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The remarkable life of Tito Rivera

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Posted at 1:24 PM, Mar 01, 2023

I am forever amazed at the lives of those who preceded us in Corpus Christi....those who endured such hardship and sacrifice to build a great Texas city.

I am also always amazed at how quickly we forget these people and the contributions that they made to the city.

Take the life of Tito P. Rivera.

I came across his toppled headstone in Old Bayview Cemetery one day in 2016. I had photographed it back in the 1990's, still intact and standing tall...a real tribute to a remarkable man.

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He was born on January 4, 1844 in Sinaloa, Mexico. His parents were natives of Spain. His father was an engineer for a mining company, and in 1852, young Tito was kidnapped by Comanche Indians while on a supply train to secure food for the miners.

Like something from a Hollywood movie, Tito was taken by the Indians into east Texas where he was used to read and write letters between the Indians and the U. S. Army.

In December of 1855, Major Robert S. Neighbors, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and the one white man most trusted by the Indians, paid a $125 ransom for the boy's release.

Why Neighbors did not return young Tito to his parents in Mexico is not known...not by me anyway. Instead, Neighbors took Tito to live with he, his wife, and 2 sons in San Antonio.

He became part of the family until 1859, when Neighbors was assassinated by a man who was angry over Neighbors' close relationship with the Indians.

Tito lived in the home of William Albert Wallace until he enlisted in the Confederate army with the outbreak of the Civil War.

As a member of the Texas Mounted Riflemen, he served in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Indian Territory.

After the war, Tito became part of the epic cattle drives of the post Civil War era, accumulating enough wealth to purchase land in Victoria County.

In 1870, he married Mollie Holloway of Port Lavaca. The two moved to Corpus Christi in 1873 where Tito became a cashier in the Doddridge and Davis Bank. He also became a printer and opened a store that sold books and office supplies.

He quickly became one of the city's leading citizens, serving two terms on the city council in the 1880's and becoming involved in numerous civic organizations. He also served as a vestryman in the Episcopal Church.

In 1885, he and his wife built a magnificent house at 1001 N. Chaparral, where they raised 5 children (Fred, Blanche, Mattie, Lula, and Tito), and where he lived until his death on December 3, 1894.

After Mollie died in April, 1902, the house was sold to Judge Walter Timon, and existed until being demolished in 1962.

Upon Mr. Rivera's death, his obituary read: "No man was ever more devoted to his wife and children, and to make them happy seemed to be his chief pleasure. All were at his bedside when he breathed his last, and his devoted wife, who remained almost constantly beside him during his illness, though herself an invalid, is completely prostrated with grief at the blow which deprived her of a loving husband and her children of an affectionate father. He was generous to the furthest degree and if for every kindly act that he has done a flower were placed upon his grave, they would build a monument above him that would kiss the purpling clouds".

Tito Rivera is another of those illustrious Corpus Christi citizens, now largely forgotten, whose only memorial is a toppled headstone in Old Bayview.

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.