Leakey, the county seat of Real County, is on the Frio River southwest of the confluence of the East and West branches at the intersection of Farm roads 336, 337, and 1120 and U.S. Highway 83, in the southeastern part of the county. Archeological excavations in the Frio Canyon and the surrounding region reveal Paleo-American, Archaic, and Neo-American occupations. In the historic period Lipan Apaches, Comanches, and Tonkawas inhabited or traversed the area. Anglo-Americans arrived in 1856, when John Leakey, for whom the town was later named, his wife Nancy, and five others settled near the site at springs that were later known as Leakey Springs. Shingles and lumber were produced from the abundant cypress trees lining area streams, which were processed at water-powered sawmills along the Frio. In 1883 A. G. Vogel moved a post office to the settlement from Floral, two miles north, and opened the town's first store. A Methodist church was erected in 1886. In 1884 Leakey became the county seat of Edwards County. The previous county seat was Bullhead, which later became Vance and is now in western Real County. Leakey remained county seat until 1891, when the government was moved to Rocksprings. When Real County was organized in 1913, Leakey was elected the county seat, although the town was not incorporated until June 11, 1951.
Although lumbering, freighting, and cultivating cotton and corn were initially important to the local economy, these activities were eventually superseded by ranching, and in particular the raising of Angora goats; tourism also provided an increasingly significant source of revenue. In 1904 Leakey was estimated to have 318 residents, though this figure was down to 150 by 1926. Estimates climbed to 700 in 1931 but dropped back to 150 two years later. Following these fluctuations, estimates show a steady increase to a peak of 762 in 1956, followed by a decline to 468 by 1982. The population was 399 in 1990 and 387 in 2000.