Joseph Workman Dwyer, of Raton, Colfax County, New Mexico, settled on the Una de Gato Ranch in 1877, where he was very largely interested in the breeding and raising of cattle, sheep and horses, and was the owner and manager of large landed and stock interests.
He was born at Coshocton, Ohio, October 6, 1832. His father, Thomas Dwyer, was born in Montgomery county, Maryland, in 1802, but when two years of age emigrated with his mother's family to Ohio, his father having died a year previously. They were of the old Irish Catholic stock that made the first Maryland settlement. Joseph's mother, nee Nancy Workman, was born near Cumberland, Maryland, in 1809. She, with her family, they being of the Dunkard sect of religion, moved with a colony to Ohio in 1811. Thomas Dwyer and Nancy Workman were married in 1827. He died at the age of eighty-two years, and she died at the age of seventy-four years.
Joseph W. Dwyer, the subject of this sketch, worked on a farm until fifteen years of age, and up to that time he had had the advantages only of the winter schools, as he never attended a school during the summer months. He was a clerk for a time in a dry-goods store, afterward entering the printing-office of Joseph Medill, now the editor of the Chicago Tribune, to learn the printer's trade, this being the first newspaper venture of this now celebrated man. It was a small country weekly paper, published at Coshocton, a Whig in politics. After Mr. Medill moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to start the Daily Forest City, young Dwyer returned to the dry-goods business, as a merchant on his own account. He subsequently purchased Medill's old newspaper at Coshocton, and conducted the same as editor and proprietor for ten years. After President Lincoln's inauguration he appointed Mr. Dwyer Postmaster of that city, but before entering upon the duties of that office the latter was summoned to Washington by Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, in whose office he acted as assistant to Secretary Chase's private secretary. After several months of such service Mr. Dwyer was promoted to the position of Chief of the Commissary Division of the Treasury Department, where, in control of sixty clerks, he audited all the accounts of commissaries of the army during the rebellion, or until September, 1864, when he was appointed by President Lincoln United States Pension Agent at Columbus, Ohio, a new district. He served as Pension Agent until 1869. Mr. Dwyer has letters from all his superior officers, stating that he had disbursed over $2,000,000 and accounted for every dollar of it. As a United States Pension Agent he was obliged to give bonds of $1,000,000.
After President Grant's inauguration Mr. Dwyer was transferred to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue office at Washington, where he was placed in charge as Chief of Supervisors of Internal Revenue. His principal duties were to look after and direct all their operations, and make frequent visits to their districts. At his own request he was relieved from that position and assigned to the district composed of Northern Ohio and the State of Indiana, resigning the latter office to take charge of the Washington business of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad Company in 1871. His principal object was to promote the opening of what has since been known as the Oklahoma territory. The railroad company had a large land subsidy in that country, contingent on the extinguishment of the Indian title. They had urged Congress for many years to open up this country to settlement, so that when a railroad was completed through it it would have traffic patronage for its support, as well as to get the lands due as subsidies for its building. The bill passed the House at one time, but could not be passed in the Senate. At another session it passed the Senate, but could not be passed in the House. Mr. Dwyer conceived the project of taking all the members of Congress to that country, and there demonstrate to them what a magnificent country was lying idle and in the control of the Indians, who were making such use of it as only such a population is in the habit of doing. He was able to demonstrate to them that these lands could be sold for the benefit of the Indians, and would make them the richest people on the face of the earth. After several visits and consultations with the Chamber of Commerce and the principal business men of St. Louis, it was determined by the St. Louis people that Senators and members of Congress should be invited to attend a convention in that city for the purpose of discussing cheap water-ways to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to celebrate the opening of through travel by rail from St. Louis to Galveston. They were requested to answer direct to Mr. Dwyer at Washington, if the invitation was accepted. About 250 Senators and members accepted, and met at St. Louis, from there making the trip not only to Galveston, but also to New Orleans. Nothing came of the efforts to open the country to settlement, at that time, but the Eads jetties were built, as a result of the examination of the river from New Orleans to the Gulf made by the Congressmen, when Captain Eads, who accompanied the excursion, was able to demonstrate the feasibility of the scheme to deepen the channel by the construction of the jetties.
After the failure to open the Oklahoma country at this time, we next find Mr. Dwyer as a member of a commission appointed by President Grant to examine the Central Pacific Railroad and all its branches from Ogden to San Francisco. Connected with him in this commission was Captain Brown, of the navy, and Eugene Sullivan, a banker of San Francisco. They traveled over the entire system by daylight, examining bridges, culverts and each and every mile of track, so that they were enabled to report to the President that the company had fully complied with all the requirements, and had fully earned the subsidies of bonds and lands voted them by Congress. During his official service with Secretary Chase, as Chief of Commissary Accounts, as agent for the railroad companies and while on several special and confidential missions, Mr. Dwyer was thrown with and had acquaintance and correspondence with the public men of that day. He has probably the largest bound collection in existence of autographic letters from public men addressed to himself, enough to keep a good reader industriously at work an entire day in perusing them. Among them is a letter from Secretary of State Fish, which he prizes most, commending him for investigating and making reports regarding the fishers' dispute between this country, England and Canada. He was a frequent confidential messenger between Secretary Chase and President Lincoln while in the Secretary's office.
Mr. Dwyer left the public service in 1875, returning to his birthplace, Coshocton, Ohio, to look after his landed and manufacturing interests there. He sold his possessions in 1877, and invested in ranches in New Mexico. His ranch on the Una de Gato river is one of the best known in the Territory of New Mexico. During the time he was engaged in the stock business, when he was managing 12,000 sheep, 27,000 head of cattle and 1,000 horses, he found time to engage in politics. Always a Republican, he attended the first township, county and State convention of that party in Ohio, and aided in organizing and crystallizing all the anti-slavery elements into one aggressive party. At the first State convention in Ohio, he met at Columbus for the first time, as young men who were just entering the political field, such men as John Sherman, James A. Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, General Charles Grosvenor, etc., with whom he always retained an intimate friendship. For several years he was a member of the State Republican Committee of Ohio, and was also a chairman of the executive campaign committee. He has attended every national Republican convention since 1866 but two, and attended the inauguration of every Republican President except Garfield. In the campaign of 1886 he received the unanimous nomination of the Republican party of New Mexico as a candidate for delegate to Congress, but was defeated, the Territory being Democratic. He has also acted for many years as a member of the Republican Territorial Committee and for a time as its chairman. Mr. Dwyer has served as a member of the Board of County Commissioners of Colfax county, as president of the Board of Penitentiary Directors of the Territory, president of the Northern New Mexico Stock Association, president of the Territorial Stock Association, and was recently elected Mayor of the town of Raton, where he had removed from his ranch, twelve miles distant, in 1893. For many years while residing on his ranch his nearest neighbor was six miles distant, but he was never lonesome, his friends and his books preventing him from being so. Mr. Dwyer is not now engaged in business, having disposed of his stock interests, including among others the largest and finest herd of pedigreed Jersey cattle in the Western country. He has done much in introducing fine stock in the Territory. He is now largely interested in town property in Raton, and has an addition to the town called the Boulevard. A part of this addition is a beautiful park, so elevated as to command one of the prettiest and most picturesque views in the mountain range.
October 21, 1858, Mr. Dwyer was united in marriage with Emma A. Titus, a daughter of John G. and Emma (Deuman) Titus, natives of New York. Of their three children, one son, David G., is the only one now living. He was born April 4, 1867, and is unmarried. Mr. Dwyer has never belonged to but one secret society. He is a thirty-second degree Scottish-rite Mason. He was made a Master Mason at Coshocton in 1853 and a Sir Knight in Cypress Commandery, Zanesville, Ohio, in 1857. He is the oldest Master Mason and Sir Knight in New Mexico. He is also a charter member of the blue lodge, Royal Arch chapter and the commandery of Raton, New Mexico.