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.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Abigail Curlee Holbrook, "A Glimpse of Life on Antebellum Slave Plantations in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76 (April 1973). Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967).
Founders and Pioneers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Whitaker, Willis, Sr.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 07, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
August 1, 1995