In the spring of 1882 Ebenezer Hanks, Ebenezer McDougall, Joseph Sylvester, Charles Gould, and Samuel Gould moved with their families from Washington County to the junction of the Fremont and Muddy rivers in what is now eastern Wayne County. This early settlement in what was known as Graves Valley–a name applied to the area by John Wesley Powell survey expedition member Walter Graves, who had mapped the region–developed into the community of Hanksville.
In the summer of 1882 the General Land Office let contracts for the surveying of townships along the Fremont River from Capitol Reef eastward to Hanksville. These surveys were completed by the spring of 1883, allowing the earliest settlers to file and establish orderly land claims.
The small community developed quickly; postal service from Green River was established in 1883 with a delivery three times a week. The mail was carried by pony express and the rider would make the 110-mile round trip in two days. The community’s name was changed to Hanksville in 1885, and by 1890 twenty families had moved to the valley and maintained permanent residences there.
Telephone service began in 1913 under a cooperative plan connecting Hanksville to Fruita and other communities in the county. This service was updated in 1960. Hanksville did not receive electricity until 1960; before 1960 many residents operated individual generators run on butane or diesel fuel.
The early settlers depended on culinary and irrigation water from the Fremont River. Culinary water improved in 1933 when a well was drilled that was financed by the Drought Relief Commission; a second well as completed in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
A Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) airport was constructed five miles north of Hanksville in 1945. This station still functions as an emergency landing strip and provides current weather data to the busy Los Angeles to Denver route utilized by commercial, private, and military air traffic.
In 1959 a schoolhouse was completed to replace the two-room unit that had housed eight grades since the early organization of the community. At present high school students ride the bus to Bicknell.
Hanksville has always been a hub for mining activity in the area. In 1889 J. C. Summer and Jack Butler developed the Bromide mine in the Henry Mountains. The Turner mine was discovered shortly thereafter; and mine operators treated their ore at Crescent Creek. Today the economy of the area depends heavily upon mining, agriculture, and tourists heading south to Lake Powell. The 1990 census recorded a population of 129 in Hanksville.