In the spring of 1882 Ebenezer Hanks, Ebenezer McDougall, Joseph Sylvester, Charles Gould, and Samuel Gould moved with their families from Washington County to the junction of the Fremont and Muddy rivers in what is now eastern Wayne County. This early settlement in what was known as Graves Valley-a name applied to the area by John Wesley Powell survey expedition member Walter Graves, who had mapped the region- developed into the community of Hanksville.
In the summer of 1882 the General Land Office let contracts for the surveying of townships along the Fremont River from Capitol Reef eastward to Hanksville. These surveys were completed by the spring of 1883, allowing the earliest settlers to file and establish orderly land claims.
The small community developed quickly; postal service from Green River was established in 1883 with a delivery three times a week. The mail was carried by pony express and the rider would make the 110-mile round trip in two days. The community's name was changed to Hanksville in 1885, and by 1890 twenty families had moved to the valley and maintained permanent residences there.