I have mentioned Robert Absalom Ivey, nicknamed “Captain Bob”, in several articles and presentations over the years. He was born on April 12, 1847, and died on Nov. 21, 1925, at the age of 78. Ivey’s connection with Branford and his influence on steamboats on the Suwannee River cannot be understated.
Some time ago, a descendant of his sent me Captain Ivey’s obituary, which contained a wealth of information. Over the next few weeks, I will post the lengthy obituary. Of note is that the obituary was written by Frank Drew, a fellow influential Suwannee Countian whose father, George F. Drew, was the first post-Reconstruction governor of Florida and lived just across the Suwannee River in Madison County. Frank himself was big in railroad and timber circles within Suwannee County and North Florida. As is often the case for older writings that I quote verbatim, please be aware of some antiquated and now-racist words. I mean no disrespect and merely quote the writing in its entirety, spelling errors and all…
“As an eminent man has declared, good is never lost; no good deed, no good example dies, but lives forever in our race; for though the human form of him who serves thus may disappear from earth, the good lives on as an indelible stamp that helps to mould (sic) the thoughts and wills of future generations.
“And another has truly said that he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers loves.
“By deed, example, courtesy and kindness, the life of Captain Robert A. Ivey, who died at Branford within the past few days, made such contribution to the sum of human good; and, as he reaped friendship living, just so he carried with him into the great beyond love that joins life and immortality — making today of yesterday, eternity of tomorrow.
“The title of Captain was bestowed upon him in common acknowledgement of the honor of natural leadership; and in his declining days he was affectionately referred to as ‘the old Captain’.
“This lasting quality of the friendship he inspired was fittingly attested by Doctor Parshley (Wilbur Parshley, son of early Live Oak settlers John and Nancy Parshley, EM) in his funeral sermon, his own particular regard beginning in boyhood and held as strongly through thirty years of absence upon service in foreign mission work and for thirteen since his return without opportunity for close association.
“In the days when Branford was really a frontier town for all of the literally wild country that extended from the western side of the Suwannee river to the Gulf of Mexico, it was my good fortune to have known Captain Ivey in experiences that proved his character as one of the ‘few men with courage enough to be really as good as them seem’.
“Among many incidents of a constantly ‘stormy time’, I saw him twice stake his life against murderous passion seeking to vent itself in race prejudice and injustice; and I recall two marked tributes to his courage and integrity.
“A young white man had been killed by a negro; and an uncle of the victim, a man of particularly strong feelings in kinship and of notable bravery but also of irrascible (sic) temper, upon being told that ‘Bob Ivey’s’ understanding of it showed the occurrence to be a case of self-defense, ranged himself with the captain in protecting the negro against a mob that he had really been expected to lead.”
More next week!
Eric Musgrove can be reached at email@example.com or 386-362-0564.