Daniel J. Dwyer (1850–1943)

From Inchinteskin to Anaconda:

By Richard F. Kunz
July 30, 2016

In a small village on the Beara Peninsula, a young boy born in a mining town dreamed someday of leaving his village and the mining life that was likely his destiny. He dreamed of coming to America. The potato famine waned as the spiritual emptiness in his stomach grew and he knew he was destined for better, for more, for a life in a land where opportunity was boundless and where he could make his family proud.

Daniel John Dwyer was born April 14, 1850, in Inchinteskin, Eyeries Parish, County Cork, Ireland. He was one of eleven, four of whom died young. Daniel’s father was fortunate as his father was educated and worked as a contractor building houses in Ireland as did Daniel’s older brothers. At 14 Daniel left school and was drawn into the family business in construction, but Daniel wanted more. By 1871, he was preparing himself for a journey to follow his uncles from Inchinteskin to the US. He had to convince his mother who implored him to stay in Ireland, but as the economy suffered and the Home Rule movement gained strength, as the Fenians fought the status quo and the Irish were fighting for independence, thousands were leaving to find more in the world. In 1873, Daniel finally bought a ticket and sailed for America first landing in New York, taking a train to Detroit and then a boat to Houghton Michigan where he knew the mining industry, and thus the construction industry, was strong.

Coming from construction roots, Daniel landed his first job in Houghton, Michigan, a place where thousands of Irish came to follow the mining life because that is what they knew, and their only hope for work. Ulysses S. Grant had been elected president as the economy crashed. However, the Calumet-Hecla Mining Co. in Michigan was thriving, and building was booming.

When he stepped off the boat at the Locks of St. Mary, Daniel noticed some men doing construction work on a government building and stopped to watch. In his memoirs, Daniel wrote, “Our boat stopped at the Locks at St. Mary. The government was then building. I stepped out to see the work and (a) man…noticed me looking at the men working. He asked me to go work for him.” Stepping off the boat, he landed his first job in America as a mason building foundations and applying plaster. He was soon building bigger and better, including building a house for then Congressman Jay Abel Hubble. He stayed for a time doing work for the congressman, but Montana beckoned to him. The family did not want to see him go and Congressman Hubbell told him, “I will keep the work for you if you ever was to come back.”

It was 1878, when Daniel travelled from Houghton, Michigan, to Butte, Montana. He took a train to Ogden, Utah, and then walked the last 381 mile stretch. It took him eight days on dusty roads through Utah, Idaho and Montana until he finally reached Butte on foot. It was 1878.

Daniel developed his trade as a mason and was soon busy working on buildings in Butte. He built the first two story brick building among many others and his reputation grew until he was noticed by those in prominent positions. He was finally whisked away to join the Anaconda Copper Company nearby in Anaconda. Historian Patrick F. Morris, in his book, Anaconda, Montana: Copper Smelting Town on the Western Frontier, said that Marcus Daly, president of the Anaconda Copper Company, hired Daniel who was “known for his outstanding masonry work in Butte at the Anaconda mine, to work with stonecutter Thomas Burke and crew to build foundations for the new smelter.” He laid the first brick for a new smelter at the Anaconda mines.

By 1883, after helping to develop a new smelter at the Anaconda mine works, became busy developing the town of Anaconda itself while still living in Butte. He constructed the Barich Block with his partner William Cosgrove which to this day remains on the National Registry of Historic Places at 420 East Park Street, as was the town’s historic train barn at 807 East Commercial Avenue. He built the Montana Hotel and several buildings on Main Street where the Smith Drug store was located for years. He finally moved to Anaconda two years later in 1885. By 1890, he was elected to the local school board and, in 1892, at the age of 42, was elected the third mayor of Anaconda, and the first Anaconda mayor from Ireland.

Daniel was a one term mayor. The town was torn with racial divisions between the Caucasian residents of Anaconda and the Chinese laborers who came to Anaconda and other towns across America as forced laborers on the railroads. Many Chinese workers had settled in Anaconda, opening local businesses and competing for work and many in Anaconda were none too pleased with the situation to the point that tempers sometimes flared and there was tremendous pressure for the town to take measures to even run its Chinese residents out of town. Daniel had enough as mayor but continued in politics, becoming the Treasurer of the local Democratic Party in 1901.

Daniel continued to work in masonry, doing projects stretching from Anaconda and Butte to Salt Lake City, Utah. He had a good life, meeting the love of his life, Mary Driscoll, in Anaconda. They married in 1881, and had nine children. His oldest son, Robert Emmet Dwyer, went on to become executive vice president of the Anaconda Copper Company, and company which became a gigantic worldwide conglomerate owning and operating mines around the world. He was known as “the oldest living mayor of Anaconda” through the 1920s, 1930s, and into the 1940s until he finally died at the age of 93 in 1943. He was buried in the town he helped build, and the town he loved – Anaconda, Montana.

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