White Pigeon was incorporated by European Americans in 1837. The United States Land Office, located in downtown White Pigeon, is the oldest surviving U.S. Land office in the state of Michigan. Following the cession of Native American lands in this area by leaders of regional tribes, the U.S. government sold more than 250,000 acres of land in Michigan for $1.25 an acre in the 1830s to settlers of Western Michigan.
The town was named after the local Potawatomi chief Wahbememe, which means White Pigeon. He was buried in the town, with a memorial stone marking his grave. This gravesite is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
According to legend, while he was at the gathering of the chiefs in Detroit, Wahbememe heard plans to attack the settlement which is now White Pigeon. The chief was a friend to the white settlers and did not want to see harm come to them, so he set out on foot and ran almost 150 miles to the settlement to warn the people. After running that long distance and giving his warning, he collapsed and soon died from exhaustion.