The community was founded long before the city was officially incorporated. The community was named in 1845, but was not incorporated until 1953. The school district (WISD) preceded incorporated municipal government, and was largely responsible for the eventual formation of the city.
Residents of Whitehouse were predominantly farmers or worked in support of agriculture until transportation innovations following World War II lead to other employment options. Many streets and subdivisions in the community are named for these early agricultural and commercial leaders.
According to oral tradition, the community was named "Whitehouse" by the railroad engineers who stopped near a white-washed community building during early settlement times. Several cherished historic resources include the various Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects located within the city. These projects, typically built with sandstone rockwork, are found throughout the city's historic Town Center.
Civic leaders established the YesterYear Celebration to educate residents about the community's history and heritage. The festival promotes historic preservation of buildings and trade skills. The festival is held on the fourth weekend each June and includes activities such as parades, carnivals, historic reenactments, pageants, and trade days. In 2007 the Yesteryear Princess was Morgan Kunzman.
Several works documenting the community's history have been published in the recent past. Shirley Smith wrote and/or edited several books including Homefolks, a collection of letters from important figures who lived in the community throughout the early 20th century. The Tri-County Leader published a series of articles by Acker Hanks called "Growing up in Whitehouse." The articles recounted Mr. Hanks' experience in the community starting in the early 1920s. The Whitehouse Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan (see Planning and Development) also included a history section. This section was based on oral history interviews from prominent Whitehouse residents such at Nancy Shahan Coats, Joe Pat Hagan, Acker Hanks, and Richard Waller. Many of these resources are available at the Whitehouse Community Library.