Baird, at the junction of Interstate Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 283 in north central Callahan County, was established when the Texas and Pacific Railway came through in 1880. It was named for railroad surveyor and engineer Matthew Baird. The community was a division point on the railroad, with a depot, roundhouse, and repair shops. It replaced Belle Plain as county seat in 1883 and gained most of the former county seat's population. New arrivals increased the population to 1,200 by the mid-1880s. The post office, established as Vickery in 1881, was renamed Baird in 1883. A fire that started in S. L. Robinson's store, where the cast of Golden's Opera Company was preparing a show for the residents, did not stop the town's progress in 1884, nor did a tornado in 1895. Baird was incorporated in 1889. W. E. Gilliland began publishing the Baird Star, a weekly newspaper in 1887. The hanging of Alberto Vargas in 1907 for the murder of Emma Blakley was Baird's only legal execution. Around 1910 a runaway train in the night precipitated a spectacular three-locomotive pile-up at the Baird depot. The population was 1,502 in 1904 and peaked in 1929 at 3,000, then declined to 1,810 by 1941; it was 1,737 in 1988 and 1,658 in 1990. By 2000 the population was 1,623. Industries have included gins, an oil refinery, flour mills, and a feed mill. The county hospital is in Baird, and the town is the center for local oilfield supplies and ranching.