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Carole E. Christian

DWYER, THOMAS B. (1819–1896). Thomas B. Dwyer, businessman and Republican party leader, was born in Tipperary County, Ireland, on August 17, 1819. He was orphaned at age sixteen and immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, worked in Maine logging camps, and arrived on February 8, 1845, in Texas, where his brother, Irish immigrant Joseph M. Dwyer, was a merchant and landowner. Thomas Dwyer operated a store in Brazoria in 1849 and then opened stores in Quintana and Columbia. By September 1853 he had formed the successful commission-merchant partnership of Clements and Dwyer. In 1858 he sold his property in Brazoria and moved to Brenham, where he resided until his death.

Dwyer was a Unionist and supporter of Gov. Sam Houston. During the Civil War he operated a commission-merchant business, Dwyer, Randle, and Company, with partners John A. Randle and John V. Buster. In 1867 Dwyer's property was valued at $14,280. By 1868 he was operating retail and wholesale merchandising in the Dwyer-Healy partnership. In the postwar era he bought the Exchange Hotel in Brenham, made extensive real estate investments, reinvested his profits in his mercantile business, extended credit to customers, and made interest-bearing loans. These diversified business interests rapidly increased his wealth despite substantial losses in a fire in 1873. Dwyer's activities expanded to include agricultural enterprises and rural landholding. In 1896 he sold his business interests and retired with assets of about $1 million.

He became active in Texas Republican politics during the 1880s. Between 1888 and 1896 his sons, Thomas H. and William E., and his longtime political aid, Paul Fricke, held frequent Republican state and platform-committee memberships. Dwyer supported William McKinley and the gold standard. He was an opponent of fusion with the People's party and in 1894 served as a liaison for the Republican "Lily White" faction in an unsuccessful attempt to conciliate Norris Wright Cuney's predominantly black wing of the party. Dwyer's nephew, San Antonio mayor Joseph E. Dwyer, was state Democratic chairman pro tem.

In 1868 Dwyer became a charter member of the nonpartisan Sons of Texas, dedicated to preserving the state's heritage, and a member of the Literary Society of Brenham. In 1877 he founded the Dwyer Reading Room and Free Library Association, forerunner of the Brenham Public Library, one of the earliest libraries in the state. He was a Catholic and aided Catholic missionaries and Galveston bishop Claude Marie Dubuis's establishment of St. Mary's parish in Brenham (1870). Before St. Mary's Church was constructed, Catholic services were held in Dwyer's home. Dwyer led a group of Brenham residents who opposed the 1880 school tax as unconstitutional; he obtained an injunction on its collection but lost in the case of Hackworth v. Dwyer (1882), his appeal to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the tax.

Dwyer married Bridget Theresa Healy in 1854, and they had seven children. Bridget died on November 28, 1872. In 1874 Dwyer married Mrs. Sarah Diller. On January 29, 1896, he was murdered by four robbers at his office in Brenham. Local blacks held public meetings protesting the murder, and three of the murderers were executed. Dwyer's funeral was held at the Presbyterian church, and he was buried in Prairie Lea Cemetery in Brenham.

Brenham Banner Press, Centennial edition, March 2, 1936. James A. Creighton, A Narrative History of Brazoria County (Angleton, Texas: Brazoria County Historical Commission, 1975). Thomas Dwyer Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Arthur A. Grusendorf, The Social and Philosophical Determinants of Education in Washington County, Texas, from 1835 to 1937 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1938). San Antonio Express, January 30, 31, 1896. Washington County Scrapbook, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Carole E. Christian, "DWYER, THOMAS B.," accessed May 26, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdw02.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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