Jack" Baker 1846-1880
John Baker "Texas
Jack" Omohundro was born at Pleasure Hill, Virginia, on July 26,
1846. He was one of thirteen children born to J. B. and Catherine Baker
Omohundro. His father descended from the Powhatan tribe, and Jack was
always proud of his Indian heritage. He entered school at the usual time,
but like many boys of that era, he preferred hunting and fishing to book
learning. At a young age he became an expert rider and marksman.
At 15, he headed to Texas, where he wanted to become a cattleman. He got
a job at a ranch, where he became very skilled with a rope. But then the
Civil War broke out and Jack wanted to fight. He returned to Virginia
to enlist in the army but he was too young. So he hired on as a civilian
courier for the Virginia Militia, working for Major General John Buchanan
Floyd. He eventually took on scouting duties as well.
When Major Floyd died, Jack was able to formally enlist in Company G,
5th Regiment Virginia Cavalry, under General J. E. B. Stuart. He acted
as a scout and performed admirably. He was present at the battles of Todds
Tavern and Mitchells Shop. He was injured in the Battle of Trevilian
After the war was over, Jack returned home. But he was restless and soon
left again for Texas. He was sidetracked for a year, when the ship he
was sailing across the Gulf of Mexico got caught up in a storm. The ship
grounded on the Florida coast. Jack stayed there and hunted and fished
and taught school. He struck out again for Texas, but this time on land.
When he arrived he got a job on a large ranch. It was about this time
that people started calling him Texas Jack. It was when he drove a herd
of cattle to a meat market in Tennessee. When asked where he was from
and what his name was, the grateful crowd there put Texas and Jack together
and called him Texas Jack. The name stuck with him the rest of his short
Jack often found himself defending the ranch from Indians and rustlers.
Some Comanches attacked the ranch one day and tried to drive off some
horses and cattle. Jack shot several of them before they gave up. One
time he rescued a small boy, whose parents had been killed by Indians.
He also drove several herds of cattle up the famous Chisholm Trail.
In 1869, he happened to be in Fort Hays, Kansas where he met California
Joe Milner, who was General Custers chief of scouts. He also met
Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody there. On the same trip, Jack found
himself at Fort McPherson at Cottonwood Springs. There was plenty of work
there for him, as the Indians constantly harassed the fort. There were
also buffalo hunts. He liked the area so well, he moved there. The army
hired him as a hunter, guide, and scout.
One time, some bandits were regularly sneaking into the fort and making
off with various goods. The army had tried to track them but never had
any luck. Jack decided he would take it upon himself to discover who they
were. He noticed some men that hung around a nearby town that spent a
lot of time gambling. He assumed the costume of a gambler and hung around
the saloons and became friendly with the suspects. They trusted Jack and
told them of their plans to rob a supply train that was coming to the
fort. They asked Jack if he would like to join them. Jack agreed. Then
under the pretense of going hunting for them, he rode off to warn the
fort. On the way back, he shot a deer for their dinner.
On the planned day, the bandits rode to the fort. Soldiers had been stationed
in hidden places around it. They waited for a prearranged signal from
Jack. Jack raised his hat and scratched his forehead. That was it! The
soldiers fired into the crowd. The bandits scrambled for cover and fired
back. The battle only lasted for a few minutes since the soldiers outnumbered
them. Some of them were killed, including the leader. The rest were taken
captive. Jack was given a fat bonus for his help in stopping the robberies.
Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack were engaged in a number of scouting and guiding
opportunities before the event that would change Buffalo Bills life.
Writer Ned Buntline, the dime novelist, arrived at the fort. He wanted
Buffalo Bill to come back East with him to perform. Cody accepted his
offer and asked Texas Jack to go with him.
In Chicago, Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack rehearsed the lines they would
say in their first play. While there, Jack met Josephine Morlacci, the
famous ballerina. She had introduced the Can Can to America. She was also
hired to be in the play and helped Jack with his lines. He fell instantly
in love with her.
The play opened on December 16, 1872. The play was enormously successful
even though Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack continuously flubbed their lines.
The play had Indians, outlaws, beautiful girls, horses, and the two famous
scouts. From Chicago, the play went on to St. Louis, Cincinnati, Rochester,
Albany, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Norfolk, Harrisburg,
and finally Port Jervis, New York.
At the end of the season, Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack parted company with
Ned Buntline, as they felt he had skimmed off too much of the profits.
The two went back to guiding hunting trips. But the following year they
returned to New York, where they signed up with a Major Burke to put together
another Wild West show. They also convinced Wild Bill Hickok to join them.
While planning the new show, Texas Jack married Josephine in Rochester,
The next three years were enormously successful. The show called Scouts
of the Plains did well everywhere it went. Jack began writing articles
for the magazine Spirit of the Times, about his various adventures.
By that time Ned Buntline had also wrote several dime novels about both
Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack and the two were becoming famous.
In 1880, Jack and his wife journeyed to Leadville, Colorado. Supposedly
he went there because the high altitude and dry climate would be good
for his failing health. Soon after his arrival, Jack joined forces with
the Tabor Light Cavalry. Tabor was the leading citizen of the town and
a wealthy mine owner. The cavalry was the local law enforcement. Josephine
opened up a dance studio for children.
But their happy life there didnt last long. In May, Jack caught
a severe cold. It grew worse and turned into pneumonia, then consumption.
Finally he died on June 28, 1880. The Tabor Opera House was used for his
funeral. He was given a military send-off by the Tabor Light Cavalry.
His friends erected a simple wooden marker. In 1908, Buffalo Bill visited
Leadville and replaced the wooden marker with a permanent granite one.
-copyright 2001 by Beth