Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Joseph A. Tivy, Kerrville Pioneer and Benefactor

A kind reader gave me an old book a few weeks ago, John Henry Brown's "Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas," which includes a biographic sketch of Captain Joseph A. Tivy, which includes facts about the man I'd never found before.
Joseph Albert Tivy was born in Toronto, Canada during the winter of 1818, raised and educated in New York state, and headed to Texas when he was 19, when it was a new republic. That’s right, he came here as soon as he could, like so many of you did. While he doesn’t count as a native, I think you’ll agree he made significant contributions to Kerrville.
He came to Texas, stopping first at Houston, then went to Washington County, and then on to what is now Burleson County, where he lived for several years. This community was considered the extreme western frontier at the time. He was a true frontiersman, spending months in the field, and spent a lot of time with Captain George Evart.
During those early years in Texas, he was as a chain carrier for a survey crew out of the General Land Office. He was later promoted to General Surveyor, and his travels brought him to the Guadalupe River valley. In 1842, he acquired the ‘military’ grant to the heirs of Thomas Hand, a tract of 640 acres. That land later became important to the young community. (He acquired this land even before Joshua Brown started his shingle camp. I suppose there was an active market in 'military' grants.)
There was no City of Kerrville then. Kerr County was part of the Bexar District, and Tivy served as deputy surveyor. He had also served with Jack Hays’ Rangers, joining Hays in 1844. 
Then, 1849, the gold bug bit, and Tivy went out to California to seek his fortune. I don’t know how successful a miner he was, but history records he was a surveyor in California, ran a hotel (the "United States Hotel" past Tejon Pass) and later a store, and served in the California Legislature during the winter of 1853-54. He also served in the Texas Legislature during another part of his life, winning election in 1873.
Coming back from California, he spent a year in New Mexico, then returned to Texas settling in Karnes County in 1858.
During the Civil War, Tivy served in the Confederate Army from 1862-64, being discharged with the rank of Captain. While in the service, his health deteriorated, and he left the army in 1864.
And finally, after all of this, in 1872 he and two spinster sisters moved to Kerrville, to their 640-acre tract of land. I guess you could say he was one of the first retirees to move here.
Like most retirees here, he was active: seeing the need for a sound public school system, he gave the community 16 2/3 acres to be used to build free schools. Because the only entity that could accept the gift was an incorporated city, petitions were circulated and the City of Kerrville came into existence in 1889.
Not coincidentally, Captain Tivy was Kerrville’s first mayor.
He also gave the lot for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which still stands on the site. His Tivy Hotel can be found on Tivy Street, just north of Main Street. The building once faced Main, from what I’ve been told, but was moved long ago to face Tivy Street. In its early days it sported a cupola on its peak. Captain Tivy is rumored to have raced horses on the old “Tivy Flats,” an area where Broadway Street is today.
Joseph A. Tivy
Captain Tivy married late in life. His wife, was the widow of Dr. Henry Losee, a U. S. Army surgeon who died in Kerrville. (Though I've looked for information on Mr. Losee, I have not yet found him.)
"For some time," the book by Brown reports, Tivy "had been actively engaged in overseeing the work of boring for artesian water on his place. Owing to his advanced age and physical condition, this undue activity brought on stomach complications which proved to be the immediate cause of his demise."  I believe Lanza Teague discovered some photographs of a well being dug by the Tivy Hotel; I wonder if Captain Tivy is in the images.
Men at work on well
behind Tivy Hotel
Captain Tivy is buried with his wife, one sister (Suson), and his wife’s cat on the top of Tivy Mountain, to the east of the downtown area. The hill has a dirt road, off of Cypress Creek Road, leading to its summit; this road used to be open to the public. An excellent view of our valley home is afforded from up there, and you ought to take the time to visit the hill. Up there in the sunshine, with the wind blowing and the smell of cedar trees, you’ll find the four graves and a small stone obelisk. Looking below you can see what the Captain’s land has become. 
Relatives of Captain Tivy live in the area today.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who graduated from Tivy (rhymes with “ivy”) High School, many, many years ago now. More than twenty, but less than one hundred. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 23, 2011.
For more information about Joe's book, which has over 200 historic photographs

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