September 20, 2010 by wcobserver
Tatum Spring, located on highway 74 in the Whitehouse community, has been an important landmark in the area for many years.
Some of you have probably heard the stories about Tatum Spring and its previous owners, but I wanted to know more. So I set out to gather the pieces of the historical puzzle that have never fully been put together, until now that is.
Alexander Whyte was born in Kentucky around 1834. He subsequently moved to Arkansas around 1860 and enlisted in the 1st Arkansas Union Cavalry in 1862 to fight in the Civil War. He was immediately promoted to Corporal, as a Full Farrier, at the young age of 28. In 1876 Whyte (not spelled White as many locals believe) homesteaded an 80 acre tract of land obtained from the Federal Government – “the West half of the North East Quarter of Section 15, Township 14, Range 29 West.”
Current day Tatum Spring is located on this property. Whyte is shown on the 1908 Washington County plat map as still owning this acreage at that time. Some of his neighbors on the map included J.C Arnett, R.C. Stout, and J. White.
The 1910 Federal Census shows Whyte and his wife Rodie, were living on this property, in the Reed township of Washington County, also known as Arnett at the time; no children were listed.
According to land records available through the Archives of Washington County, Whyte kept this land until October 29th, 1914, when Whyte, listed as a widower at the time, sold the last 40 acre portion of his original 80 acre homestead; the North West quarter of the North East quarter (Where Tatum Spring is located).
The purchaser was listed as Robert C. Stout, in the amount of $250. Whyte died less than a month later, on November 15, 1914.
In 1928, the Stouts are listed as taking out a $350 loan from their neighbor, J.C. Arnett, using the Tatum Spring property as collateral. The loan was to be paid back in one year, with 10% annual interest; which was quite high for those days.
Two years later, in the 1930 Federal Census, Robert C. Stout (age 68) and his wife of 44 years Sarah L. (age 66) were shown living with one of their sons in the area.
The story that many locals will tell you is that there was a Shirley Stout who helped Earnest Wilson build the stone wall around Tatum Spring; I was not able to substantiate this story, but if it’s true it was likely Robert’s wife Sarah, as I was unable to locate any Shirley Stout living in the area during that time.
On August 5, 1930 the Stouts sold their top 40 acres (where Tatum Spring is located) to a Lizzie G. Tatum for $200. One year into the Great Depression, $200 was a great deal of money but still quite a bargain for 40 acres and at least one log home.
It was also interesting for that time period that Lizzie’s husband, Claude, was not listed on the deed with her. One day after Lizzie purchased the land from the Stouts, J.C. Arnett provided Lizzie with a “Quit Claim” deed for the land, due to the loan mentioned earlier, for which Lizzie was responsible for providing “All monies paid state for back taxes.”
Now, the story is that the Tatums came to this area in the 1930’s from Tennessee; however, I was able to locate Claude B. and Lizzie Tatum owning land and living as farmers in the Richland township of Washington County as early as 1920, and prior to that, living in Comanche County, Oklahoma, according to the 1910 Federal Census.
Lizzie did purchase the land where Tatum Spring in located in 1930, but records indicate that Lizzie and Claude moved west to Oklahoma from Tennessee sometime between 1900 and 1910, and then into Arkansas prior to 1920.
The 1930 Federal Census shows Claude (age 60) and Lizzie (age 59) living with two of their sons and their wives in the area; Claude’s occupation was listed as “canner” at the canning factory. The canning factory, called The Tatum Canning Factory, was located across the street from Tatum Spring; however, I was unable to find any legal documents about the factory.
Here is another one of the old stories about the spring that needs correction. The story goes that the Tatum’s daughter planted flowers all over the hillside, which is what led to the naming of the spring after the Tatums. The truth is that it was not a Tatum daughter that planted all of the flowers around the spring but Lizzie herself, the wife of Claude and the owner of the property.
The next person to hold the property was Marvin Jo Tatum (born around 1907), a Daughter-In-Law of Claude and Lizzie, wife of their son Edward C. Tatum. This parcel of land was deeded to Marvin Jo, by Claude and Lizzie, in a warranty deed signed August 14th, 1939. Marvin Jo promised to pay $75 per month to Claude and Lizzie, for the remainder of their natural lives, as payment for the Tatum Spring land and several other parcels of land which they owned in the area. Marvin Jo subsequently placed the Tatum Spring property, as well as many other parcels of land, into a Trust, named the Marvin Jo Tatum Trust. Social Security Death Records indicate that Marvin Jo passed away in Tulsa, OK on February 18th, 1996.
Shortly before her passing, On March 31st, 1994, James Edward Tatum, son of Marvin Joe and Edward, and also the co-trustee of the Marvin Jo Tatum Trust, deeded the Tatum Spring property to Carl E. and Ola Mae Richardson.
Carl has lived in the area all his life and recalls being a little boy and seeing wagons come down the dirt road to get their barrel of water from the spring, and remembers how beautiful the flower-filled hillside was back then; “Lizzie would work in her gardens day and night, and she’d get any kid that came by to help her pull those weeds.” During the sale of the land, James Edward Tatum asked Carl if he would continue to allow people to use the spring, Carl said, “People have been hauling water from there for years and I don’t intend to do anything about it, if they want to haul water, they can.”
The old log home of the Stout’s, which according to Carl is ready to fall down any day now, can still be seen from the road when the leaves have fallen, but it’s quite easily missed in its current state.
Carl plans to get in there this winter to clear the brush and remove some fallen pecan trees caused by the ice storm, in hopes of providing cleaner water and making it a nicer place for the community.
Carl also mentioned that it must be at least ten degrees cooler near the spring because of the cold flowing water. He often tells people, “This is the coolest place in town.” The stone basin that still holds the spring water appears to be in good working order, though it is filled with leaves and debris which is what likely caused the November 2009 positive test for the bacteria E. Coli in the water, however, many local residents have to rely on the spring as their main source of water.
It’s been said that the water has never stopped flowing. That’s a good thing for area resident Bud Dennis, former Washington County Sheriff, who said, “I’ve been coming here for 8 years, a couple times a week. We’ve got to have water and we know we can always get it here. I really appreciate having Tatum Spring.”
Bud reports that he’s never had trouble getting water from the spring, nor has he ever had any problems with the water itself.
Tatum Spring has been a reliable source of ever-flowing water for many area residents who have not been fortunate enough to have a reliable well or rural water.
Though some residents are scheduled to have rural water in the near future, it’s nice to know that Tatum Spring hasn’t stopped flowing when the residents have needed it the most. Area residents are filling up their water tanks at all times of the day and night and are never surprised to find the spring is just as plentiful as it was the last time they came.
It is said that Claude Tatum always left a dipper hanging by the spring, so anyone could stop and refresh themselves as they passed by; though the dipper is long gone, it is heart-warming to know that the tradition of allowing people to use the spring has not come to an end in the last 80 years.