Bays, Joseph L. (1786–1854)

By: Samuel B. Hesler

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

Joseph L. Bays, Baptist minister, was born on December 28, 1786, in North Carolina to Isaiah and Abigail (March) Bays. Isaiah Bays, a Scots-Irish nonconformist, died near Boonesboro, Kentucky, when Joseph was seven. Abigail taught her children to memorize and read from the Bible, and Joseph Bays was preaching at the age of sixteen. In Missouri, at the age of eighteen, he married Rosenia (or Roseina) Whicher; they had three children. In 1825 the family came with thirty-two others to Texas. Although Stephen F. Austin granted Bays a league and a labor of land in June 1825 and Bays preached at Moses Shipman's home the same year, he left Texas because he was hindered from preaching by the authorities. He therefore settled in Louisiana and crossed the Sabine River to preach in Texas. In 1827 he moved to the area of present San Augustine County, Texas, where he was arrested by Mexican authorities for preaching a religion other than Catholic. Bays again left Texas but again returned and lived in the area of present San Augustine County in 1833–34, then left Texas yet again on the advice of his friends. He fought several battles against Indians before 1836. He returned to Texas in 1839 and lived in Montgomery County. On July 10, 1839, he petitioned the Republic of Texas Congress for compensation for his land, but the petition was denied. In 1846 missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came through Texas, and Bays's wife and son Henry joined the Mormons. Bays petitioned the Texas legislature on April 9, 1851, for the return of his land, and this time the petition was granted. Bays died at the home of his daughter Susan DeMoss in June 1854 and was buried in Matagorda County, Texas.

James Milton Carroll, A History of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist Standard, 1923). Dan Ferguson, "Forerunners of Baylor," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 49 (July 1945). Zenos N. Morrell, Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872; rpt. of 3d ed., Irving, Texas: Griffin Graphic Arts, 1966). Daniel Shipman, Frontier Life: 58 Years in Texas (1879).
  • Religion
  • Baptist

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Samuel B. Hesler, “Bays, Joseph L.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994