A Guide to the John Robert Baylor Family Papers, 1838, 1851-1869, 1906
John Robert Baylor, Indian fighter, Civil War officer, and rancher, the son of John Walker and Sophie Marie (Wiedner) Baylor, was born at Paris, Kentucky, on July 27, 1822. At an early age he was sent to Cincinnati for an education, but after the death of his father he went to live with his uncle at Rocky Creek, south of La Grange in Fayette County, Texas. In 1840 Baylor joined a Texas volunteer army under Col. John H. Moore, but he arrived too late for the battle of Plum Creek. Two years later he joined Capt. Nicholas M. Dawson to avenge the seizure of San Antonio by Mexican general Adrián Woll but was able to avoid the subsequent Dawson Massacre. In late 1842 he returned to Fort Gibson to teach school at the Creek agency. One year later he was with his brother-in-law, James Dawson, when Dawson killed an Indian trader named Seaborn Hill. Charged as an accomplice, Baylor fled across the Red River to Texas. He married Emily Hanna at Marshall in 1844. The Baylors eventually became the parents of seven sons and three daughters.
In Texas Baylor took up farming and ranching at Ross Prairie in Fayette County. In 1851 he was elected to the state legislature, and two years later he was admitted to the bar. In September 1855 he was appointed Indian agent to the Comanches on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. He was dismissed in 1857, after accusing certain of the reservation Comanches of aiding their non-reservation-bound fellow tribesmen in raids on the frontier and feuding with his supervisor, Robert S. Neighbors. In the years that followed he traveled widely in North Texas preaching hatred of the Comanches and other Indians and attempting to have Neighbors replaced with someone more to his own liking. A man of considerable vigor and magnetism, he addressed mass meetings, organized a vigilante force of some 1,000 men, and even edited an anti-Indian newspaper, the White Man, published by H. A. Hamner at Jacksboro and later at Weatherford. In June 1860 Baylor led a band of frontiersmen in the defeat of a small party of Comanches in the battle of Paint Creek, to avenge the murder and scalping of a young white boy.
With secession and the Civil War, Baylor came as lieutenant colonel to command the Second Texas Mounted Rifles, which was ordered to occupy a chain of forts protecting the overland route between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. Baylor reached Fort Bliss in July 1861 and immediately began preparations to occupy the Mesilla valley. At Mesilla Baylor established the Confederate Territory of Arizona and proclaimed himself military governor in 1861. On December 15 of that year he was promoted to colonel.
After the war he moved to San Antonio, where in 1873 he competed unsuccessfully with Richard Coke for the Democratic nomination for governor. He dabbled in Greenback and Populist politics and in 1876, at the age of fifty-four, offered his services to the army during the Sioux War. In 1878 he moved to Montell, on the Nueces River northwest of Uvalde, and acquired a sizable ranch. He continued to be involved in violent confrontations and reputedly killed a man in a feud over livestock in the 1880s. He was not charged with murder, however, or prosecuted in any way. He died at Montell on February 6, 1894, and is buried in Ascension Episcopal Cemetery there.
Information taken from Handbook of Texas Online entry on Baylor.
Papers consist of photostats and transcripts primarily of letters written by Baylor (1822-1894), his wife, and his sister during his term as Indian agent and while he was stationed in Texas and Louisiana during the Civil War. Letters concern domestic matters, Indian affairs, and military victories and defeats. Also included are letters written while Baylor was a member of the Texas Legislature (1853).
John Robert Baylor Family Papers, 1838, 1851-1869, 1906, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers