The dread of all women in the old west was being captured by Indians. I have no records showing how many women actually suffered this fate. In fact out of my three books I can only find the accounts of three incidents. The one great fear of a army wife was capture by the “Red Horde”, in fact there exists no recorded account of a woman ever being taken from a military base in any of my books, and one boldly states it never happened. That aside I will give you what I have on the three events I have access to.
One of the wests most famous Indian captives, Olive Oatman probably had more difficulty resuming her white identity than losing it. Olive, was California bound with her immigrant father in 1851, he pushed ahead alone and was ambushed by Yavapia Indians (part of the Apache tribes). The attack occurred in a desolate part of the Gila River Valley. Everyone fell to the war clubs, except for Olive and her younger sister Mary Ann, aged 7. They were carried off to serve as slave labor. A year they were sold to some Mojaves, who walked the girls north to their settlement on the Colorado River (near present day Laughing Nev. across the river from Laughlin in Ariz. is a old gold mining town named Oatman, located in Oatman Flats.).
Here the girls faired some what better receiving fewer beatings and were allowed to grow their own corn and melons. In 1853 a terrible drought struck and frail Mary Ann, along with many of the tribe died of starvation.
Olive’s older brother Lorenzo had survived the attack, left for dead, he survived and made his way to safety. Immediately he launched a dogged five year search for his sisters. At last he finally found a Yuma Indian who knew of Olives location. For a consideration he arranged for her release. (one account on google states she was sold for a horse and a blanket and a few trinkets).
On her arrival at Fort Yuma, she was barley recognisable. Her skin was burned a dark brown, and was dressed in a bark skirt. She would not speak but turned her face away and covered her lower face with her hands. It would be discovered later that her chin and arms had been tattooed by the Mojaves, as was a custom for the tribe. (photo’s are available on google.).
Olive eventually came out of her daze, and regained the ability to speak English. She even toured on the lecture circuit, and submitted to being stared at. But as a close friend later stated “Olive was always quite and reserved. The great suffering of her early life set her apart from the world.” For the rest of her life she carried on her beautiful face the emblem of her former bondage.
Olive later on did marry a Texas Banker, who it is said bought every volume of a book written about her that he could find and burned them. I do not know if she bore children or not, only that she is buried in the Texas town where she lived. Other stories about her abound, more so than I care to get into here. My main source of material for this narrative has been The Time/Life, Old West series in the The Women volume and several of the sites on google.
If I have perked your interest, please drop over to Google and type in Olive Oatman, and enjoy.
Another Gal next time.
Thanks for dropping by