The Tarkington area was settled by Burton B. Tarkington, a former Indiana resident, in 1822. The area proved profitable for farmers and ranchers, and several small farming and ranching communities developed. The first schools in the vicinity were products of these communities, and often, the building were here school was held was also used as a church and a community meeting center. Such was the case with the first known high school building in the area, one set aside in the early part of the 20th century by Rural Shade Church (ca. 1907). It became known as Oakdale High School
In 1931, more than a hundred years after those first ranchers settled in Tarkington, five small area schools decided to join together in order to (among other reasons) meet the demands of the state regarding minimum enrollment. This joint venture, the Tarkington Consolidated School District, included Dolen, Hightower, East Tarkington, North Tarkington, and West Tarkington schools. A new high school building (state-of-the-art in its day) was built to accommodate the consolidation effort, but, as irony would have it, efforts to bring the schools together served instead to split the community asunder. The new school, which opened in 1933, was burned down a scant four years later, the cause attributed to arson. Tradition has it that a faction of area residents who were dissatisfied with the location of the consolidated school building were responsible for the burning, though no charges were ever filed.
In 1938, following a brief stint in some temporary buildings, 6th through 12th grade students eventually moved into another new high school building that was built on land adjacent to the location of today's Tarkington Intermediate School. This building served the community well into the 1960s, after which it was abandoned and subsequently lost to fire.
The year 1958 brought another new high school building, which served the Tarkington high school population for nearly two decades, after which it became the Tarkington Middle School, and then again say a shift in student population as it became the new home of the Tarkington Intermediate School students in the 2006-2007 school year.
A fifth high school building arose on the Prairie in 1974, its arrival hailed by the local newspaper in a 6-page special section. Like its fabled 1933 predecessor, it was an architectural feat of its day, with massive public spaces, a top-notch auditorium, and a sizable gymnasium and shop area. For over thirty years this building saw Tarkington high school students come and go, and now continues to do so with a younger group of students; since the fall of 2006, it was reopened as Tarkington Middle School.
In January of 2006, the latest and greatest in a long legacy of Tarkington High School buildings was opened for business of preparing THS students for their roles as citizens and productive members of society, continuing to help preserved the heritage and foster the growth of the community that is Tarkington Prairie.