Willis Whitaker, Sr., early Cass County settler and one of the largest slaveholders in Texas on the eve of the Civil War, was born about 1799 in South Carolina. He immigrated to Texas in May 1840 and settled in what is now Cass County, where he received a 640-acre grant in November 1841. He and his wife, Sarah, whom he married on September 19, 1843, had several children, among them Benjamin F. Whitaker, who later served as a member of the Texas Senate. Whitaker gradually added to his landholdings and by 1860 had 1,000 improved acres and a net worth of $100,400. He also owned 102 slaves and was thus one of the 100 largest slaveholders in the state at the time. His plantation's extensive facilities included brick slave quarters that faced a street and a brick jail with separate cells for men and women. In 1859 Whitaker's plantation produced more rye than any other in the state, 500 bushels. In 1860 it produced 2,000 bushels of corn and 150 bales of cotton. Whitaker evidently died around the time of the Civil War and was buried in Old Harrison Chapel Cemetery near Redwater in Bowie County.