Edward H. (possibly for Hampton) Tarrant was born in South Carolina in 1799. It appears that during the War of 1812 he was living in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. By the early 1820s he was in Henry County, Tennessee, where he was elected a colonel of militia in the new frontier environment. In 1825 he helped organize the first Masonic lodge in Paris, Tennessee, and by 1827 he had become sheriff of Henry County. He was a resident of Henderson County, Tennessee, from 1829 to the early 1830s, when he moved to Texas, possibly by way of Mississippi. Tarrant apparently established his household of relatives, hired men, and slaves in Red River County, Texas, by November 23, 1835; on February 2, 1838, he received a league and labor of land from the Republic of Texas as part of a uniform grant made to all heads of families resident in Texas on March 2, 1836. There is no record of his participation in the Texas Revolution. Tarrant was elected in September 1837 to represent Red River County in the House of Representatives of the Second Congress; his last appearance in the House was apparently on November 11, 1837, and he submitted his resignation on December 12, 1837. He had decided that he could better serve the republic by directing ranger activities against the Indians. He served as chief justice of Red River County in 1838 after Robert Hamilton had been nominated to that post in December 1836; there is some question as to which of the two men actually served as first chief justice of the county.
Tarrant practiced law, engaged in farming, and took a leading role in the militia's activity against the Indians while he was chief justice; when he resigned from the post on May 30, 1839, he was one of the most prosperous men in Red River County. He was elected by popular vote on November 18, 1839, as commander, carrying the rank of brigadier general, of an organization of Northeast Texas defenders known as the Fourth Brigade. His Indian-fighting career culminated in the battle of Village Creek in May 1841. In 1847 Tarrant ran for lieutenant governor, but he was defeated by John Alexander Greer. He served in the House of Representatives in the Third and Fourth Texas legislatures from 1849 to 1853. He was married to Mary Danforth on April 6, 1851. They lived on Chambers Creek near Italy, Ellis County, and participated in the social life of Waxahachie. In 1857 Tarrant moved part of his household to Fort Belknap, and when Indian depredations became frequent in that area, he again turned his attention to raising forces against them. While traveling from his home on Chambers Creek to Belknap, Tarrant became ill and died on August 2, 1858, at the home of William Fondren, about ten miles from Weatherford, where he was buried. He was reburied on his farm on Chambers Creek on January 28, 1859, and was buried a third time on March 3, 1928, in Pioneer Rest Cemetery, Fort Worth. Tarrant County was named for him.