The settlement was probably named for the cottonwood trees in the area, and it developed around Cottonwood Missionary Baptist Church. After a series of open camp meetings was held in August 1874, area residents decided to construct a log building to serve as a church. By the early 1900s a rural school operated in the area. It continued through the 1930s and served farming families. By the mid-1940s the school was consolidated into the Glen Rose district. The church continued to operate throughout the twentieth century, and Cottonwood maintained a stable population of twenty-four from 1970 through 2000. Source: Handbook of Texas Online.