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"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

Looking back at
The View From Tivy Mountain

Michael Barr

Joseph Tivy is a name closely associated with Kerr and Gillespie Counties. The name is especially linked to Kerrville, a town with a particular fondness for naming institutions after prominent local families.

Joseph Albert Tivy was one of those daring frontier types: fearless, hyperactive, adventurous, always in the middle of everything. The name Tivy is archaic English meaning "with great haste or speed," and it fit Joseph Tivy to a tee.

He was born in Toronto, Canada and raised in Niagara County, New York, but the lure of the American West was irresistible. In 1838 Tivy arrived in Texas, a full-grown man, at the age of 19.

He originally settled in Burleson County. He was a rancher, a surveyor, and a Texas Ranger. He first saw the Hill Country while on the trail of marauding Comanches. He once served on a survey crew with Bigfoot Wallace along the Llano River.

When Joseph Tivy first peered over the ridge into the Guadalupe River Valley, he saw a pristine wilderness, without a mark of man on it. He was so charmed by the hills, the sparking mint green water, and the stately cypress trees, he bought a section and a half of land along the river in 1842.

In 1847 and 1848 he bought several thousand acres along the Pedernales River in Gillespie County where the community of Tivydale now stands.

Then in 1849 he heard about the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, and the next day he was off for California. He did little prospecting, but he ran a hotel and served in the California State Legislature.

In California as in Texas, Tivy's name had a way of sticking to things. There is a Tivy Valley and a Tivy Mountain in Tulare County in central California.

But nine years later, after a stop in New Mexico, he was back in Texas. He settled, briefly, in Karnes County. He served in the Civil War, earning the rank of captain.

In 1872, Captain Tivy and two spinster sisters took up his land on the Guadalupe. The property included a half mile of river frontage extending back 2 miles to the northeast. That part of the property was called "the Flat," where the town of Kerrville now stands.

He surveyed the village of Kerrville, and when the town was incorporated in 1889, Tivy served as the first mayor. He gave 16 acres for a high school that still bears his name. He also donated 23 town lots with the proceeds to support the school. In all he gave over 100 acres to support public education.

When the railroad came to Kerrville in 1891 he built the Tivy Hotel. The old wooden building still stands at 305 Tivy Street.

 TX -  Tivy Hotel in Kerrville
Tivy Hotel in Kerrville
May 2016 photo courtesy Michael Barr
 TX -  Tivy Hotel in Kerrville
Tivy Hotel sign
May 2016 photo courtesy Michael Barr
When the captain and his sisters came to the Guadalupe, they made a pledge never to marry, but the Captain broke the promise and married Ella Losee, the widow of his best friend. Although the marriage was one of convenience, it angered the sisters. They both moved back to New York, but Susan, the youngest, returned.
 TX -  Tivy  burial plot on Tivy Mountain
The Tivy burial plot on Tivy Mountain
May 2016 photo courtesy Michael Barr
Ella Tivy's last request was to be buried on top of Tivy Mountain - a rough cedar and brush covered hill that overlooks the town of Kerrville with a spectacular view of the Guadalupe. Tivy honored his wife's dying wish, but not without some difficulties. It took workers four days to clear a path to the top. The burial vault had to be blasted out of solid rock. Two mules had to lean into the harness to draw the wagon carrying Mrs. Tivy's casket up the mountain.
 TX -  Feline Tivy tombstone on Tivy Mountain
Feline Tivy tombstone
May 2016 photo courtesy Michael Barr
When Mrs. Tivy's cat died, sources say that Susan Tivy paid a young Chester Nimitz, then living with his family in Kerrville, one dollar to bury the cat in the family plot on Tivy Mountain. The cat has its own headstone.

Captain Tivy died on July 5, 1892. He is buried beside his wife and sister, and the cat, on top of Tivy Mountain.
 TX -  Tivy  burial plot on Tivy Mountain
View of the Tivy gravesite overlooking the Guadalupe Valley
May 2016 photo courtesy Michael Barr

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" July 19, 2016 Column

West Kerr Current, June 18, 2016.
Tivy Tattler, March 3, 1927.
Texas Almanac, "Joseph Tivy."

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