Sunday, July 25, 2010

Who was Captain Joseph Tivy?

Captain Joseph Tivy
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. The information that follows came out of the "Kerr County Album," an important resource for anyone interested in the story of this place.
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 of 640 acres. That land later became important to the young community. (He acquired this land 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.
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 and store, and served in the California Legislature. He also served in the Texas Legislature during another part of his life.
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.
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.
Captain Tivy is buried with his wife, one sister, and his wife’s cat on the top of Tivy Mountain, to the east of the downtown area. The hill has a dirt road to its summit and 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.  You can connect with Joe on Facebook at Herring

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