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Both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down many of the smaller shacks in town, and three years later, the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good. Oatman survived by catering to travelers on old U.S. Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the route became what is now Interstate 40, Oatman almost died.
Oatman was named in honor of Olive Oatman, who was kidnapped as a young girl by Mojave Indians and later rescued in 1857 near the current site of the town. Oatman was served by a narrow gauge rail line between 1903 and 1905 that ran 17 miles to the Colorado river near Needles, California.
The wild burros that roam Oatman's streets are descendants of the burros brought to Oatman by the early gold prospectors.