Haines was named in honor of Francina Haines of the Presbyterian Home Missions Board. Accompanied by his friend, John Muir, S. Hall Young, was the first missionary to the area in 1879. The purpose of their trip was to scout a location for a mission and a school.
The first known meeting between white men and Tlingit took place in 1741 when a Russian ship anchored near Haines and started the fur trade in the area. In 1892, Jack Dalton established a toll road on the Tlingit trade route into the interior to cash in on gold-seekers and others heading north into Canada. Parts of the Dalton Trail are now the Haines Highway.
In 1902, ongoing border disputes between the U.S. and Canada provided the justification for an army post in Alaska. The white buildings of Fort William H. Seward still stand and are a distinctive landmark of Haines. Decommissioned in 1947, the fort was bought by a group of war veterans with hopes of creating an arts and commerce community. The buildings are now privately owned homes, accommodations, restaurants, galleries, and shops.