Posts Tagged ‘Indian Captives’


February 1, 2008


      The story of Fanny Kelly’s capture and captivity sounds like a modern day fictional account, however the principal events in her narrative actually occurred.

     With the assurance of army at Fort Laramie that they would not experience any trouble from Indians, Fanny, a bride of nine months at the age of 19 and her five year old adopted daughter Mary, along with a handful of other emigrants- set out in July of 1864.  Eighty miles west of the Fort the party was surprised by a band of 250 Oglala Sioux.  Fanny’s husband escaped the attract as he was off chopping wood.  the other three men were killed on the spot and Fanny, little Mary were taken captive along with Sarah Larimer, and her eight year old son.

     In her written account of her ordeal Fanny wrote, “Many people earnestly assured me that they would have killed their-selves rather than be taken captive to Lord knows what fate.”  Her reply was, “But it is only those who have looked over the dark abyss of death, Who know how the soul shrinks from meeting the unknown future.”  Experience had taught her that, While hope offers the faintest token or refuge, we pause upon the fearful brink of eternity, and look back for rescue.” (seems like Fanny had a ear for words).

     Fanny Kelly had a unique blend of  courage and shrewdness, to substain her.  But it seemed she was headed for martyrdom rather than survival.  The Sioux raided the wagons smashing all they did not want Sarah Larimer screamed and howled as the Indians smashed her  daguerreotype equipment.  she had planned to earn money in Idaho by taking pictures of the miners.  She made such a fuss that one Indian became angered by her noise and pulled his knife and prepared to shut her up.  Fanny rushed over and pleaded for Sarah’s life to be spared.

     “Perhaps it was the selfish thought of future loneliness    in captivity which induced me to intercede.”  She conceded in her narrative.  The Indian was so impressed with her act that he removed his headdress and presented it to her.  Only later did she learn it was a symbol of his personal favor and granted her his personal protection.  He was Ottowa, chief of the band.  “Very old, over seventy, partialy blind, and very savage looking.”  Fanny would become his property for her stay with the Oglala.

     Setting of toward the Sioux camp at night, Mrs. Kelly shredded small pieces of paper as a trail and instructed little Mary to silently slip off the horse and follow the trail back to safety. Fanny said she would try to do the same and join her.  this ended in tragedy for little Mary she was caught almost immediately and killed and scalped.  Fanny was beaten and threatened with death if she ever made such attempt again.

     Fanny headed the threat but was i trouble  almost immediately, she lost the peace pipe the old chief had entrusted to her care.  This was a travesty of decorum and Ottowa was incised and determined she was to die.  She was to be tied to a unbroken horse and set loose and the warriors would then shoot arrows at her until the wrath was appeased.  Once again Fanny’s resourcefulness prevailed.  pulling her purse from under her skirt, she began passing out $120 worth of paper money with pictures on them.  The Indians were intrigued and after examining the bills demanded she show how much each was worth by a show of fingers.  The weapons were forgotten and no further mention of killing her again.

     Fanny strove to be very careful after that, especially after Sarah Larimer and her son disappeared.  though she did not know it they had managed to escape. (more…)



January 31, 2008


     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