Known since Spanish times, coal mining in this area of the Rio Grande above Laredo dates to the early 19th century. Coal was floated down river on barges or hauled overland until the Pecos and Rio Grande Railroad was constructed by Alexander C. Hunt to reach the coal mines upriver.
Welsh mining engineer David Darwin Davis discovered coal veins in Webb County. Davis was named superintendent of the Cannel Coal Company in 1888, with headquarters in the new town of Cannel. By 1895, the mining operations were fully functional. Many miners came from Mexico, arriving between 1897 and 1900. The town underwent rapid growth during the boom years of 1900-1910 and added a general store, barbershops, restaurants, rooming houses, a meat market, and bakery. The town's name changed to Darwin about 1900 when Davis was notified another Texas town had a post office with the name of Cannel.
By 1920 Darwin was in decline. Though the town of Dolores had a more modern mine, many industries replaced coal with petroleum. By 1930, the town was nearly closed down. A few remnants of the town are visible including a mine dump, and the Darwin Cemetery.