really being his sister, yet feeling it must ~be true ; with good hope he and Mr. Low were away early on the bright morning of the 10th of March for Fort Yuma, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles.

Previous -- Next
Introduction:: Nature:: Map:: Points of Interest:: Roads & Trails:: People & History:: Ghosts & Gold:: Communities:: BLOG:: :?:: glossary
Country Life Realty
Wrightwood, Ca.
Mountain Hardware
Wrightwood, Ca.
Canyon Cartography
Links to Desert Museums

Grizzly Cafe
Family Dining

Custom Search

Abraxas Engineering
Copyright ©Walter Feller. All rights reserved.