Dawson is twenty-one miles southwest of Corsicana and fifty miles south of Dallas in southwestern Navarro County. The town was named for Britton Dawson, a cattle rancher and participant in the battle of San Jacinto, who arrived in the area from Alabama in 1847 searching for grass and water for his animals. He lived in the town until his death in 1903. The community began to grow after 1881, when the St. Louis Southwestern Railway built a narrow-gauge line from Corsicana to Waco. Dawson became a supply and shipping center for local farmers who grew cotton and other crops. A Dawson post office opened in 1882, and in 1883 the community had a lumberyard and a drugstore. Ike Hughes opened a photography studio not long after this but closed it in order to open a saloon. In 1887 the Dawson Masonic Institute occupied a two-story frame building; classes were held on the ground floor and Masonic lodge meetings on the second. In 1926 the town had four cotton gins, two banks, a bottling works, a telephone exchange, and a cottonseed oil mill (see COTTONSEED INDUSTRY); at that time the community also had three miles of pavement. Dawson reported a population of 500 by 1887 and was incorporated in 1908. Its population was reported as 950 from 1914 to the mid-1920s, peaked at 1,500 in 1928, and held steady at just over 1,100 from the early 1930s (when the community had some sixty-five businesses) through the mid-1950s. In the 1960s Dawson's population began to decrease and was reported as 789 in 1988, when the community had seven businesses and a post office. In 1990 its population was reported as 766, and in 2000 as 852.