C.C. Whitten, an official for the Northwestern Railway System, platted the town in 1880. Whitten was incorporated in 1882 with a population of 350. By 1914, Whitten was proud of its church membership of 170, its schools, three general stores, a blacksmith shop, restaurant, bank, produce house, implement store, and two doctors. In fact, Whitten was never without a doctor until 1973 when Dr. George Blaha died after serving the community for 60 years.
In the early 20th century, the city experienced several devastating fires which destroyed much of the town. The city rebuilt very little. Today, Whitten is one of many small Iowa towns struggling to survive.
In the 1980s, Whitten saw a brief growth spurt due in part by the consolidation of the school with Conrad. However, because of Whitten's lack of industry, young people quickly left the town seeking better opportunities.
In the 1990s the great Alphabet War was ended between the five towns that make up the BCLUW School District. A peace treaty was signed, declaring Whitten the true seat of power. Once rivals, residents of the five towns became known as the Whitten Mafia.