|Oatman Highway/Old US 66. The Oatman Hotel is the adobe building center left.|
|Location of Oatman in Mohave County, Arizona|
|Oatman, ArizonaLocation of Oatman in Mohave County, Arizona|
|Coordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″WCoordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″W|
|Named for||Olive Oatman|
|• Total||0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)|
|• Land||0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)|
|• Water||0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)|
|Elevation||2,710 ft (826 m)|
|• Estimate (2016)||N/A|
|Time zone||UTC-7 (MST (no DST))|
Oatman is a village in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, United States. Located at an elevation of 2,710 feet (830 m), it began as a small mining camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the vicinity had already been settled for a number of years. Oatman’s population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year.
|U.S. Decennial Census|
- 2Early history
- 3From gold mining to tourism
- 4Modern town
- 5See also
- 7Further reading
- 8External links
The Oatman girls, captives of the Indians, 1857
Mines and mills of the Oatman district, c. 1921
After a few other names were passed over, “Oatman” was chosen for the name of the town in honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona.
In 1863, mountain man and prospector Johnny Moss discovered gold in the Black Mountains and staked several claims, one named the Moss, after himself, and another after Olive Oatman, whose story was by then well-known. For the next half-century, mining waxed and waned in the remote district until new technology, reduced transportation costs, and new gold discoveries brought prosperity to Oatman early in the 20th century. The opening of the Tom Reed mine, followed by the discovery of an incredibly rich ore body in the nearby United Eastern Mining Company’s property in 1915, brought one of the desert country’s last gold rushes. The boom of 1915-17 gave Oatman all the characters and characteristics of any gold rush boomtown. For about a decade, the mines of Oatman were among the largest gold producers in the American West.
In 1921, a fire burned down many of Oatman’s smaller buildings, but spared the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, the Oatman Hotel remains the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and a Mohave County historical landmark. It is especially famous as the honeymoon stop of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard after their wedding in Kingman on March 18, 1939. Gable fell in love with the area and returned often to play poker with the miners. The Gable-Lombard honeymoon suite is one of the hotel’s major attractions. The other is “Oatie the Ghost.” Actively promoted by the hotel’s current owners, “Oatie” is a friendly poltergeist whose identity is believed to be that of William Ray Flour, an Irish miner who died behind the hotel, presumably from excessive alcohol consumption. Flour’s body was not discovered until two days after his death, upon which it was hastily buried in a shallow grave near where he was found.
From gold mining to tourism
1924 would see United Eastern Mines, the town’s main employer, permanently shut down operations after producing $13,600,000 worth of gold at the then-government-controlled market value of $20 per ounce; in today’s gold market price of $1300 per ounce, the equivalent value is over $850,000,000. The district had produced $40 million (or approximately $2,600,000,000 in today’s market price) in gold by 1941, when the remainder of the town’s gold mining operations were ordered shut down by the U.S. government as part of the country’s war effort, since metals other tha