Tarkington Prairie was founded by Burton B. Tarkington in the mid-1820s near the old Nacogdoches-Lynchburg trail in northern Liberty County. The surrounding land was well suited for crop and cattle raising, and the group of settlers soon grew to become a thriving rural community. By the 1860s there was a store-trading center, a blacksmith shop, a steam mill and gin, a combination Baptist church-Masonic lodge, and a post office. Immediately after the Civil War many veterans settled in the community, and trail drivers and shippers of goods made Tarkington Prairie a stop along this major route to the coast. The post office was abandoned because of the proximity of the larger post office at Cleveland. A small part of the original cattle trail was covered by pavement at the point that State Highway 321 was built across it in the 1930s. In 1931 five area schools joined to establish the Tarkington Consolidated School District. A volunteer fire department was formed in Cleveland in 1974, and in 1976 the old trading center still stood. During the latter part of the twentieth century and in the early twenty-first century, Tarkington Prairie remained a largely rural and dispersed community and included residents that commuted to Houston. In 2009 the population was estimated at 300. The Tarkington Prairie Historical Society is located on FM 163 near one of the schools.