Lee Tatum and his wife, Mary, applied for a post office designation in 1895, beginning the town of Tatums in what was then Indian Territory. The town, located in what is now Carter County, was one of more than fifty all-black towns of Oklahoma and one of only a dozen or so still existing.
Tatums, was named for the two brothers who founded it (and not Mary), Lee and E.G. Tatum. In addition to running the post office, the Tatums operated a small grocery store.
A hotel was built in 1899, a blacksmith shop in 1900, a cotton gin and sawmill in 1910, and a motor garage in 1918. Tatums’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NR 94001519), was completed in that decade as well. Oil wells were drilled in the area in the 1920s, bringing wealth to several of Tatums’s farmers and landowners.
In 1927 Norman Studios filmed a silent movie, Black Gold, in Tatums. The Julius Rosenwald Fund helped build a brick school in 1936.
Like most rural towns, Tatums experienced the effects of the Great Depression, and many residents migrated to urban areas.