Joseph Harrison Taylor was born on May 28, 1825, in Kentucky. By 1846 he lived in Jefferson, Illinois, where he married Nancy Flora on March 28 that same year. In 1850 the couple lived in Franklin, Illinois, where Joseph worked as a farmer. They had a one-year-old daughter named Mary. Over the next ten years the family added five more children: John R., Joseph M., Zarna A., Alvis C., and Frank B. Taylor. Sometime between 1854 and 1857 the Taylor family moved to Texas and in 1860 owned a home in Beeville located in Bee County. Joseph was a medical doctor with a real estate value of $500 and personal property of $200.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Joseph Taylor enlisted for service in the Confederate Army by July 1861 and was commissioned as a surgeon with the rank of major in the First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen. The regiment was initially commanded by Col. Henry McCulloch and given the task of protecting the Texas frontier between the Red River and the Rio Grande. In December 1861 Taylor sent a letter to politician-turned-brigadier general Louis T. Wigfall asking for help to retain the position of surgeon in the army. Although Taylor kept that rank through the remainder of 1861, after 1862 he is listed as a major. In mid-April 1862 the regiment mustered out, and Joseph Taylor enlisted in the Eighth Texas Cavalry Battalion. Major Taylor commanded the regiment from its inception until it was consolidated into the First Texas Cavalry Regiment in May 1863. Under Taylor the regiment's only action was the battle of the Nueces on August 10, 1862, near Fort Clark in Texas. After the breakup of the Eighth Texas Cavalry Battalion, Major Taylor served as a field officer in the Texas First Cavalry Battalion, State Troops under the command of Lt. Col. Devereaux D. Holland. This regiment organized in late 1863 and after six months of service mustered out in early 1864. Its primary task was to defend the Texas border. Major Taylor was on duty in Houston, Texas, as late as December 5, 1863, and signed a pay voucher on February 13, 1864. There is no further mention of military service beyond that date.
After the war, Joseph Taylor continued to work as a doctor and was living in Collinsville, Grayson County, Texas, as of November 1870, with his wife Nancy and their children. He had a real estate value of $750 and personal property value of $3,000 that year. The couple lived in Collinsville for the remainder of their lives where he worked as a local physician. Joseph Taylor died on August 24, 1891, at the age of sixty-six, and his wife Nancy followed less than a year later, passing on April 11, 1892.