Elisha Baxter

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Elisha Baxter
10th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 6, 1873 – November 12, 1874
Lieutenant Volney V. Smith
Preceded by Ozra Amander Hadley
as Acting Governor
Succeeded by Augustus Hill Garland
Personal details
Born September 1, 1827
Rutherford County, North Carolina
Died May 31, 1899(1899-05-31) (aged 71)
Batesville, Arkansas
Political party Republican

Elisha Baxter (September 1, 1827 – May 31, 1899) was the tenth Governor of the State of Arkansas.


Baxter was born in Forest City, Rutherford County, North Carolina. He sought and obtained an appointment as a cadet to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Baxter's father, William Baxter, strongly opposed his appointment, and Baxter resigned it.[1]

Baxter returned home and became a businessman. He ran a successful mercantile business in Rutherford County with his brother-in-law Spenser Eaves.


In 1852, Baxter moved to Batesville, Arkansas and opened a mercantile business with his brother, Taylor A. Baxter. It soon failed. Baxter joined the Whig party and was elected as mayor of Batesville in 1853. One year later he was elected as state representative from Independence County to the tenth general assembly.[2] He studied law and, in 1856, was admitted to the Arkansas bar. He was reelected to the House in 1858 and served two terms from Independence County, leaving in 1860.

At the start of the American Civil War, Baxter refused to fight for the Confederacy and attempted to flee to Missouri. He was captured and tried for treason. He escaped north and joined the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry (USA), serving as colonel of that regiment.

In 1864, after Arkansas was occupied by Union troops, Baxter was appointed as Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. In 1868 the Reconstruction-era state legislature elected him and Andrew Hunter to the US Senate, but he was not seated. There was controversy in Congress due to the southern states' refusal to extend the franchise to freedmen. From 1868 to 1872, Baxter served as a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court.

In 1872, Baxter was elected as a Republican Governor of Arkansas over Joseph Brooks in a controversial election that resulted in the Brooks-Baxter War.[3] Baxter was physically removed from the governor's office by Brooks and state militia loyal to him. Baxter was not restored to the governorship until a month later.

During his term, state delegates passed a new constitution that shortened the term of the governor and restored the franchise to ex-Confederates. Baxter declined to accept the 1874 nomination for governor. Due to the disenfranchisement of most blacks in the 1890s, the Republican Party was reduced in Arkansas. Democrats established a one-party state that survived into the 1960s. Baxter was the last Republican governor to be elected in Arkansas until Winthrop Rockefeller in 1967, after the Republican Party began a revival there.

After leaving office, Baxter returned to his farm near Batesville. He ran for a position in the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1878 but was unsuccessful.

Family life[edit]

In 1849 Baxter married Harriet Patton, also from Rutherford County, and together they had six children: Milliard P., Edward A., Catherine M., George E., Hattie O., and Fannie E. Baxter was a brother of federal judge John Baxter, and an uncle of Wyoming territorial governor George W. Baxter.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Baxter died in Batesville, Arkansas and is buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Batesville, Arkansas.

Baxter County, Arkansas was named after Elisha Baxter.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Elisha Baxter: I Was Born". Old State House Museum. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ Michael B. Dougan, "Tenth Governor: Elisha Baxter," in The Governors of Arkansas (University of Arkansas Press, 1981), 55.
  3. ^ "National Governors Association". Arkansas Governor Elisha Baxter. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ Charles A. Newell, Jr., "John Baxter," NCPedia, 1979. Retrieved: 1 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Profile for Baxter County, Arkansas, AR". ePodunk. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ozra Amander Hadley
Acting Governor
Governor of Arkansas
January 6, 1873 – November 12, 1874
Succeeded by
Augustus Hill Garland