Hopkins County’s first seat of government, Tarrant had more troubles than most
frontier communities in East Texas.
In the end, the misfortunes converged to cause the town’s demise after 24 years
of tenuous existence.|
In 1846, the Texas Legislature created a new county
named for the Hopkins family from portions of Lamar and Nacogdoches counties.
Two places within three miles of the center were chosen as suitable sites
for the county seat. Eli Hopkins offered the county suitable land for a public
square and courthouse if voters would decide in has favor. His brother Eldridge,
however, made a similar but competing offer.
Eldridge’s tract won out and
the county seat was named for General Edward H. Tarrant, a legislator who decided
that he had rather fight Indians on the frontier than deal with politicians. He
became a Texas Ranger and was popular among the frontier’s settlers.
a county seat, Tarrant began to grow. The county used a log cabin as the first
courthouse and county officials often carried county records to their homes for
safekeeping. In 1851, a contract for a permanent courthouse was awarded, but the
construction floundered for lack of money.
The solution was ingenious,
if not legal. When an official noted that cattle herds being driven through East
Texas by Louisiana cattlemen were munching on Hopkins County’s grasslands,
the cattle were found to be in violation of a law that supposedly said Texas grass
was not free.
Hopkins County charged the herd’s owners with breaking the
law and seized some 300 head of cattle, sold them at auction and raised $1,772
to finish the courthouse.
A Texas State Historical Marker reminds East Texans of the site of old Tarrant,
once a Hopkins County seat of government.|
the Civil War, and the imposition of Reconstruction rule in Texas,
Tarrant’s people found that federal soldiers had little sympathy for East
The commander of a federal company in East
Texas deployed his men at Sulphur
Springs, instead of at the county seat, and ordered the county’s records delivered
to his headquarters.
The county records remained there until 1870 when
civilian rule was reestablished in the county and the records were returned to
Tarrant. But Tarrant’s victory was short-lived.
The Texas Legislature soon
approved a special act to make Sulphur
Springs the county seat. The Tarrant courthouse was closed and sold at auction.
When the county seat was moved permanently to Sulphur
Springs, many county residents objected, particularly those living in the
north side of the county. They claimed Sulphur
Springs was not the center of Hopkins County.
But under another act
of the Texas Legislature, a part of Lamar County and the northern portion of Hopkins
County were organized into a new county known as Delta and the southwestern part
of Hopkins County was deleted and became Rains County.
Springs near the exact center of Hopkins County.
Tarrant began to
fade away and today, except for a well-kept cemetery, there are no reminders today
of Old Tarrant.
8, 2009 Column.
Bowman's East Texas >
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East
Texas Ghost Towns | Texas
Town List | Columns | People