It was originally called Bethel and settled as an English colony. In 1871, it became a Northern Pacific railway village as a result of railway expansion. It was renamed Hawley after General Joseph Roswell Hawley
. Although there is no evidence he was ever in Minnesota, the village was renamed as he was an original stockholder of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. Hawley was born in Stewartsville, Scotland County, North Carolina on 31 October 1826. He graduated from Hamilton College in New York in 1847. He was a lawyer, newspaper editor, later a newspaper owner in Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut. During the Civil War he served as a brigade and division commander for the Union and was a General in 1865. He was Governor of Connecticut from 1866 to 1867. He became a member of Congress in 1872-1875 and again in 1879-1881 and became a U. S. Senator from 1881 to 1906. He died in Washington, D. C. on 17 March 1905.