Born August 14, 1860 at Murphy, NC, John M. Taylor is the second son of James Taylor and Addie Manchester. The elder Taylor, James, was the representative of the eastern band of North Carolina Cherokees and removed with his family to the Cherokee Nation in 1880. He assisted the Cherokee Nation to defeat the suit brought by the eastern band before the Supreme Court of the United States.
John was sent to school at the public institutions of the Cherokee Nation until his fifteenth year, after which he spent three years at Louden College, East Tennessee. Afterward, he joined a party of engineers under Colonel M.H. Templeton on a government surveying expedition in North Carolina. For three years he continued in this employment, until 1880, when he moved to Chouteau, Cherokee Nation where he worked on a cattle ranch, remaining there one year and a half. After that he worked on a farm for two years and in 1884 began interesting himself in politics of the Cherokee Nation. In 1885 he became a practicing lawyer.
When the United States courts were opened in Indian Territory, Mr. Taylor was admitted to practice and was the first Indian by blood appointed United States Commissioner, which was conferred upon him by Judge Isaac Parker. In November 1890, he was appointed postmaster of Claremore, Indian Territory, and later became mayor of that city. He was also a U.S. Deputy Marshal as well as assistant prosecuting attorney and deputy sheriff of Cooweescoowee District, Cherokee Nation. His father remained in North Carolina where he owned over 22,000 acres of land and was very influential in that part of the country.