Branch Tanner Archer was born in Virginia to Peter Field Archer and Frances Tanner Archer. Archer’s grandfather was Colonel William Wharton Archer, who had fought in the American Revolution as had Archer’s father. As a young man, Archer had received his education at William and Mary College. He then studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before returning to Virginia to set up a medical practice. He also served several terms in the Virginia State Legislature.
Dr. Archer was involved in a duel in 1828. Newspaper reports recounted a disagreement with a relative by marriage, one Otway Crump, also a doctor, over a local case. An individual by the name of Sam Swann had reportedly been indicted for assault to kill Colonel James Clarke, of Powhatan, Virginia. Both Archer and Crump had married nieces of Colonel Clarke. Archer felt that Swann was innocent while Crump believed that Swann was guilty. Crump challenged Archer to a duel. Archer is said to have tried to dissuade Crump from from the duel, but Crump insisted on going through with it. The duel was carried out, though Virginia had enacted anti-dueling laws, and Crump was shot through the heart. Archer turned himself in to authorities, was tried and acquitted of murder, according to an article in the New Orleans Crescent of May 14, 1851.
Dr. Archer came to Texas in 1831 and soon became active in the movement to secure independence from Mexico. He presided over the meeting known as the Consultation of 1835 that was organized and held by American settlers and served as one of the early forms of government for Texas settlers. Mexico had earlier achieved its own independence from Spain only a decade before and had initially established more of a federalist type of government. Though Archer is said to have favored efforts to try and influence Mexico to remain so, in the years that followed, the government of Mexico had become more centralist under the leadership of Santa Anna. Tensions grew in the area, leading to the Texas Revolution and armed confrontations between “Texian” and Mexican forces. Archer, Stephen F. Austin and William H. Wharton were selected as commissioners to the United States to seek financial support and recruit individuals to fight for Texas independence. Hostilities between Mexico and settlers increased. Archer participated in the Battle of Gonzales in late 1835. After a series of other battles, Texas declared its independence from Mexico in March of 1836.
Archer was a representative and served in the First Texas Congress. During its second session, he was selected as speaker of the House. He also served as Secretary of War under Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar.
Archer had married the former Anna Eloise Clark on January 20, 1813. The couple had at least six children before Anna Eloise’s death in 1826. It is unknown at this time whether he ever remarried. He died of natural causes in 1856 at the age of 65 and was buried in Restwood Memorial Park in Clute, Brazoria County, Texas. His grave is next to that of William H. Wharton, and memorials were placed on both graves by the State of Texas in connection with the Texas Centennial in 1936. Formed in 1858, Archer County, near the Red River, was named for him.
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