By Rhonda Chalfant Contributing Columnist
April 29, 2014
In 1895, the Biographical and Portrait Gallery of Johnson and Pettis County printed biographies of a variety of residents of these counties, primarily well-to-do farmers and professional men. Theoretically, the information presented in these biographies should agree with the information provided in the U. S. Census.
However, sometimes the information does not agree, leading to questions for genealogists and historians. The biography and census information about the Napoleon G. Tivis family reveals some of these problems.
According to the Biographical and Portrait Gallery, Napoleon G. Tivis was born in March 1840 in Cooper County to Mr. and Mrs. Snowden Tivis. Snowden came from Madison County, Ky., when he was 20 and settled in Cooper County. Mrs. Tivis was born in North Carolina.
The 1850 U.S. Census provides slightly different information. According to its records, Mrs. Tivis was named Susan and she was from Kentucky. The couple lived in Moniteau County with their nine children — Hammon, 21; Rebecca, 18; Augustine, 17; Charlotta, 15; Susan, 13; Napoleon, 10; James, 8; Mary, 6, and Demaris, 5.
The Biographical and Portrait Gallery says that Susan Tivis died in 1852 and Snowden Tivis died in 1853, leaving Napoleon an orphan at age 13. He had been fortunate enough to receive a basic education in the private or subscription schools near his home. As he grew to manhood, he chose farming as a career.
In 1862, Napoleon G. Tivis married Cordelia Martin, daughter of William H. and Rhoda Moore Martin. Cordelia had been born Cooper County in 1844.
In 1874, Napoleon and Cordelia moved to a 160 acre farm in the northeast corner of Section 18, Township 44, Range 23, in Pettis County near the town of Green Ridge. According to the Biographical and Portrait Gallery, by 1895, the couple had six children, five of whom were still living.
The deceased child was said to be the oldest child, a daughter named Mattie. The other children were Alice, then married to William Calvert, a Johnson County farmer; her twin sister Rhoda, who lived at home; sons George W. and Thomas H., living in Johnson County, and son Lester, living at home.
The census shows contradictory information. The 1880 census lists Napoleon and Cordelia’s children as Lucy A., 16, daughter R.E., 16; son G. W., 12; son T.H. son 11; and daughter Mattie, 2. Mattie was the youngest child and had apparently died when quite young. Checking the 1890 census is impossible because the manuscript records burned many years ago.
The Biographical and Portrait Gallery describes Napoleon Tivis as a good farmer whose land gave “evidence of the care and labor bestowed upon it.” His livestock was some of the best in the county and he used the “most approved farming implements and machinery.
The 1900 census offers some information that raises questions. It places Napoleon, Cordelia, and son Lester living in Windsor Township, Henry County. Did the family move to neighboring Henry County? Did the census taker err in identifying the location of the family’s farm? The questions remain unanswered.
The 1900 census also shows Napoleon and Cordelia’s son George W. Tivis living in Windsor Township, Henry County, with his wife Sally. By 1910, George W. Tivis had died, and Sally was living with her brother Lester, and children Harry, Bessie, and Grace in Henry County.
Although the questions about whether Tivis and his family moved and despite the discrepancies in the names of the county where his parents settled and the birth order of daughter Mattie, the information about in the Biographical and Portrait Gallery presents a very positive description of Napoleon Tivis.
The 1895 publication identifies Tivis as a member of the Baptist Church and a Democrat. His best legacy, however, is that he was a “good citizen…always interested in obtaining the best schools for the rising generation, in making good roads, and in short, advancing the community’s welfare in every possible way.”