No one is quite sure what the word 'Wagin' actually means but it is likely that it either means 'the place where emus watered' or is a variation of 'wedge-an' an Aboriginal word for 'emu'.
The first European explorer through the area was John Septimus Roe, the Surveyor General, who in 1835 reached Mount Hugel (which he named after the German scientist, Baron Hugel) which lies south of the present town.
There was little development of the region until the arrival of the railway in 1889. Between 1835 and 1889 a few settlers eked a simple living by cutting sandalwood and shepherding small flocks of sheep. Land was granted to pastoralists in the Wagin area from the late 1870s onwards.
The town came into existence as a result of the construction of the Great Southern Railway which was completed in 1889. By 1898 Wagin had been proclaimed a town and by 1906 it had become well established as a major service centre for the surrounding area.