Baylor boys were two Texans a fellow did not want to cross.
Of course, like most Texans of the 19th century, they weren’t actually
born in the Lone Star state. John R. Baylor was born in Paris–Paris,
Kentucky–on July 20, 1822. He moved to Texas in 1840, living with
an uncle near LaGrange.
George W. Baylor was born at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (now
Oklahoma) on August 24, 1832. He got to Texas as soon as he could,
which was in 1845.
The elder Baylor distinguished himself in politics, the practice
of law, Indian fighting and as a Confederate officer during the
Civil War. Younger brother George didn’t ever read the law, though
he did serve one term in the Texas legislature. He had a more notable
career as a rebel soldier, Texas Ranger and writer of articles.
“John R. Baylor was a large, brawny man, tall and muscular, and...must
have been physically very strong,” wrote one man who got to see
Baylor in action, Norman G. Kittrell.
In his quirky 1921 book, “Governors Who Have Been and Other Public
Men of Texas,” Kittrell set out one story not often told about John
R. Baylor. It happened in Huntsville
in 1865 right after the Civil War.
Texans who had fought for the Confederacy were coming home worn
out, hungry and certainly not over-dressed. Several thousand battle-hardened
former rebels were passing through Huntsville
when one of them had an idea that spread quickly through their ranks:
The state prison had manufactured uniforms for them while they were
serving the south. Perhaps they had some cotton cloth they had not
used. And maybe the returning soldiers could get a change of clothes,
courtesy of the prison.
“The [prison’s] financial agent was a nervy old fellow, and refused
to surrender any of the cloth that was in his keeping,” Kittrell
wrote, “and the crowd opened fire on the building and into the doors,
but fortunately hurt no one.”
That’s when Baylor, late a colonel and for a time governor of the
Confederacy’s Arizona Territory, went into action.
Wearing a long linen duster, Baylor walked to the front of the prison
building and addressed the former soldiers. He told them they had
fought valiantly in the war and should not tarnish their record
by seizing public property from their own state.
Baylor’s speech was eloquent and sensible. Unfortunately, the soldiers
still wanted the cloth. When Baylor realized his words had not had
their intended effect, he put his big hand on the ivory-handled
butt of the six-shooter he wore on his hip and said a few more words.
“I’ll be damned if you rob your state,” he said. “I will protect
Possibly some of the men in the crowd knew that during the war Baylor
had shot and killed a newspaper editor in Mesilla, New Mexico when
the journalist refused to retract a statement he had made in print
about Baylor. Or maybe it was the cold look in his clear eyes.
Some of the men in the mob may also have been doing a little math.
Baylor had only six rounds in his revolver. Plenty more men than
that stood in front of the prison. The arithmetic problem none of
the men apparently could solve was which six men Baylor would have
time to shoot before they could overpower him.
As Kittrell later wrote, “The state was not robbed.”
In opting not to see if Baylor was bluffing, the former soldiers
made a good decision.
Sixteen years later, Baylor shot and killed a man in Uvalde
over a “difficulty,” as the 19th century press often termed disagreements
between two Texans.
“We do not
know much about...Baylor,” one newspaper wrote after that 1881 killing,
“but he is represented to us as a man who does not seek a fight,
but who is always ready to defend himself whenever occasion requires.”
Baylor spent the rest of his life on his ranch at Montell,
He died on Feb. 8, 1894. Brother George, who as a ranger captain
in January 1881 had the distinction of participating in the last
fight between the state officers and hostile Indians, lived until
Neither of the Baylors had ever been crowded by someone who lived
to tell about it.
© Mike Cox
April 23, 2015 column
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