Elisha Baxter, Governor

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Elisha Baxter, Governor's Geni Profile

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Elisha Baxter

Birthplace: Rutherford County, North Carolina, United States
Death: May 31, 1899 (71)
Batesville, Independence, Arkansas, United States
Place of Burial: Batesville, Independence County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William McDowell Baxter, Sr. and Catherine Cassandra Baxter
Husband of Harriet Newell Baxter
Father of Millard Patton Baxter
Brother of Elizabeth "Betsy" Herrill; Judge John Baxter; Esther McDowell Durham and George W. Baxter
Half brother of James Peter Baxter; Joseph Baxter; Thomas Jefferson Baxter; Andrew Baxter; William Baxter, Jr and 1 other

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About Elisha Baxter, Governor




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


Baxter was born in 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 strongly opposed his appointment, and Baxter resigned his appointment.

Baxter ran a successful mercantile business in Rutherford County with his brother-in-law Spenser Eaves.


In 1852, Baxter moved to Arkansas and opened a mercantile business that soon failed. Baxter joined the Whig party and was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1854. He studied law and, in 1856, was admitted to the Arkansas bar. He was reelected to the House in 1858 and served two terms for 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) and served as colonel of that regiment.

He was appointed as Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in the Reconstruction government in 1864. The state legislature elected him and Andrew Hunter to the US Senate in 1868, but he was not seated due to disenfranchisement of the southern states. From 1868 to 1872, he served as a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court.

In 1872, Baxter was elected Governor of Arkansas over Joseph Brooks in a controversial election that led to the Brooks-Baxter War. The "Brooks–Baxter War" was a factional dispute, 1872–74 that culminated in an armed confrontation in 1874 between factions of the Arkansas Republican Party over the disputed 1872 election for governor. 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. The victor in the end was the "Minstrel" faction led by carpetbagger Elisha Baxter over the "Brindle Tail" faction led by Joseph Brooks, which included most of the scalawags. The dispute weakened both factions and the entire Republican Party, enabling the sweeping Democratic victory in the 1874 state elections.

During his term a new constitution was formed which shortened his term and returned voting rights to ex-Confederates. Baxter declined to accept the 1874 nomination for governor and was the last Republican governor to be elected in Arkansas until Winthrop Rockefeller in 1967.

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

Family life

Baxter married Harriet Patton, and they had three sons and three daughters. Baxter was a brother of federal judge John Baxter, and an uncle of Wyoming territorial governor George W. Baxter.

Death and legacy

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

Baxter County, Arkansas was named after Elisha Baxter.

Tenth Governor of Arkansas, 1873-1874. The 1872 gubernatorial election was between two Republicans, Baxter and Joseph Brooks. Baxter won the official count, but Brooks contested the outcome. After Baxter was inaugurated, a circuit judge ruled that Brooks had been elected and was the rightful governor. Skirmishes erupted between the two camps in what was known as the Brooks-Baxter War. At least fifty deaths occurred during the conflict. President Grant ultimately intervened and sided with Baxter. The Brooks forces disbanded, leaving Baxter to complete his term. A new state constitution in 1874 brought about the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas, and the end of Baxter's political career. (B. Newman)* Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy: Jan 4 2019, 15:07:45 UTC

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Elisha Baxter, Governor's Timeline

September 1, 1827
Rutherford County, North Carolina, United States
May 31, 1899
Age 71
Batesville, Independence, Arkansas, United States
Batesville, Independence County, Arkansas, United States