The site that would become Tatum, New Mexico, sat in the middle of the 1.5 million-acre Four Lakes Ranch, the largest in this part of the state. Tatum is Lea County’s northernmost town, and with a population of 800, it is the smallest. Therefore, it ideally represents rural America. Tatum has long been considered an ancient crossroads, initially used by Native Americans. After the Four Lakes Ranch began to break up, James B. Tatum homesteaded 320 acres and opened a general store. In 1909, Tatum also applied to operate a post office. After several fundraisers through dances and box suppers, the first school opened for the students.
Today, Tatum is still a crossroads and enjoys a constant stream of east-west traffic from West Texas tourists heading for the mountains of New Mexico, as well as the north-south traffic connecting Lovington, Hobbs, Eunice and Jal. Tatum has an excellent school system, which is the pride of the community and the center of civic activity. Tatum also offers many artist studios and the nostalgic Burger Barn, a local favorite gathering place.