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Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Mystery of Captain Tivy's Other Tombstone

Tivy Mountain in Kerrville photo by Joe Herring Jr
The cemetery on top of Tivy Mountain, in Kerrville, as it appeared in January 2018.
This is the final resting place of Joseph Tivy, his wife Ella, his sister Susan, and Susan's cat.
Click on any image to enlarge.

A little over four years ago, I got a telephone call from a fellow who said he'd found Captain Joseph Albert Tivy's tombstone in some rubble on his property.
The mysterious tombstone of Joseph A Tivy
The mysterious tombstone
I was, of course, surprised. The last time I'd seen the tombstone, it was up on Tivy Mountain, near the intersection of Cypress Creek Road and Veterans Highway (Loop 534).
The caller was kind enough to let me come take photographs of the carved stone he'd found, and sure enough, it was indeed the tombstone of Captain Tivy, his wife Ella, and his sister, Susan, though not the same one I remembered from Tivy Mountain.
Why, I wondered, were there two tombstones?
But first, who was Captain 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.
The mysterious tombstone of Joseph A Tivy
Another view
His first stop in Texas was in Houston, next 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.
Captain Joseph A Tivy first mayor of Kerrville
Captain Joseph A. Tivy
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.
Captain Tivy married late in life. His wife, was the widow of Dr. Henry Losee, a U. S. Army surgeon who died in Kerrville.
Kerrville Tivy Seniors on the annual student pilgrimage to Tivy Mountain, 1960s
Tivy Seniors on the annual student pilgrimage
to Tivy Mountain, 1960s.
Click on any image to enlarge.
"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."
Captain Tivy is buried with his wife, one sister (Susan), 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.
As for the recently found tombstone, it was likely the victim of hooligans who vandalized the gravesite numerous times, knocking over the monument. Some claimed lightning toppled the old carved stone. It was replaced by the current memorial obelisk, a gift of the ex-students association, in 1956. At the time the graves were repaired, and the decorative fence was replaced and repaired.
I suppose, when the new monument was installed, the old one was simply discarded. That's the one found a few years ago, in the rubble behind the man's house.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers climbing Tivy Mountain with his classmates in the spring of 1979.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 16, 2018.

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