Joseph A. Tivy was born in Toronto, Canada, on February 25, 1818. His boyhood years were spent in Niagara County, New York, where he attended country schools and an academy. At age 19, he set out for the new Republic of Texas, making his first home in what has become Washington and Burleson counties.
Tivy was one of the first chain carriers for a land survey party which was part of the new General Land Office. Later, he was promoted to general surveyor. His travels often brought him to areas along the Guadalupe River, and on April 27, 1842, he acquired a 640-acre Military Land Warrant, granted to heirs of Thomas Hand. This land later became a valuable asset to Kerrville.
In 1844, Tivy served with Col. Jack Hays’ Rangers, but after a year he accepted a job as deputy surveyor of the Bexar District, serving for several years.
The lure of gold called him to California in 1849, where he spent the next eight years mining gold, operating a hotel, and dealing in general merchandise. During this time, he was elected County Surveyor of Tulare County and U.S. Deputy Surveyor of California. He also served as a member of the California Legislature.
After spending a year in New Mexico, Tivy returned to Karnes County, Texas, in 1858. He served in the Confederate Army 1862-1864, and was discharged with the rank of Captain.
In 1872, Captain Tivy and his two spinster sisters moved to Kerr County, settling on his 640-acre tract of land. When Kerrville incorporated in 1889, he was elected the town’s first mayor at the age of 71.
Tivy saw a real need for free public education and decided to use some of his resources to promote and advance its development. In 1890, he donated 16 2/3 acres of land to be used as a building site for free public schools in Kerrville. He also gave 23 blocks of land out of the Joseph A. Tivy addition to be sold to finance the needed furniture, fencing, landscaping and $8,000 school building on the site. Thus, plans for a Kerrville Public School System were set in motion.
On March 1, 1891, the first public school building opened. Tivy died on July 5, 1892.
Between 1912 and 1938, sections were added, and in 1942 a large portion burned. The building housed Tivy High School until 1967 at which time a new high school was constructed at another location and this building’s name was changed to Hal Peterson Junior High. By 1981, plans were made to demolish the historic building, but a group of concerned citizens named the “Old Tivy Restoration Committee” formed to save the building. The board of trustees agreed to restore the building, accepting substantial financial assistance from the restoration committee.
The restored building became the Joseph A. Tivy Central Administration Offices in 1984. The Tivy Education Center, located across the tennis courts, houses the Alamo Colleges Greater Kerrville Center, the Discipline Alternative Education Program, the Special Education offices and the Student and Family Services Center.