White County dates to 1857. Two previous attempts to pull land from Habersham County to fashion a new county had failed. It was not until State Representative David T. White of Newton County lent his support to the cause that the legislature at last agreed to organize the county. In appreciation, residents named the county in White's honor. The county seat, Cleveland, is named for Colonel Ben Cleveland who fought in the Revolutionary War.
In the broad Nacoochee Valley of White County, archeologists have found remains of Gauxule, an ancient Cherokee Indian town and a site visited by Hernando de Soto. The area also houses other artifacts that researchers attribute to an ancient, unidentified race.