north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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     Elisha Baxter, born in 1827 in Rutherford County, was the tenth governor of Arkansas. Baxter County, Arkansas, takes its name from the North Carolinian turned Arkansan.

     In 1848 Baxter worked in North Carolina as a merchant with his brother- in- law and in 1849 he was married to Harriet Patton, a native of Rutherford County. In 1852 the couple moved to Batesville, Arkansas and, within a year, he opened a general store with his brother Taylor. In 1855 the business plummeted, causing Baxter to look for work elsewhere. He found a job at the Independent Balance Printing Office, where he worked part-time and studied law with H .F. Fairchild. He was admitted to the bar in 1856, and in 1859 he became partners with James Hinds.

     During the secession debate, Baxter sided with the Whigs (after the dissolution of the party he became a Democrat), and was strongly opposed to leaving the Union. He remained a Union man when the war began, and was offered the colonelcy of the First Regiment of Arkansas Union Infantry in 1862. He declined the offer due to his southern birth and the fact that he would not fight family and friends. In 1863 he and his family fled to Missouri and remained there until his capture by Confederate cavalry. In 1864 he was elected to the U.S. Senate by the legislature but was not seated.

     Baxter was sent to prison in Little Rock for treason against the Confederate States, due to his neutrality. He remained there until he was paroled and ordered to raise the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry in Batesville, given the position of Colonel. At the end of the war in the spring of 1868, he was elected the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

     In 1872 Baxter was the protagonist of the Brooks-Baxter war for the governance of Arkansas and won by 2,919 votes. He was governor for two years and, during his term, supported the return of basic rights, such as voting and financial help, to soldiers who were Confederates during the war. He retired in 1874 and took up farming and a small law practice in Batesville, where he died on May 31, 1899.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 110-111—sketch by Allen W. Trelease
Clarence W. Griffin, The History of Old Tryon and Rutherford Counties (1937)
Michael B. Dougan, Elisha Baxter entry, Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture online: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=87
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