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Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

A County Seatís Troubles
Tarrant, Texas

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
As 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 offer.

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.

Hopkins County 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 courthouse.
Tarrant TX - Hopkins County first county seat Tarrant Texas historical marker
A Texas State Historical Marker reminds East Texans of the site of old Tarrant, once a Hopkins County seat of government.
Following the Civil War, and the imposition of Reconstruction rule in Texas, Tarrantís people found that federal soldiers had little sympathy for East Texas.

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 headquarters.

The county records remained there until 1870 when civilian rule was reestablished in the county and the records were returned to Tarrant. But Tarrantís 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. 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.



© Bob Bowman February 8, 2009 Column.

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A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

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