Canton is the county seat of Van Zandt County. The site was originally located in Henderson County when surveyed in 1840, but no settlement was made until 1850. That same year, the first district courthouse at Canton, and a post office was constructed. In 1872, the Texas and Pacific Railway built across the county, but missed Canton by ten miles. Citizens of Wills Point persuaded the county officials to move the county seat there, which resulted in a dispute among residents of Canton in 1877. Armed citizens went to Wills Point to reclaim records, and called upon the county judge for assistance. The Supreme Court of Texas finally decided in favor of Canton. By 1853, a school was established, and 1860, a weekly newspaper was established. In 1894, a new brick courthouse was completed. In 1887, iron ore was discover and in 1891, anthracite coal was discovered.

Canton is known for its First Monday. The tradition began with district court meetings held on the first Monday of each month. People traveled to Canton to swap surplus, barter and bargain for dogs, antiques, junk, and donkeys on a thirty-acre grounds.

LITTLE KNOWN HISTORY- Famous outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow once lived briefly at the Dixie Hotel in Canton, built in 1915.