Richard Brewer was born in Vermont on 10th January, 1852. His family moved to Wisconsin in 1854. As a teenager Brewer moved west and lived in Carthage, Missouri before settling in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
He purchased a small farm but in 1876 he started work as a foreman for John Tunstall. At this time James Dolan, Lawrence Murphy and John H. Riley had established the Murphy & Dolan mercantile and banking operation. The company was highly successful and won contracts to supply beef to both the Mescalero Apache Reservation and Fort Stanton. Murphy and his friends were disliked by the small farmers in Lincoln County as they were forced to pay high prices from Murphy & Dolan while at the same time they had to accept low prices for their cattle.
In 1876 Alexander McSween and John Tunstall set up a rival business. These two men were given the support of John Chisum, the owner of a large ranch and over 100,000 head of cattle. McSween and Tunstall now established J. H. Tunstall & Co, a shop and bank close to the one owned by Dolan, Murphy and Riley.
Dolan attempted to goad Tunstall into a gunfight. Tunstall refused to use violence himself but he did recruit Billy the Kid to help him in his business dispute. On 18th February, 1878, Tunstall was killed by William Morton, Jesse Evans and Tom Hill. This incident started the Lincoln County War.
Brewer was with Tunstall when he was killed and established the Regulators that supported Alexander McSween. It was claimed that Tunstall had been murdered on the orders of James Dolan. Rumours began to circulate that Dolan had offered $1,000 for anyone willing to murder Alexander McSween. Over the next few months the Regulators killed Sheriff William Brady, George Hindman, Frank Baker, William Morton, and others who they claimed they had been involved in the killing of Tunstall.
On 4th April 1878, Dick Brewer was killed by Buckshot Roberts, during a shoot-out at Blazier's Mill.