Tivy Mountain, one of the landmarks of our community, has been closed off from the public for several decades.
Since the mid-1990s, a locked gate stops visitors from driving to the top of the hill, reportedly to stop vandalism, litter and other unsavory activities.
Although the city grades the road about once a year, and Tivy High School seniors make an annual trek to the top of the site as a part of their senior year traditions, it’s unclear whether the public can actually climb the hill on foot.
At the top is a family cemetery, where Capt. Joseph A. Tivy is buried, along with his wife, Ella Lossee Tivy, and his sister, Susan Tivy. There’s also a marker for the family’s cat, who was buried in the corner of the plot, according to legend, by none other than a young Chester A. Nimitz.
Joseph Tivy was Kerrville’s first mayor. The city of Kerrville was incorporated in 1889, and it had its beginnings, in part, because Tivy wanted to donate land to the community on which a public school could be built.
Tivy married late in life, to a woman much younger than he, the widow of a friend. Ella Tivy died in 1888; Joseph Tivy died in 1892. They had no children, and it appears Tivy’s sister, Susan, inherited much of the family’s property.
The Tivys owned a lot of land in Kerrville and also in Gillespie County, at a place called Tivydale. There were possibly other real estate holdings, too, in Karnes County and elsewhere.
Susan Tivy had no children, and, when she died in 1902, the “probable” value of her estate was $12,000, according to court records.
Although newspaper reports from the 1990s suggest she set aside the Tivy Mountain property as a memorial to her family, her will makes her intentions quite clear:
“First, I direct that all my just debts shall be paid and that a monument suitable to my station in life be erected over my grave.
“Second: subject to the forgoing charge, I give bequeath and devise to my friend John Mosby, the only son and child of my very dear and devoted friend L.J. Mosby, all of my property and estate, real personal and mixed and choses in action, of every character and description whatsoever and wheresoever situated.”
The will was signed in March 1901. Miss Tivy died in July of that same year. I found it interesting that one of the witnesses to the will was A.C. Schreiner, eldest son of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner.
A listing of her estate shows various Kerrville lots she owned. Tivy Mountain is not specifically mentioned by that name, though it may be part of the real property described in the document. For example, one of the parcels is described as 367 acres with a value of $1,500.
I can find little information on the Mosby family. There was apparently a John Mosby who was a court clerk in Kerrville; a John Mosby that appeared in a play staged at Pampell’s; and a J.B. Mosby, who, with his wife, founded a relief society for Kerrville’s poor.
A John B. Mosby is buried at Kerrville’s Glen Rest Cemetery, next to his wife, Maude Mosby. In 1901, when Susan Tivy died, that John Mosby would have been 33 years old.
Various newspaper articles since the 1990s identify John Mosby as “John Mosty,” or “John Mosly,” but a close inspection of Susan Tivy’s will clearly reads “Mosby.”
Who owns Tivy Mountain? Many have searched records to find out. Previous county courts have suggested it be taken by eminent domain by the county government and made into a public park.
I know of no resolution to the question, however. Does the city own the property? The school district? The county? I do not know, though there are newspaper articles suggesting a Tivy graduating class purchased the property for the school district, back in the 1940s or 1950s. I don’t know if that deed was ever filed.
It’s a riddle I’d like to see solved.
Free the Tivy Four.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who graduated from Tivy High School a very, very long time ago.