Crawford is at the intersection of State Highway 317 and Farm Road 185, eighteen miles west of Waco in western McLennan County. Settlement of the area began in the 1850s and centered around Tonk Crossing (also called Crawford Crossing), a ford of the Middle Bosque River two miles east of the present town. The community was probably named for Nelson Crawford, who graded the river crossing. As early as 1867 the inn at Crawford was used as a changing station by the Brownwood stage line. A Crawford post office was established in 1871 with John Hamlin as postmaster. In 1881 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway laid track from Temple to Fort Worth, passing two miles west of Crawford. The focus of the community shifted to the railroad, and by 1890 Crawford had steam flour and corn mills, two general stores, three groceries, a cotton gin, four churches, and 400 residents; cotton, wheat, hides, and corn were the principal shipments from the area.
In the 1880s and 1890s Crawford had a series of short-lived weekly newspapers, among them the Yeoman, the Democrat, the Banner, and the Advance. The Crawford Sun was established in 1928, and except for the years 1943 to 1947 continued to be published weekly until 1969, when it merged with the McGregor Mirror. When Crawford was first established, community affairs were managed by a group of five or six elected trustees. Residents voted to incorporate on August 12, 1897, by a vote of fifty-one to forty-two; it may have been at that time that the city adopted a mayor-council form of government. A private bank opened in Crawford in 1901 and was reorganized eight years later as the First National Bank of Crawford. The town reached one of the high points in its development in 1910, when it had 600 residents and thirty-five businesses. The depression hit the community hard, forcing the bank and several other businesses to close. The population fell to 491 in the early 1930s and to 471 in the early 1940s. Still, Crawford was the only town of any size in northwestern McLennan County, and as such it was the natural focal point when small area schools began to consolidate with those in larger towns in the 1930s and 1940s. By the mid-1940s the Crawford Independent School District encompassed nearly seventy-eight square miles. The population of Crawford fell to 425 in the 1950s but rose again to 480 in the 1960s; it remained fairly stable through the 1970s but rose sharply in the 1980s, as more residents decided to live in Crawford and commute to work in Waco or nearby McGregor. The population was reported at 667 in the late 1980s. In 1990 it was 631. The population was 705 in 2000, when the town gained fame as the site of President George W. Bush's "Western White House."