On January 11, 1854 in Cass County, Texas Baker married Martha Jane Petty, and for a time he settled a bit. Martha Jane Petty was the daughter of Hubbard and Nancy Petty. However, eight months into his marriage, while out drinking with friends, he became involved in a verbal altercation with a youth named Stallcup. Baker became enraged, grabbed a whip, and beat the boy to near death. There were several witnesses to the incident, and Baker was soon charged with the crime. One of the witnesses, Wesley Bailey, was confronted by Baker at Bailey's home. Baker shot him in both legs with a shotgun, then left him lying in front of his house. Bailey died a few days later. Before he could be arrested for the murder, Baker fled to Arkansas, where he stayed with an uncle. On May 24th, 1857, Martha Jane Baker gave birth to a baby girl, Louisa Jane. On June 2nd, 1860, Martha Jane Baker died. Cullen Baker then returned to Texas, where he left his daughter with his in-laws.
Baker returned to Arkansas, but word of his crimes had spread, and a local woman named Beth Warthom was openly critical of him. He took several hickory switches to her house, and threatened to beat her. Her husband, David Warthom, began to fight with Baker, and overwhelmed him in front of the house. Beth Warthom screamed, and her husband looked her way. With his attention drawn away from Baker, he was stabbed once with a knife Baker had in his possession. Warthom died on the spot. Baker fled back to Texas, and in July, 1862, he married Martha Foster, who was unaware that he was wanted for murder. She was a daughter of William and Elizabeth Young Foster.
Baker served with the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, joining shortly after his second marriage. By 1864 he had deserted, and joined a band of men called the "Independent Rengers", which specialized in pursuing and capturing men who deserted the Confederate Army, but which more often than not took advantage of the fact that most of the men in the Arkansas and Texas areas were away at war, leaving mostly elderly men, women and children. This left the door open for acts of intimidation, rape, theft and violence for groups of well armed men like the "Independent Rangers".
After the war, he operated with a gang he organized with outlaw Lee Rames in the late 1860s, operating out of the Sulphur River bottoms near Bright Star, Arkansas, committing acts of robbery and murder. Authorities credit him officially with killing at least 30 people, though many of these no doubt were killed by his men. Unlike the romanticized versions of his exploits, reality was he killed most of them from ambush or in the back, and many with a shotgun, and he almost always had his victims outnumbered. Like many of the ex-Confederates who operated after the war, Baker was regarded as a hero by some because he opposed the Union occupation, but his record shows a merciless killer who killed anyone who angered him, regardless of their loyalties.
In March, 1866, his wife Martha died. He traveled back to Texas, and while in Boston, Texas, he became involved in an argument with several Union Soldiers. A shootout ensued, and he was shot in the arm, with him killing army sergeant Albert E. Titus. This resulted in a $1,000 reward being placed on him for his capture or death. He returned to Arkansas, and while in a saloon in Bright Star he agreed to join a mob intending to raid the farm of a local farmer named Howell Smith. Smith had hired several recently freed slaves, which was considered inappropriate by much of the local population. During the raid one of Smith's daughters was stabbed, and another clubbed, and a black man was shot and killed. Smith resisted, and a shootout ensued resulting in several mob members being wounded, including Baker being shot in the leg.
Baker, now on the run from Union authorities, went on a killing spree, during which he killed two men, W.G. Kirkman and John Salmons. Salmons had previously killed one of Baker's gang members, Seth Rames, Lee Rames brother. He also killed a local man named George W. Barron, who had previously taken part as a member of a posse hunting Baker. The gang was active in the areas of Queen City, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas during that time.
Lee Rames, recognized as the co-leader of Baker's gang, began to believe that Baker's leadership was faulty, and that eventually it would lead to the downfall of the entire gang. Lee Rames and Baker came to odds, Baker backed down, and the gang broke up. All but one gang member, "Dummy" Kirby, sided with Rames. Baker and Kirby rode to the house of Baker's in-laws in January, 1869. Unknown to him, Martha Foster's father and friends had laced a bottle of whiskey and some food with strychnine. Kirby and Baker drank and ait it, and both died from poisoning. Their bodies were then shot several times by Foster and some friends. The bodies were then taken to the US Army outpost near Jefferson, where they were placed on public display.
"He wuz mah frien' as long as he lib, and he wuz a good frien' ob de South 'cause he saved lots ob white folks frum de wrath ob de mean niggers." (sic) .
It is also interesting to note that Doc Quinn's provides an account of Cullen Baker's death at which he claims to have been present.
"I saw Colonel Baker killed. We had just arrived at his father-in-law's house and I wuz in the horse lot, about 50 yards from de house, when Joe Davis. Thomas Orr and some more men rode up."
"De Colonel wuz standin' by de chimney an did not see dem come aroun' de house. Dey killed him befo' he knew dey wuz aroun'."
Whilst Doc Quinn refers to Cullen Baker as Colonel Baker, the text from which Doc Quinn is quoted has the following inclusion, presumably included by the editor of the publication to clarify any confusion: "Note: The Col. Baker referred to was Cullen Baker, the leader of a ruthless gang of bushwhackers that operated in this (Texarkana, Arkansas) section shortly after the Civil War."
Louis L'amour, author of many western novels, wrote about Cullen Baker in several of his books. Baker only starred in one of these, however, that being The First Fast Draw. Other books by L'amour that reference Baker include Lando,one of L'amour's many novels about a feuding Tennessee family.