The area was settled around 1846. On May 31, 1848, Jonas Butler acquired a league of land on Highland Bayou and built a house, part of which still stood in the 1940s. Butler was followed by a group of French settlers, who established homes on the bayou. The community was originally known as Highland for its location on the bayou's high banks. Travelers used the bayou to reach Galveston until the 1870s, when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built through the settlement.
The town was renamed around 1873, when Emily Hitchcock, widow of Galveston civic leader Lent M. Hitchcock, offered a 450-foot-wide tract from Cow Gully east to the section house for a townsite if the railroad would name the community for her husband.
Hitchcock was created as a station of the railroad between Galveston and Houston in 1873 and around the turn of the 20th century became a vegetable shipping center. Local farmers shipped cattle and vegetables. A post office was established in 1884 under the name Hitchcock's, later shortened to Hitchcock. Thomas King platted the town site around 1891, and by 1892 the community reported a population of 275, two grocers, and several fruit growers and commission merchants. Farmers later marketed their vegetables through a cooperative association. A local public school opened in 1894, and by 1907 the town had two schools. In 1914 Hitchcock had a bank, a hotel, a blacksmith, three general stores, and a population of 550. The town began to decline with the end of local truck farming after 1920. Most local packing houses closed, many residents moved to find work in Texas City, and by 1925 Hitchcock's population had fallen to 350.
The settlement's economy crashed in the 1930s after insect plagues in the surrounding areas, and the area stayed impoverished until the establishment of the Camp Wallace anti-aircraft training base and the Hitchcock Naval Air Station at the beginning of World War II.
In the 1940s the Hitchcock population level remained steady because of local oil and gas development, the establishment of Camp Wallace, and Navy construction of a local blimp base for surveillance of enemy submarines HITCHCOCK NAVAL AIR STATION. The camp and base were used as discharge centers after the war, and some of those who passed through became local residents. During the postwar boom, Hitchcock developed a chamber of commerce, sewers, improved roads, natural gas service, a phone system, and multiple churches. In 1948 Hitchcock was made an independent school district. The community benefited from proximity to petrochemical industry centers at Texas City, Chocolate Bayou, and Freeport. Hitchcock's population jumped to 1,105 after 1954 and increased steadily after 1960, when the town incorporated. In 1968 Hitchcock's population reached a high of 6,954, served by thirty-six businesses. The number of residents fell during the 1970s. Hitchcock became a residential suburb with the development, only twenty minutes away, of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Apollo Space Laboratory Project at Clearwater. Hitchcock grew from 5,565 residents and twenty-five businesses in 1972 to 6,405 residents and sixty-seven businesses by 1988. The town offers a yacht basin and resort facilities and celebrates a Christmas Parade each December and a Good Ole Days Parade in August. In 2000 Hitchcock reported 214 businesses and a population of 6,386.