Irene is on Farm roads 308 and 1946 just north of Navarro Mills Reservoir and twelve miles southeast of Hillsboro in southeastern Hill County. Settlers began moving into the area as early as 1848, when Edwin Zollicoffer moved from Alabama, purchased a large tract of land, and, using slave labor, cleared his property and built homes, a gristmill, and a cotton gin. The area became known as Zollicoffer's Mill. In the early 1870s J. T., Everette, and Ramsey Armstrong, Methodist ministers also from Alabama, moved into the area with a small group of additional settlers and purchased adjoining tracts. By 1876 J. T. Armstrong had built a general merchandise store. In 1878 a post office opened in the community. It was called Irene, a name suggested by one of the Armstrong brothers, reportedly to honor his daughter. A one-room school was built in Irene in the late 1870s, and four businesses operated locally by 1884. In 1896 the community had a population of 100 and ten businesses, including a drugstore, two mill-gin operations, and two carpenters. In 1903 the International-Great Northern Railroad extended its tracks through the community. Through its subsidiary, the Smith Land and Improvement Company, it bought and sold lots in Irene and replaced many existing frame structures with brick buildings. Between 1900 and the mid-1920s the population of the community increased from 132 to 400, a bank was organized, a locally owned water system was established, and the Missouri Pacific line took over operation of the tracks. Irene was incorporated in 1915 but later became unincorporated. From 1930 to the mid-1950s the town reported a population of 267, and its number of businesses decreased from fifteen to ten. By the late 1960s only 100 persons lived in Irene, and the railroad tracks had been removed. Irene reported a population of 160 from the mid-1970s to 2000. In 2000 it reported four businesses.