Humble is located on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad and U.S. Highway 59 eighteen miles northeast of Houston in northern Harris County, where the Big Thicket meets the coastal plain. The community serves as a retail and shipping center for an agricultural and lumbering section of the Cypress Creek valley at the center of the Humble oilfield, once the largest in Texas. Humble was a crossroads community in 1870, named for its founder, Pleasant S. Humble, a San Jacinto River ferry operator who arrived before the Civil War. Humble ran a commissary, cut railroad ties from local timber, and served as justice of the peace. Settlement in the area stopped during the Civil War but resumed after Reconstruction. In 1876 the town was a flag station on a railroad known as "the Rabbit" because passengers shot rabbits when the train stopped on the way from Houston to Shreveport. Residents pursued lumbering and agriculture, and by 1880 the population numbered ten Whites and fifty Blacks; the Blacks ran the lumbermill. Mill owner Charles Bender purchased the townsite, established a commissary where workers traded tokens for merchandise, and took over management in 1886. A post office opened that year, a school by 1887, and two hotels, two general stores, a sawmill, and a church by 1896. A local school established in 1890 had fifty pupils. In 1894 the railroad was taken over by the Houston, East and West Texas Railway.
Humble became a boomtown in 1904, when oil was discovered nearby and the townsite was laid out. By the time the Lone Star Hotel was built and thirty wells were completed several months later, 10,000 people lived in the area, and by 1905 the Humble oilfield was the largest producing field in Texas. Numerous businesses were established over the next five years, including a bank, a theater, a dry-goods store, hotels, and in 1909 the Oil City News, which became the Harris County Sun in 1935. By 1906, however, production declined, the population fell to 7,500, and the community lost its original town government. Ross S. Sterling operated a feed store at Humble before he entered the oil business and founded Humble Oil and Refining Company (now Exxon Company, U.S.A.) in 1911, but moved his headquarters to Houston in 1912. By 1914 only 3,000 residents were reported in Humble, but a second boom that year and a partial boom in 1929, when the population reached 4,000, spurred municipal development. During World War I members of the Nineteenth Infantry from Fort Sam Houston operated an army training camp at Moonshine Hill. Local residents did not immediately feel the effects of the Great Depression, but the population eventually declined to 1,500, and many farmers returned to truck farming and dairying. After defeating a proposal to incorporate in 1929, a new city charter was obtained on August 28, 1933, and the town incorporated. Oil production in World War II brought an influx of workers that increased the population from 1,371 in 1940 to 2,600 by the 1960s. The Eastex Freeway (U.S. Highway 59) from Houston to Humble was completed by 1970, when efforts to restore the downtown area were made, and a library, a city hall, a community hall, a park, and a historical museum were completed or under construction. Proximity to Houston Intercontinental Airport and Lake Houston attracted new residents to Humble and gave rise to fourteen new subdivisions and other summer-home construction. Workers commuted to Houston or were employed at Utex Industries, a metal manufacturer, which operated nearby. In 1990 the population was 12,060. In the 1990s Old Humble, east of the railroad tracks and south of Farm Road 1960, was populated by artists and antique dealers. By 2000 the population reached 14,579.