The center of Hawkins,Texas is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 80 and Farm Road 14, on the Missouri Pacific line approximately twenty miles north of Tyler and twenty miles southeast of Quitman in the southeastern corner of Wood County.
The town received its post office in 1873, the same year the Texas and Pacific Railway built through on its way to Dallas. The area had been fairly well settled before the railroad’s arrival, as it was near the river crossing to Belzora, an early port and stagecoach crossing on the Smith County side of the Sabine River. By 1884 Hawkins was shipping lumber, shingles, livestock, and cotton, and it had a population of 400, five general stores, five steam gristmills and cotton gins, three churches, two hotels, and a district school.
By 1890 its population had fallen to around 200, but in 1896 the community reported 500 residents and a newspaper, the Hawkins Banner. In 1912 Jarvis Christian College was founded just outside the Hawkins city limits. By 1914 Hawkins had a population of 150, a telephone connection, and at least eighteen businesses, including a bank and two timber companies. The community’s population rose gradually from 300 in 1925 to 500 in the early 1930s.
In October 1940, the community had a population of 200 when former lightweight boxer Bobby (Bobbie) Manziel made the first major oil discovery in Wood County, a wildcat well 3½ miles north of town. Hawkins became an overnight boom-town. Later that same year, independent operators Steve Rotundi (Rotondi) and F. R. Jackson hit oil within the Hawkins city limits. Land prices in the community soared with lots reportedly sold for anywhere from $500 to $10,000.The Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.) became a principal driller in the Hawkins field just north of the community, and as late as 1960 the Hawkins Camp (originally the Humble Camp), a densely populated oil-refining area, stood just to the north of the city.
In 1941 Hawkins had a population of 1,200, and by the late 1940s had incorporated. By the early 1950s Hawkins had a population of 493 and twenty-five businesses, including a bank. The population of Hawkins climbed to 868 in the early 1960s, and has continued to rise slowly to an average of between 1200-1400. In 1988 Hawkins had a population of 1,242 and thirty-one businesses and an Exxon refinery stood where the Hawkins Camp had been located. Each October Hawkins celebrates its oil-based economy with an Oil Festival.