Eva, the tattooed girl in Hell on Wheels, lived in Texas and died in 1903

Eva, the tattooed girl in Hell on Wheels, lived in Texas and died in 1903
Isabel del Rio

Olive Oatman. Eva in Hell on Wheels TV series

Eva, the tattooed captive in Hell on Wheels TV series, existed once and become a celebrity. She died in 1903 of a heart attack.

Her true name was Olive Oatman and she was born in Illinois. When she was little, her family tried to move to California, searching a better life. But the Oatmans were attacked by Yavapai Indians at the Gila River (current Arizona) and she and her sister were enslaved. Time after, Olive wrote: they “took unwarranted delight in whipping us on beyond our strength.” She was a teenager and she suffered very much.

Eva Toole

Eva Toole in Hell on Wheels TV series (actress Robin McLeavy)

However, one year later, Yavapai Indians sold Olive to the Mohave Indians for two horses and three blankets. Surprisingly, she felt well among the Mohave people. Some historians have even said that she could suffered Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological illness where captives express empathy towards their captors.

Anyway, she always said that Mohave Indians treated her as one of their own, giving her a Mohave name and receiving a blue chin tattoo because Mohaves considered tattoos to be a form of identification in the afterlife.

In fact, when authorities from Fort Yuma, CA, finally liberated her, Olive cried.

When Olive arrived at Fort Yuma, she became an immediate celeb and a popular circus topic. Newspapers around US called her a hero and a victim.

Eva and Lean

Eva Toole, Elam Fergunson and Mr Toole. Heel on Wheels TV series

Margot Mifflin writes in The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman that she finally married a rancher and moved to Texas. She died of a heart attack in 1903.

In Hell on Wheels TV series, Olive is called Eva Toole (née Oates) and her role is played by Robin McLeavy. She is a brave woman, who initially supports herself by working in the Hell on Wheels brothel.

Maybe you also like this post about Hell On Wheels Season 5. Read HERE: Real Brave Women In The Wild West. Who Was Mary Fields?

Enjoy your day, Yareah friends. Art is everywhere and up to you!

View Comments (37)
  • Great TV series and cast

  • what an intriguing story! one with which i was not familiar – many thanks for sharing it here!

  • ignacio zara

    Incredible story! and she was really pretty

  • tohottie85

    That’s crazy, she was real!

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  • Brian Roosa

    very interesting

  • very intriguing character/woman…would love to read the entire story of her life – thanks so much for sharing –

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  • evoc

    Interesting to learn that the character of Eva is based on a real person. I will have to read up on Oliva Oatman. I had always wondered about the chin tattoo as I did not tune in to the early seasons of HOW.

  • Allison Johnson

    Durant and Campbell are based on real life people as well.

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  • Upside Down

    Check Ghost inside my child S02E03. Apparently, Olive Oatman reincarnated.

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  • harbor49

    What I have found very difficult to believe in “Hell on Wheels’ that a black man had any position of authority on any of railroad construction like what is shown in the series. The railroad was finished in 1867 and was under construction during the civil war so black people did not gain any level in society for many years after. There were plenty of black labors but the part of Elam Ferguson is hard to believe, it is all marketing by Hollywood.

    • Diane Huff

      Actually, PBS did a special on this very subject and found that many former slaves held positions of authority. Former slaves were skilled in all types of labor and they were very much in demand during the building of the railroad. Let us not forget that negro slaves were mostly the sole builders of railroads during the civil war, building new tracks and repairing tracks destroyed during the war. I was surprised too, but it’s not Hollywood hype.

      • harbor49

        Sorry Diana the portrayal of a black man making deals, carrying a gun, threatening/shooting people is just Hollywood.

        Hell on Wheels is more or less is portrayed the construction of the railroad in the west or at least west of the Mississippi river. The west US in 1860 was even more racist than the east was. The concept of a black man carrying weapons around threatening white folk just didn’t happen. There were a few cowboys during that time period that carried guns in their job but they operated under the radar so to speak.

        There were blacks that were skilled railroad workers but the position of authority was limited to them being supervisors of other black workers, there was never black men supervising whites. The majority of the labor was Chinese on the western end of the railroad with some white mostly Irish involved. There were black crews involved in the construction but majority of them in the east.

        You have to keep in mind that west of the Mississippi was everything pretty much undeveloped in 1860’s and there was a very small population of blacks. The out migration of black from the south didn’t start for another ten years and didn’t really get going until the auto industry was developed in the 20th century.

        • lautrec

          I have to agree with Diana here. There’s not really one thing in your entire deluge of words that is convincing when held up to historical fact.

      • April Corvino

        It wasn’t until later when Blacks started to lose rights if you actually read a it of unbiased history books or History Channel even had done a piece on a black Sheriff I believe he would go and take in outlaws and when he came back to his city he found that the town he lived in didn’t recognize him and told him he wasn’t welcome in the establishments.

        • lautrec

          Yep. So many people approach this subject close minded and never doing research, just drinking the mainstream media kool-aid.

      • morningstar55

        This is true Hell folks even in the 1850 and before in the NE America there were Blacks who owned businesses and homes and some even married whites ,You just do not here about it over slavery WHICH BY THE WAY—- we had thousands and thousands of Native slaves ( 30,000 alone sent to the islands) hundreds of Irish slaves and Chinese and Mexican slaves long before the Black slave ( not before the first black people –just before the black slaves ____WHO were NOT all AFRICAN ) the Mexican and Irish and Chinese were still in slavery in parts of the country until it all became one country finally

        • cheesewhiz

          LOL. ALL black slaves were African. Every.last.one. There is no record of a black society that didn’t have it’s origins from Africa.

    • Ian Kohn

      all or none for you, eh?

  • mrsecret77

    So, the Native Americans practiced slavery, engaged in human trafficking, and beat the hell out of little girls for sport? Holy crap! You mean to tell me that the Native Americans weren’t peace loving hippies smoking weed on the plains?

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  • morningstar55

    It is a great story of strength and perseverance BUT (and I am Cherokee) what excuse did the Natives have for killing them ,just because they were in the wrong place is not a good reason, to me this should show there is bad an good in all races and that none are perfect —outright slaughter is still outright slaughter

    • Carolyn Pearl

      The family encountered the tribespeople in the desert, who requested water and food from the newcomers. It’s unknown why things went bad, but possibly the anglos refused, said or did something insulting? The fact that the tribe “requested” food and water, seems to put the burden on the Oates family.

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  • Rogue Cheddar

    Hard people for hard times, would that we would persevere as well.

  • CP

    Was Olive Oatman a whore too? Or did they just decide to turn her into a whore for the show? If so, shame on them.

    • Carolyn Pearl

      No she wasn’t, she got married and settled down in Sherman, Texas, where she died. What a shame an interesting personality like hers gets obscured for ratings.

      • cheesewhiz

        Is the character supposed to be Olive Oatman or just look like her?

  • deprivedfed

    Tell me we should not have the Indians getting everything free. make them work just as we in America has to. They are no better than all the other races.

    • Carolyn Pearl

      Mitakuye oyasin – All are Related

  • Brandon S. Thvndar

    That show kept it real…sometimes a little too real

Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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