[TIL] EVA of HELL ON WHEELS is based on the real life story of OLIVE ANN OATMAN -- A Short BIO

in til •  3 years ago 


Hell on Wheels

When I saw the first episode of AMC 's Hell On Wheels, I was immediately enthralled by the show and its leading character, Cullen Bohannan. Mr. Bohannan is an Ex- Southern Army Captain that, after the Civil War, is tasked to complete the building of the Union Rail Road out West. In this show, there is another character, named Eva Tool, that also has a strong impact on the show. She is a white woman that had been enslaved by Indians after her family had been killed. In the show, Eva was now free of the Indians, but they had left a permanent mark on her in the form of facial tattoos. Eva is both courageous and yet very compassionate. Well, it turns out that Eva's character on Hell on Wheels is Fictional for the most part, but Eva's look is based on the real Olive Ann Oatman.

Olive Oatman

Olive Ann Oatman was born in La Harpe, Hancock County, Illinois on September 7, 1837 to a Mormon Family (Latter Day Saints). Olive was one of seven children born to Roys and Mary Ann Oatman. The Oatmans had converted from Methodist to Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and were followers of Joseph Smith, but when he was killed in 1844, they broke away from the new Mormon Leadership. Instead, the Oatmans followed a Mormon sect led by James Colin Brewster. Brewster believed he was receiving revelations from God, and that the chosen place for the Mormons was in the area at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers.

Source: Wikimedia

In August of 1850, the Oatman family left Missouri following the rest of the breakaway Mormon Sect led by James Brewster down into the Southwest. The journey was long and difficult. The group of about 90 made it to Santa Fe but there they would split. Brewster and his group headed West via a Northern route but Roys Oatman wanted to take a Southern route to the Western area. The Oatman family arrived to the Gila River by themselves despite warnings of danger. No other members dared to follow them. On February 18, 1851, the Oatman family were approached by some indians (most likely Yavapais, or Tolkepayas) for food. During this time, there had been a drought and many of the indians were starving. When the indians were refused more food, they killed most of the Oatman family. Lorenzo Oatman, 15 year old son of the Oatman's was left for dead but survived. 8 year old Mary Ann and 13 year old Olive Oatman were kidnapped by the Indians, who left no other survivors.

Source: Wikimedia

The Oatman sisters would spend the next 5 years living in the Desert with the Indians. The original kidnappers traded the sisters to the Mohave tribe. The Mohave Indians adopted them into their way of life. The sisters learned to speak the language and the customs of the Mohave Indians. They were given the traditional facial and arm tattoos customary to the women of the tribe. Mary Ann, however, would die in 1855 during a long drought suffered by the Mohaves.

In 1856, Lorenzo Oatman would be re-united with his sister Olive Oatman. Lorenzo had continued looking for his sisters once he had recovered from the injuries inflicted during the killing of his family. Rumors of a White Woman living with the Mohave Indians turned out to be true, and they finally met at Fort Yuma, Arizona. Lorenzo and Olive moved to Oregon where they both would attend the University of the Pacific. Then in 1857, a book titled _**Life Among the Indians**_, but later retitled _**Captivity of the Oatman Girls**_ was written about Olive, became a best seller and put her on the lecture circuit throughout the country for the next several years.

In 1865, Olive Oatman married John Brant Fairchild, a New York cattleman and rancher in Rochester, New York. Olive would no longer give lectures and instead would focus on family life. John and Olive eventually moved to Sherman, Texas in 1872, where they adopted a baby girl. There Olive lived the remainder of her life until her death March 21, 1903.

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So cool I love that show!


I watched the first episode and I was hooked. Thanks for stopping by @dajohn1420

I always wanted to watch that show but never got around to it. I am so behind on things to watch. Do you watch Man in the High Tower or Black Mirror? This are the next two on my list. Would you put Hell on Wheels above either of those?


Hey @hanshotfirst I haven't seen those shows so I can say, but I sure did enjoy the first few seasons.


Thanks. Hopefully someone who has seen all three will swing by.


I say watch the first episode, if it is as good as I say, then you can decide whether to continue or not.

Very interesting. I suspected many of the characters are based on real people.

I liked the first couple seasons of Hell on Wheels. It has a really good cast and story line.


@solarguy Cullen and Thomas Durant are actually loosely based on history and the lives of several people combined for both. I had to look into it when I first started watching. And I fully agree that the first few seasons were really good.

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