Joseph Albert Tivy, surveyor, rancher, county official, state representative, and mayor, was born in Toronto, Canada, on February 25, 1818. Tivy was raised in Niagara County, New York, and received his education there at area country schools and academies. He immigrated to Texas in 1837 and settled a 640-acre homestead in the vicinity of present-day Burleson County where he worked as a rancher and surveyor. From 1839 to 1845 Tivy served with the Texas Rangers and fought at various times under the command of George Bernard Erath, John Coffee (Jack) Hays, and Robert Addison Gillespie. Afterwards, he was a deputy surveyor for Bexar County. During this time he engaged in land speculation and acquired several hundred acres of land along the Guadalupe River in present-day Kerr County.
In about 1850 Tivy relocated to California, where he mined for gold and operated both a hotel and a general store. He won election as surveyor for Tulare County and received appointment as U.S. Deputy Surveyor for California. In 1853 he represented Tulare County in the Fifth California Legislature. Tivy left California in about 1857 and stayed briefly in New Mexico before locating at Karnes County, Texas, by 1858. In 1861, following the outbreak of the Civil War, he volunteered for service in the Confederate Army. He served first as a captain in the Texas State Troops, commanding a company of mostly Silesian immigrants (see POLES) known as the Panna Maria Grays. In 1862 he joined Hawpe’s Regiment (see THIRTY-FIRST TEXAS CAVALRY) and served as a captain until he was forced to resign due to illness in 1864.
On the advice of his doctor, Tivy relocated to his landholdings in Kerr County and settled at the site of present-day Kerrville. Here he assumed a prominent role in the public affairs of the community. In 1872 he won election as representative for District 29—comprised of Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, Llano, Mason, Wilson, Edwards, Kimble, and Menard counties—to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature. In 1877 Tivy served as county judge for Kerr County. When Kerrville was incorporated in 1889, he won election as mayor. An ardent proponent of free public education, Tivy donated sections of his lands to finance the erection and equipping of the first schools of the community. He later donated land for the establishment of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Kerrville and financed the construction of the nearby Tivy Hotel. On January 7, 1875, he married Ella Losee, a widow, in Kerrville. They had no children. Tivy continued to promote community development until his death on July 5, 1892. He was given a Masonic funeral and buried at Tivy Mountain, Kerr County, in the Tivy Family Cemetery. Tivy is the subject of a Texas Historical Marker in Kerr County and is the namesake for several locations in that community.