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TATUM, LAWRIE (1822-1900)

Agent Lawrie Tatum and five captive Mexican boys taken from the Comanche Indians, 1871

Indian agent Lawrie Tatum was born to Quakers George and Lydia Tatum near Mullica Hill, New Jersey, on May 22, 1822. He moved with his family to Goshen, Ohio, at age nine, where he received a meager education. In 1844 Tatum went to Iowa, where he taught school and farmed. He was considered to be the first Quaker settler in Cedar County.

When Pres. Ulysses S. Grant's "Peace Policy" went into effect, officials of the Society of Friends (Quakers) met with the president and requested members of their sect be selected as Indian agents. On July 1, 1869, Tatum began his duties "acting in the capacity of governor, legislature, judge, sheriff and accounting officer" for the Kiowa and Comanche Agency at Fort Sill in the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma).

Tatum pioneered the government's efforts to civilize and Christianize the Indians. His successors built on his foundation and learned from his successes and failures. Known to his charges as Pot-ta-wat Pervo (Bald Head Agent), Tatum resigned his post on March 31, 1873, and returned to Iowa.

In his later years Tatum promoted a mutual fire insurance company, established a bank, and in 1884 was appointed guardian to a future U.S. president, Herbert Hoover, and his siblings. Tatum's book, Our Red Brothers and the Peace Policy of President Ulysses S. Grant (1899), is regarded as a classic of Southern Plains literature. He died at Springdale, Iowa, on January 22, 1900.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Aubrey L. Steele, "The Beginning of Quaker Administration of Indian Affairs in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 17 (December 1939). Aubrey L. Steele, "Lawrie Tatum's Indian Policy," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 22 (Spring 1944). Lawrie Tatum, Our Red Brothers and the Peace Policy of President Ulysses S. Grant (1899; reprint, Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1970). Dan L. Thrapp, Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Vol. 3 (Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark, 1988). Timothy Ashley Zwink, "On the White Man's Road: Lawrie Tatum and the Formative Years of the Kiowa Agency 1869-1873," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 56 (Winter 1978-1979).

Brandon R. Burnette and Sharon L. Morrison

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