First settled in 1853 by D.F. Byles, Elma was later named for Union soldier Elmer Brown. The city of Elma was incorporated on March 22, 1888. Lies within the Chehalis River Valley in Eastern Grays Harbor County, about 30 miles West of Olympia and 40 miles East of the Pacific coast.

Elma has historically served as the commercial center serving the East Grays Harbor County agricultural and timber industries, which even today serve as mainstays to the local economy. Recent years, though, have seen the Elma area economy become increasingly influenced by increasing numbers of commuters and retirees choosing to live in Elma, as well as by increasing numbers of commercial and industrial enterprises.

The Elma School District has four schools. Elma Elementary School serves children in an Early Childhood Program, as well as kindergarten through 5th grade. Elma Middle School consists of 6th grade through 8th grade students; Elma High School houses 9th through 12th grade, and the East Grays Harbor High School provides alternative education. The mascot for Elma High School and Middle School is an eagle. Their colors are blue and white. The mascot for East Grays Harbor High School is a Gryphon. Their colors are Black and Turquoise.

Elma High School also participates in the Running Start program, which gives grade 11, and 12 students the opportunity to take college level classes for college credit via Grays Harbor College (Aberdeen, WA), and Washington State University (Pullman, WA) In terms of early childhood development programs, there are several daycares, a co-op preschool, and a Head Start facility.

Elma is a great place to live and do business.