Joseph Hodson Barwise, farmer, businessman, and pioneer settler of Wichita Falls, was born to Thomas Henry and Julia (Collins) Barwise in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 13, 1829. When he was four the family moved to a small community just north of New Trenton, Indiana, where Thomas Barwise farmed 360 acres. They remained in Indiana until April 1846, when the elder Barwise traded his farm for a large, uncleared tract of land near St. Charles, Missouri. J. H. Barwise, accompanied by one of his brothers, moved to this farm and cleared it in preparation for the arrival of the rest of the family in 1847. Moving to Missouri ended Barwise's formal education, the entire eight months of which had taken place in Indiana, largely at the hand of a tutor, Will Taft, the father of William Howard Taft, later president of the United States. In Missouri on October 18, 1852, Barwise married Lucy Hansell, whom he had met in St. Charles after rafting timber cleared from the family farm down the Quiver River; the couple settled on a farm provided by Barwise's father and eventually raised seven children.
Barwise was a staunch Unionist. He organized Company A of the Twenty-seventh Missouri Division and served as captain of this home-defense unit, which saw no action during the Civil War. When he was advised in the mid-1870s to move to a drier climate, he took his family to Texas and settled at Cedar Springs, near Dallas, in January 1877. He had little success as a wheat-separator salesman there. In December 1879, "after prospecting in various parts of the state," he and his family became the first permanent settlers at the site of Wichita Falls. He purchased the single existing cabin there, as well as a quantity of land, for $105.
Barwise immediately broke ground for a farm and soon afterward established a freight service. He sank the community's first water well. Soon after his arrival he began manufacturing bricks of native clay to supply local construction. He acquired sizable landholdings and prospered. He donated 55 percent of his land to a bonus designed to induce the Wichita Falls and Denver City Railway Company to extend the road through the community. By the second decade of the twentieth century he had acquired a ranch near Dalhart and begun trading in grain in the Panhandle. Barwise was chosen as one of two original justices of the peace for Wichita County. He held the position of county judge on three separate occasions. He also served as a member of the Wichita Falls school board during the 1880s and 1890s and was elected president in 1890. He was a charter member of the local Elks and Masonic organizations, the Business Men's League, and the First Presbyterian Church, which he served as an elder. He died in Wichita Falls on January 11, 1927, and was buried in Riverside Cemetery there.