Oatman, Arizona

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Oatman, Arizona
Unincorporated community
Oatman Highway/Old US 66 to Oatman
Oatman Highway/Old US 66 to Oatman
Location of Oatman in Mohave County, Arizona
Location of Oatman in Mohave County, Arizona
Oatman, Arizona is located in Arizona
Oatman, Arizona
Oatman, Arizona
Location of Oatman in Mohave County, Arizona
Coordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″W / 35.02639°N 114.38361°W / 35.02639; -114.38361Coordinates: 35°01′35″N 114°23′01″W / 35.02639°N 114.38361°W / 35.02639; -114.38361
CountryUnited States
Named forOlive Oatman
 • Total0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)
 • Land0.19 sq mi (0.50 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation2,710 ft (826 m)
 • Total128
 • Estimate 
Time zoneUTC-7 (MST (no DST))
FIPS code04-50620

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.

Oatman has the ZIP code 86433;[4] the Tabulation Area had a population of 128 at the 2000 census.[5]

Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[6]



After a few other names were discarded, "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 tattooed her face in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona.[7]

Early history[edit]

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.[8]

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[9] 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[edit]

The Oatman girls, captives of the Indians, 1857

In 1924, United Eastern Mines, the town's main employer, permanently shut down its operations after producing $13,600,000 worth of gold (equivalent to $202,891,000 in 2019) at the then-government-controlled market value of $20 per ounce. The district had produced $40 million (equivalent to $695,294,000 in 2019) 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 than gold were needed. Oatman was fortunate in that it was located on busy U.S. Route 66 and was able to cater to travelers driving between Kingman and Needles, California. Yet even that advantage was short-lived, as the town was completely bypassed in 1953 when a new route between Kingman and Needles was built. By the 1960s, Oatman was all but abandoned.

Modern town[edit]

Oatman has favored tourism of Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada.

Oatman has a high desert climate, significantly cooler in both summer and winter than the Colorado River lowlands to the west. In summer, while the Colorado River Valley may reach temperatures well above 100 °F, Oatman is often 10 or more degrees cooler.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 18, 2017.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Oatman
  3. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Zip Code Lookup
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  7. ^ The Blue Tattoo, the Life of Olive Oatman, by Margot Mifflin, 2009 ISBN 978-0803235175
  8. ^ Paher, Stanley (1980). Northwestern Arizona Ghost Towns. Las Vegas: Nevada Publications. pp. 24–31. ISBN 0-913814-30-X.
  9. ^ Varney, Philip (April 2005). "Mohave Ghosts". In Stieve, Robert (ed.). Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps: A Travel Guide to History (10th ed.). Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona Highways Books. p. 39. ISBN 1-932082-46-8.

Further reading[edit]

  • Goudy, Karin, 1987, Life in a Boom Town - Oatman, Arizona, in History of Mining in Arizona, vol.1. Full text: [1]

External links[edit]