Incorporated in 1792, Hawley has a population of around 350. The town is divided by the Kenneth Dubuque State Forest into East Hawley and West Hawley sections. The State Forest occupies 40% of the town. The original "village" is within the State Forest, burned in a tannery fire in the mid 1800s. Hiking, fishing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing are all done in and around the forest. Leonard Bernstein is said to have composed sections of West Side Story at the Parker Farm in West Hawley. Hawley is home at various times to children's book writer Eric Carle and composer Alice Parker.