To most residents of Duval County today, the name John Givens means nothing. But, Givens played an important role in the historical development of Duval Country. For you see, Givens was the uncle of Archie Parr; he helped raise Parr after his father’s death, and he was responsible for Parr coming to Duval County.
Givens earned a law degree from Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky, and moved to Live Oak County in 1858 where he first served as deputy (interim) County Clerk. In 1859, he joined a party organized by Live Oak County stockman John Donaldson to help the Second Texas Cavalry Company K of the Texas Rangers fight Juan Cortina near Brownsville.
Two years later, Live Oak County voters elected Givens district attorney for the 14th Judicial District. He was quickly becoming a leading citizen of Live Oak County, having accumulated 1,500 acres valued at $750. He was reelected district attorney in 1863 and 1866. In 1863, he prosecuted Chipita Rodriguez, who gained notoriety as the first woman legally hanged in Texas. During this time, John Givens also joined the Confederate service and was a major in the Quartermaster Corps under General W. W. Dunlap.
Givens’ rise in Live Oak County politics and society took a downturn in 1867 when an assailant killed his brother-in-law George Parr in a late night incident. Parr had married Givens’ sister Sarah in 1857. He followed John to Live Oak County where he prevailed in an election for county clerk. After Parr’s death, John Givens took over support of his sister and her three children, George, Archie, and Lillian. Archie Parr was eight years old when Givens became the man in his life, and Givens would be an important influence throughout Archie Parr’s young life.
After the murder of George Parr, Givens moved to Indianola with the Parr offspring. In 1870, the young lawyer was loaded with new responsibilities. In addition to Sarah’s family, John was also taking care of three of his orphaned young siblings, Cora, Samuel, and Royal; another sister, Kate Holliday; and his deceased older brother George’s son, Delmas Givens. In 1871, Givens was a vestryman at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. Later that year he married Sallie Lyle Torian in St. Mary’s Parish, Louisiana, whom he met in Goliad while in the Confederate service.
In October 1871 Givens received a commission from Gov. Edmund J. Davis to serve as district attorney for the 16th Judicial District. Givens replaced Osceola Archer who was removed from office by Davis. The following year, in 1872, Givens announced as an independent candidate for district attorney. He was practicing law in Indianola in the courts of the 16th district and in the Supreme and Federal courts at Galveston. After an unsuccessful race, Givens decided it was time to move on.
With their two children John and Sallie moved to Corpus Christi in 1874, where a third and final child was born. In Corpus Christi, Givens set up a law practice and soon went into partnership with John S. McCampbell. One of Givens’ clients was the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company so it was no surprise that young Archie Parr secured a job as a cow hand with the outfit. Givens enjoyed an active practice in Nueces and Duval Counties. In 1882, he bought three tracts of land near the Sweden Ranch in Duval County. That same year Archie Parr came to Duval County to run the Lott and Nelson Pasture Company operation near Sweden. No doubt, his uncle had a hand in his coming to Duval County.