Tatum, named for Richard J. Tatum, a North Carolinian who moved to this area of Marlboro County and became a successful farmer, was home to Marlboro County's first high school.
Tatum was little more than a rural crossroads until the railroad came in 1884. By 1900, Tatum was a thriving and prosperous town.
The block of brick stores was completed with the construction of "the big store" and housed a bank, a drug store, several grocery and general stores.
The rail service included four passenger trains a day traveling between Fayetteville and Bennettsville. There was a large freight depot and a fulltime freight agent.
It was about this time that a two-story brick school was built and continued in operation until the 1930s when the Tatum schools were combined with the McColl schools. The Tatum school was the first high school in Marlboro County and was named Tatum Academy in 1889. Tatum Academy was formed by the consolidation of six smaller schools and stood on the south side of the railroad tracks behind Tatum Cemetary.
Tatum Academy's headmaster was Daniel C. Roper, a native of Tatum, who later became Postmaster General of the United States, Secretary of the Internal Revenue Service, Ambassador to Canada during World War I, and Secretary of Commerce under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In this latter role, he was part of Roosevelt's "brain trust".
Tatum had three churches: Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist, none of which continue today.
The Tatum Methodist Church building, its recreational building and parsonage survive. This church has a rich history as it is the old Beauty Spot Methodist Church, which figures prominently in the history of Methodism in Marlboro County and South Carolina. The original Beauty Spot Church was the first meeting house for Methodists in this county, having been organized in 1783. Beauty Spot's location changed several times and finally housed in the present Tatum Methodist Church building in 1911, when its name was changed to the Tatum Methodist Church.
Tatum traces its earliest histy to 1869, when its first house was built. Many handsome residences followed, some of which remain today.
Originally, the land belonged to the Hamers and the first name for the town was Hamer. It was also known as Mt. Washington for a brief perid. Other early family names in Tatum were McAllister, Roper, Easterling, Manship, McKenzie, Stanton, Reese, Carlisle, and Bethea.
Industry came early to Tatum when R.J. Tatum Tobacco Factory began operation where Tatum Cemetary is now located. Later two cotton gins, a tomato cannery, and Venetian blind tape weaving plant were located here.
However, one of Tatum's greatest claims to fame was that, for years, it was home to several, large, regionally-known antique stores, which operated in the large brick store buildings at the crossroads.
This early thriving community of the early 1900s felt the breakdown of the railroad system and the closing of the banks.
The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 brought additional tragedy and death. Walk through the cemetaries at Tatum and you will see that most of the prominent men of the town succumbed to this epidemic.