Olive Oatman was born on September 7, 1837, in La Harpe, Hancock County, Illinois. She was one of the seven children of Roys and Mary Ann Oatman. There was no event in her life until he was 14 years old. But then something extraordinary happened to her, as the tattoos on her face appeared.
The Oatman were Mormons. They had joined a dissident group in the church headed by James Brewster, self-proclaimed as all "seeing and revealing," who believed that true Mormons had to travel westward to California. Thus, in August 1850, the Oatman’s and their children joined the train from Independence in Missouri to the promised land. Olive was then 14 years old.