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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.

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 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.

1924 would see United Eastern Mines, the town's main employer, permanently shut down operations after producing $13,600,000 worth of gold at the then-government-controlled market value of $20 per ounce; in today's gold market price of $1300 per ounce, the equivalent value is over $850,000,000. The district had produced $40 million (or approximately $2,600,000,000 in today's market price) 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 insofar as 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.

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