County Courthouse and Town Square
Text and Photos by Sam Fenstermacher
The town square in Sulphur Springs is a dramatically different place.
A vintage J. Riely Gordon courthouse occupies the northeast corner
of the spacious town square. This offset location is both by choice
and chance. The previous courthouse was built on the east side of
the original town square. When that building burned down in 1894,
a decision was made to buy additional property east of the town square
and build the present day courthouse on the northeast corner of the
enlarged town square.
The net result of all these events in Hopkins County is a spacious
public square with plenty of room for parking and public gathering.
Along the eastern side of the square there's a bandstand and a small
yard with trees and benches. The parking lot and walkways on the square
are paved with red bricks. This adds a vintage feel to the place,
and also creates a dramatic approach to the county courthouse....
The Hopkins County courthouse and square.
1906 Postcard courtesy James Perkins
Hotel Here >
celebrates 150 Years of History in 2004
County Seatís Troubles by Bob
Hopkins Countyís first seat of government, Tarrant
had more troubles than most frontier communities in East
Texas. In the end, the misfortunes converged to cause the townís
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
Eldridgeís 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 frontierís settlers.
As 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
Countyís grasslands, the cattle were found to be in violation
of a law that supposedly said Texas grass was not free.
charged the herdís owners with breaking the law and seized some 300
head of cattle, sold them at auction and raised $1,772 to finish the
the Civil War, and the imposition of Reconstruction rule in Texas,
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 countyís records delivered to his
The county records remained there until 1870 when civilian rule was
reestablished in the county and the records were returned to Tarrant.
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
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.
The gerrymandering placed Sulphur 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.
Bowman's East Texas" Column
in Sulphur Springs
December 1984 photo courtesy Billy
In northern Hopkins County
Rt 3 Box 741 Sulphur Springs TX 75482
County Museum and Heritage Park
416 N Jackson St. Admission fee
611 N Davis St. in library. 903-885-4926
In Civic Center Complex, 1210 Houston St. (Hwy 11).
Springs Tourist Information
Center - I-30. At the Factory Store of Amaerica mall.
888-300-6623 - Information on city, events, accommodations and dining
of Sulphur Springs - http://www.sulphurspringstx.org/
County Chamber of Commerce - 903-885-6515
Hotel Here > Sulphur
the Calves by Robert G. Cowser
In the late 1940s cattle auctions were common in the towns of Northeast
Texas. Each town picked a different day of the week so as not to
compete with nearby towns. Sulphur Springs held its auction
on Mondays, Mt. Pleasant
on Tuesdays, Paris on
Wednesdays, and Winnsboro on
Fridays. Most of the livestock bought by buyers from local meat-packing
plants were calves born in the spring and sold in the late summer
or early autumn.
On our farm near Saltillo my father kept a herd of thirty Jersey
cows as breeders. He bred the cows to a Hereford bull because the
Jersey cows produced more milk than Hereford cows and the milk from
the Jerseys was higher in butterfat.... more
Sulphur Springs water tower, razed in 2002
2002 photo courtesy Lou Ann Herda
Springs Water Tower (Razed in 2002)
"Sulphur Springs complete with power lines/phone lines that I
couldn't get around. I was standing in the middle of a very busy road
at the time before I realized traffic was headed my way. I think this
tower is an A-1 example of a fine Texas water tower. Not as nice as
one, but still pleasant. The cursive lettering is unmatched."
- Lou Ann Herda, April 14, 2002
Thank you for your kind remarks about our water tower. However, I'm
afraid it is no more. Not long after you took that photograph, the
landmark was torn down. It was really sad to a lot of us. - John
L. Bradberry, Sulphur Springs, TX, August 12, 2003
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and vintage/historic photos, please contact