JUDGE JOSEPH H. BARWISE, SR., might well be termed the father of the town of Wichita Falls and of Wichita county, for he was one of the first to recognize the eligible location now occupied by the town and was one of the organizers of the county, having lived in this vicinity for over twenty-five years. He is justly regarded among the men of mark in this part of the state, and without considering material circumstances, the life that he has lived and the character he has built up are his finest rewards and his noblest achievements during his lifetime of seventy-five years. In his individual affairs he had made and lost large sums, but the results of his enterprise and good business judgment are to be seen and will always be in evidence in the city of Wichita Falls and the surrounding country.
This well known capitalist and farmer and business promoter of Wichita Falls was born at Cincinnati, Ohio, in November, 1829, being a son of Thomas H. and Julia (Collins) Barwise. His father was born in Brooklyn, New York, but in childhood accompanied his parents in their emigration across the Alleghanies and down the Ohio river to Cincinnati, where he came to maturity. About 1841 he went to St. Charles county, Missouri, and became a successful farmer there, his home being twenty-one miles form St. Louis, between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, where he lived and died at the advanced age of eighty-six, in the year 1887, having been born in 1801. His wife was a native of Connecticut, and she had also at an early day followed the trail across the Alleghanies to Cincinnati, where she was married to her husband. She died in 1863, aged sixty-two.
Mr. Joseph H. Barwise grew up in the St. Charles county home, and, choosing farming for his life work, on arriving at manhood he went into that line of work on his own account. He came out to Texas in 1876 and was located at Dallas for three years. In 1877 for the purpose of prospecting the country he made a wagon trip into northwest Texas, along the Red river valley in particular, and on this journey crossed the Wichita river at the place where the city was afterward located. At that time he noted the favorable location for a home in this place, and he kept the situation in mind after his return to Dallas. Two years later, in 1879, he accordingly brought his family and established a home near where may now be seen the principal edifices of Wichita Falls. At that time there was just one little cabin as the germ of a settlement, and Mr. Barwise has been a witness of the town from its state of nonentity to its now flourishing condition. As settlers came in he was active in promoting the incorporation of town and county, and he, with the co-operation of Judge Seely, got up the petition for the organization of the county of Wichita, this being affected in the year 1882. One hundred and fifty names were required to be affixed to this petition, and so few were the inhabitants of the county at the time that in order to give the required length to the list the names of several dead men were entered. Soon after the county was organized Mr. Barwise was appointed county judge, and after serving out the appointment of one year was regularly elected to the office, and re-elected, serving in all seven years. He had previously made some study of law and been admitted to the bar, but he practiced almost none at all since his tastes and inclinations all led in other directions. He devoted himself most assiduously to building up the new town and was and has always been generous of his means, his time and his efforts in making this a city of prominence in North Texas. He spent and lost a fortune in erecting substantial buildings and industries. He donated half the value of his property interests toward the bonus to get the Fort Worth & Denver road to the city in 1882. During the hard times after 1893, he was compelled to sacrifice nearly all he had, but it remains to his lasting credit that his own losses never caused the loss of a cent to any of his associates. Mr. Barwise is by nature and early training a man of sturdy character and is strict and honorable in all the relations of life, and the high regard and esteem which are accorded his later years by his fellows townsmen and friends must be the source of a great deal of pleasure to him. While in the office of county judge he authorized the building of the iron bridges throughout the county, and these structures have ever since remained among the county’s best improvements.
At the present time Judge Barwise’s principal interests are in a farm of eleven hundred acres near Seymour, in Baylor county, this fine property being owned jointly by himself and son, Myron H. Barwise. The judge spends much of his time on this estate. Judge Barwise is a Mason with the Royal Arch degrees, and is a devoted member of the Wichita Falls Presbyterian church, of which he was the principal organizer and a charter member.
Judge Barwise was married in Missouri in 1852 to Miss Lucy Hansell, who was born in Manchester, Indiana. She died at Wichita Falls August 10, 1903. There are six children living from this union: Thomas H. and Marshall A. are prosperous farmers in Wichita county; Frank H. is in business in Fort Worth; Myron H. is an engineer on the Wichita Valley Railroad and also a farmer; Lucy is the wife of Judge A. H. Carrigan, of Wichita Falls, and Joseph H., Jr., is one of the attorneys for the Fort Worth & Denver Railroad, at Fort Worth. The upright and able character of the father is reflected in these worthy children, and they have proved themselves honorable and substantial members of their respective communities. Judge Barwise gave the children excellent training and a good start in life, and although their home was in a new country two of his children, Lucy and Joseph H., received splendid college educations.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 239-241.