Dixon, Joseph M. (Joseph Moore), 1867-1934

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Joseph Moore Dixon was born at the Quaker enclave of Snow Camp, North Carolina, in 1867 to Hugh Woody and Adaline Murchison Dixon. He was the third of four children and their only son. The Dixons were Quakers who traced their origins to England.

Dixon attended the Sylvan Academy and the New Garden Boarding School, both Quaker institutions, then Earlham College in Indiana. He withdrew from Earlham in 1888 and finished his education at Guilford College that spring. In 1891, he wrote a letter to Frank Woody, a first cousin of his father who practiced law in Missoula, Montana, asking if he could assist and study law with him. Woody accepted, and Dixon left North Carolina at the age of twenty-four.

He began to read law with Woody and his two partners, Frederick C. Webster and Joseph K. Wood. Dixon was admitted to the Montana bar in 1892 and quickly became closely involved with Republican politics, elected as secretary of the Republican county central committee that same year. He served in that post until 1897.

Dixon was elected to the Montana legislature as a Republican in 1900.

Montanans elected Dixon to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1902 and 1904. While in the House, he introduced and passed the bill that opened the Flathead Indian Reservation to white settlement. In 1906 the Montana legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate. There, he dealt with issues of interstate tariffs and unequal rail freight charges.

In 1912 he headed Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party and was defeated in his bid for popular election to the U.S. Senate. Dixon and Roosevelt had an affinity from their first meeting.

After Roosevelt's defeat, Dixon retreated to Missoula to focus on his law practice and business affairs. His businesses were considerable. In 1900 he acquired a controlling interest in the Missoulian, Missoula's Republican newspaper. Between 1912 and 1917, when the paper was sold, he was vitally involved with the paper's editorial policy and its editor, A.L. Stone as they engaged in a bitter battle with the Democratic (and Amalgamated Copper Company-owned) Missoula Sentinel . In 1909, with partner Charles L. Cowell, he built the Dixon Block in downtown Missoula (the location of the Western Montana National Bank), adding to his already considerable real estate holdings in the area. He owned a dairy near Polson, Montana, and a farm near Ronan, Montana, as well as some mining claims in Montana. After 1917, he retired from politics and business and spent most of his time on his farming interests. By 1919, he was ready to re-enter politics; he announced that he would run for Governor of Montana against Burton K. Wheeler.

He was elected governor and served one term. While in office, he dealt with the beginnings of drought and agricultural depression in the state, a large deficit, continued to fight the Anaconda Copper Company (formerly the Amalgamated Copper Company) and its control of the state, the state's system of taxation, and the need for administrative reform. He clashed significantly with fellow Republican Wellington Rankin. Throughout his tenure, he endured unrelenting attacks from the Company-owned press and other Company allies.

Those attacks were perhaps most intense over the Frank Conley case. Conley was the warden of the Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge from 1908 to 1921, when Dixon replaced him with M.L. Potter. Conley was also mayor of Deer Lodge and a powerful man in Republican circles. Among other things, he used convicts to break strikes in Butte and Anaconda, which earned him strong Democratic support. Dixon appointed T.H. MacDonald to investigate allegations of maladministration and misuse of state funds under Conley's administration. Conley and his supporters quickly asked that the investigation be conducted by the State Board of Prison Commissioners instead of by Dixon's private investigator. When MacDonald handed his report to Dixon, he charged Conley with misappropriating or misusing more than two hundred thousand dollars. C.B. Nolan, Conley's attorney, fought bitterly for his client. Conley was ultimately acquitted.

Dixon was not re-elected in 1924, losing to Democrat John E. Erickson. He returned to Missoula and the ranch for his second retirement. He increased his real estate holdings in Missoula, with purchase of more downtown properties and the construction of a two-story building next to the Montana Building.

In 1929 he was appointed First Assistant Secretary of the Interior. He had been under consideration for the Secretary post since his involvement with the Bull Moose campaign. In 1930, he became vitally involved with a project to develop water power on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with its accompanying complex network of water rights.

He married Caroline M. Worden, daughter of prominent Missoulian Frank Worden, in 1896. They had seven children: Virginia, Florence, Dorothy, Betty, Mary Joe, Peggy, and Frank. Frank died shortly after birth.

Dixon died in May 1934 after a short battle with a serious heart ailment.

From the guide to the Joseph M. Dixon Papers, 1772-1944, (University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hanna-McCormick Family Papers, 1792-1985, (bulk 1902-1944) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Graf, Irene. Reminiscences of Irene Graf and Terry Walter : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Montana. Board of State Prison Commissioners. Proceedings before the Board of Prison Commissioners, State Capitol, Helena, Montana, Friday, December 23d, 1921. Montana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Joseph M. Dixon Papers, 1772-1944 University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn The University of Montana-Missoula oral history project, 2006-2008 University of Montana--Missoula Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Dixon, Joseph. [Joseph Dixon] : artist file John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library, Ringling Museum Library
referencedIn Franke, Carl F., 1871-1940. Papers, 1900-1919. Iowa State Historical Society
creatorOf Grossetta, Anthony V. Reminiscences of Anthony V. Grossetta : oral history, 1977. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Anderson, Forrest Howard, 1913-1989. Joseph Dixon bust unveiling ceremony, 1972 Nov. 17. Montana Historical Society Library
referencedIn Charles L. Cowell Papers, 1907-1925 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930. Letters in reference to Joseph M. Dixon from the William H. Taft papers and William Allen White papers [microform] 1911-1919. University of Montana, Mansfield Library
referencedIn Thomas Henry Carter Papers, 1833-1917, (bulk 1888-1917) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Anaconda Copper Mining Company corporateBody
associatedWith Carter, Thomas Henry, 1854-1911. person
associatedWith Conley, Frank, b. 1864 person
correspondedWith Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 person
correspondedWith Cowell, Charles L., 1858-1926 person
associatedWith Dixon, Caroline Worden, d. 1946 person
associatedWith Franke, Carl F., 1871-1940. person
associatedWith Graf, Irene. person
associatedWith Grossetta, Anthony V. person
correspondedWith Hanna family family
correspondedWith Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923 person
correspondedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 person
associatedWith Joseph Dixon, person
correspondedWith McCormick family family
associatedWith Montana. Board of State Prison Commissioners. corporateBody
associatedWith Progressive Party, 1912 corporateBody
associatedWith Republican Party (Mont.) corporateBody
associatedWith Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) corporateBody
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 person
correspondedWith Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930 person
associatedWith The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. Senate corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Interior corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Budget deficits
Business, Industry, and Labor
Political campaigns
Conservation of natural resources
Cultural property
Finance, Public
Flathead Indian Reservation (Mont.)
Governmental investigations
Politics and government
Indians of North America
Indians of North America
Indian termination policy
Irrigation projects
Native Americans
Press and politics
Public lands
Water resources development
Water rights
Wildlife conservation


Birth 1867-07-31

Death 1934-05-22


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