Sheriff Abraham G. Byler
Term: 1873 - 1884 (1st term)

ABRAHAM G. BYLER
1829-1892

Baxter County's first sheriff and collector was Abraham G. Byler, who served from 1873 to 1884, and again from 1890 to 1892.

He was killed while attempting to make an arrest. J.D. Alley, former Baxter county clerk, submitted the following article to The Baxter Bulletin, telling of the episode.

 

 

 

Baxter County's First Sheriff Was Killed in Gunfight

Written by J.D. Alley

A.G. Byler, one of the early settlers of Baxter County and its first sheriff, came to Arkansas from Tennessee about the year of 1854, settling on a farm approximately four miles east of Mountain Home on the Tracy Ferry Road. The place is still known as the Sheriff Byler farm.

Byler was a farmer and a tanner and during the Civil War tanned hides for the government. He was a staunch supporter of the Southern cause and during the war drilled a company of soldiers for the Confederate Army.

When Baxter County was established in 1873, Byler was elected sheriff. He was elected and served four consecutive terms, following which he was elected Baxter County's representative to the state legislature. After serving two terms in the legislature he was again elected sheriff of the county. While serving this second tenure he was killed in line of duty when attempting to make an arrest on June 15, 1892.

The background leading up to the event is still recalled by some natives of the county: S.E. Denton was accused of killing John Twiggs but, upon trial, Denton was acquitted. Mr. Twiggs, father of John, threatened Denton's life and Denton felt he needed to carry firearms for protection. Sheriff Byler, having the authority, permitted him to carry a weapon.

Becoming incensed at Sheriff Byler, Twiggs harbored a man by the name of Jess Roper, Roper already having been indicted by the grand jury for carrying a pistol. A warrant was issued for Roper's arrest. Sheriff Byler, believing Twiggs planned to kill him, or have him killed, took several men with him when going to make the arrest. He stationed them near the Twiggs home, instructed them to charge if they heard a shot. In going to the house he took with him only one man, Casey Livingston, father of the well-remembered Cliff Livingston.

Sheriff Byler was killed by a shot from Roper who, stationed behind an outbuilding, made his getaway on foot.

The men stationed nearby charged and a gun battle followed. Log Hopper was shot in the leg and Dr. Will Lindsey's horse was shot. Homer Coffee of Gassville is the only man now living who was in the fight.

On the following day officers went to Twiggs' home to arrest Mr. Twiggs, but he and his son John had fled.

A posse was formed and as the search progressed, the Twiggses were apprehended in an abandoned building located on the bayou east of Mountain Home. They resisted the officers and the old man was killed. Joe was shot in the arm and was held in jail for a time. It is remembered that he was released with the admonition that he was to leave the state and never return.

Throughout the years letters concerning the whereabouts of Jess Roper came from various places to relatives of Sheriff Byler but the information was never authenticated and Roper's fate was never definitely established. Some say that he was harbored until his death by friends of the Twiggs and that he died on the bayou, being buried by them secretly and not in a cemetery.

Sheriff Byler was one of the most beloved men of his time and his death was a great loss to Baxter County. He was considered a man of men - not only a fine citizen and a good officer but a Christian gentleman as well. At various times he served as Sunday School teacher, superintendent, and song leader of the Oak Grove Church, and did much to insure its perpetuation.

There are few people living in Baxter County now who can remember him, but those who do say his photograph is his true image. He was small of stature, but had the nerve and will to do his duty. It is said, however, that never did he mistreat a prisoner, and that on many occasions when a man was not able to pay his taxes, Sheriff Byler would pay them and wait for reimbursement until the property owner was in a position to repay him.

Sheriff Byler was the father of the late John B. Byler, who spent most of his life in Baxter County and died in January 1960, at the age of 95 at the home of his daughter, Mrs. J.D. Alley of Mountain Home.

(Source: Baxter County History, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2008.)