Hawes was the elder son of Charles Taylor Hawes and Martha Tibbetts Boardman. Born in Clifton Springs, New York, he was raised in Bangor, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1911 where he was "editor of The Quill and a devoted student of the classics". He was a graduate student at Harvard for one year, on the staff of The Youth's Companion to 1920, and associate editor of The Open Road to his death in 1923. On June 1, 1916, Hawes married Dorothea Cable of Northampton, Massachusetts, the youngest daughter of the novelist George Washington Cable and Louise Stewart Bartlett. At that time he lived in Cambridge and worked for The Youth's Companion.