Havre (HAV-er) was originally called Bull Hook Bottoms or Bull Hook Siding when first settled by the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway in 1887. The railroad became the Great Northern Railway and was renamed "Havre" after Le Havre, France in 1894 in line with other names along Montana's Hi-Line such as Glasgow, Malta, Zurich, and Devon. Havre became the county seat of Hill County (named for "Empire Builder" James J. Hill) in 1912.

Havre is an important location on BNSF's Northern Transcontinental rail line between Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and the Pacific Northwest. Many freight trains receive their federally-mandated inspections here, and many receive locomotive modifications as Havre is the site of BNSF's major locomotive facility on its transcontinental route west of Minneapolis. Locomotives are also frequently added to westward freight trains and removed from eastward freight trains as the grade stiffens west of Havre for the climb over the Continental Divide.

For the Amtrak Empire Builder, the train is a fueling stop daily between Spokane and Minot. The eastward train will be fueled during the Havre stop; The westward train is fueled prior to stopping at the Havre station.

Havre is the home of Montana State University - Northern