Sulphur Springs derives its modern name from the fact that when the area was first settled, springs of sulphur water were abundant. Before the first settlers arrived, local Native American tribes often used the areas around the springs as their home. When the settlers began arriving, they, too, used the springs as their camping grounds.
A man by the name of Eli Bib, one of the first settlers, ran a store from his cabin that sold staples, whiskey, persimmon beer, and slabs of ginger cake. In 1849, Dr. and Mrs. Davis moved into the area. Dr. Davis envisioned the spot as a future city. In 1850 the residents organized the area's first church, the Methodist Episcopal. Construction of the church was completed in 1853. In 1852, the Presbyterian Church was organized. At that time, the population of the village was 441. In order to serve the growing group of people, commodities began to be brought in from nearby Jefferson and new stores began to spring up.
The village became a city in 1854 when the first post office was established. The city's name was originally Bright Star. Mail to and from the city was delivered by the Pony Express. On May 18, 1871, the county seat of Hopkins county was moved from Tarrant to Sulphur Springs, and the name "Bright Star" was removed from the postal directory.
The exact date of the first government's formation is unknown, but one of the first to hold the mayor's office was William A. Wortham. In 1854, Wortham bought the Texas Star press and moved to Sulphur Springs where he, his brother-in-law, and Bill Davis established the city's first newspaper.
Ten acres (40,000 m²) of land were set aside for the Bright Star University in 1857. The Sulphur Springs District Conference High School began in 1877, established on the Bright Star University land on College Street. In December 1882, the school became known as Central College. It was owned by the Method Episcopal Church. It was later renamed Eastman College and Conservatory of Music and Art under a new charter. Before the year 1900 the college burned and Professor Eastman left the area.
The First National Bank of Sulphur Springs was nationalized in 1855. It is now known as City National Bank.
In 1857 the area's first steam-powered factory was established by the Bell brothers. In the same year, the Morro Castle was built on North Street. Its builders remain unknown.
C. Denton was elected to lead the new city government, which was incorporated. During the Civil War, the town had to be incorporated again at the conclusion of the War Between the States. The city of Sulphur Springs, and Hopkins County in general, sent many brave soldiers to fight during the Civil War.
In 1868, Union troops moved into Sulphur Springs and occupied the city for a period of two years. Upon their departure and the end of the military occupation, A. J. Bridges became mayor of the new city government and the city then began to grow and prosper.
A railroad line was extended from Mineola, TX in 1872. Settlers were drawn by tales of the healing powers of the city's sulphur baths. Due to population growth, the springs of sulphur were gradually covered and none remain active today. A rail was run from Jefferson to Sulphur Springs in 1879. The St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railroad (Cotton Belt) built through Sulphur Springs in 1887 on its way to Commerce and Sherman. The next year the line was completed to Fort Worth. In 1891 the bankrupt railroad was sold to Jay Gould interests and renamed the St. Louis Southwestern Railway.
An ice plant was built in 1887. The city's courthouse, which still exists today, was constructed in 1895. In 1904, wells were dug to supply the city with water. In the same year, a long distance telephone line was run to nearby Greenville. In 1889, the City National Bank was organized.
After World War II a new city manager type of government was founded. With the inception of this new government, many new programs were started, new plants and factories began and relocated in the city, and businesses and the city grew until the population rose to be approximately 16,000.
The dairy industry was a major component of the local economy from the late 1940s through 1995; and Sulphur Springs is home to the Southwest Dairy Museum which features artifacts on the history of the dairy industry. The dairy industry began to shrink largely because of declining milk prices, higher labor costs, and large corporations operating massive dairies; which reduced the amount of local mom and pop dairies considerably. Large industries in the community include Pinnacle, Ocean Spray, Grocery Supply, Jeld-Wen, Clayton Home Mfg., Flowserve and others. For several months in 2012, Hopkins County enjoyed a very low unemployment rate at approximately 4.5% and 500+ jobs added.
- Leo St. Clair Music Box Collection houses more than 150 unique music boxes, many one-of-a-kind, unique and antique, and some owned by movie stars and soldiers. - Sinclair WWII Collection displays letters, pictures, and other World War II artifacts. Both are housed at the beautiful state of the art library. - Southwest Dairy Museum and Learning Center depicts all facets of milk production and the history of the dairy industry. It houses an old fashioned soda bar where visitors enjoy ice cream and light lunches. - Cooper Lake State Park has over 2,500 acres of terrain and 19,300 acres of lake. - Lake Fork, renown for champion bass fishing, is 15 miles south of Sulphur Springs. - Coleman Lake and Park is a 186 acre park with waterfalls, trails, tournament rated ball parks. Imagination Mountain sits atop the waterfall and completes this family play area with tunnels, slides and sandpits. - Buford Park is a one acre park with castle playground known as Kid’s Kingdom. The local walking trail crosses Pea Vine Pinion pond. - The Farm and Art Market is located downtown from May through October during the evening. In 2012, American Farmland Trust voted the market as “America’s Favorite Farmers Market’.