Eldridge Hopkins, for whose family Hopkins County was named in 1846, donated this site for the county seat. Named for Gen. Edward H. Tarrant (1796-1858), Texas Ranger and Mexican war veteran, Tarrant Post Office was established in March 1847. A two-story frame courthouse was begun in 1851, but lack of funds delayed completion for two years.
Tarrant quickly grew into a thriving frontier town with a tannery, steam mill, blacksmith shop, brick kiln, and hotel. After 1851, it had a Masonic Lodge and school. During the 1850s, a newspaper, the "Texas Star," began publication, and a Methodist college opened.
Encircled by creeks, the town was difficult to reach in bad weather. The inconvenience of travel to Tarrant led Capt. Thomas M. Tolman in 1868 to transfer county records to Sulphur Springs, where Federal troops under his command were stationed after the Civil War to enforce Reconstruction laws. Despite local protests, county government remained there until civilian rule was restored in 1870. The return to Tarrant was brief, because the State Legislature in 1870 named Sulphur Springs as permanent county seat. Soon Tarrant began to decline. A rural community and old cemetery now mark the site of the first Hopkins County Seat.