Denver Post (Colorado)
2 February 1899, pg. 4
Digital image viewed online at GenealogyBank 8 April 2013.
Transcription by S. Lincecum.
A GEORGIA ROMANCE.
The Death of a Banker Brings Out an Interesting Story.
The announcement of the death of Joseph E. Bivins at a private sanitarium in Milledgeville, Ga., recalls one of the strangest combinations of romantic incidents that has ever occurred in Georgia.
Bivins was president of the First National bank of the little town of Cordele, in the southern part of the state, and was a shrewd and capable business man. His health broke down from overwork, and he was sent to the sanitarium for treatment, but succumbed to the disease and died a few days ago.
To begin at the beginning, it will be necessary to go back to a period just prior to the war, when John Pitts, a bachelor, who had acquired quite a large amount of property, suddenly announced to his friends that he believed he would get married. No sooner had he formed that resolution than he dressed himself in his best clothes, put on his hat and walked down Whitehall street to a millinery establishment conducted by a maiden lady in moderate circumstances.
In a few words he explained his mission, proposed marriage and was accepted, and in a few hours the two were made one. Pitts was a good business man, and had accumulated quite a lot of property in real estate, which was comparatively cheap at that time, and by the time the civil war broke out he was considered a rich man. But he formed a sudden resolution to volunteer in the Confederate service, and joining a company, he went to the front. That was the last that was ever heard of him by his wife and his friends. She watched and waited for some tidings of her husband, and finally, after the war closed and there were still no tidings of the missing man, she gave him up for dead and assumed control of the property, being the sole heir of the missing man.
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IN 1869 there appeared in Atlanta Dr. J. B. Marvin, of St. Louis, with his wife and young son, and he opened an office on Whitehall street as a "gynecologist," and he soon secured a lucrative practice in his profession, which was then little known in this section. While practicing his profession he formed the acquaintance of the wealthy widow, Mrs. Pitts, and they became great friends, as Dr. Marvin possessed a large amount of personal magnetism and was very attractive among the ladies.
Suddenly he closed his office, announced his intention of removing to Cincinnatti, and, packing up his belongings, he took his wife and boy and left the city. He remained away a year or two, and as suddenly appeared again in Atlanta, but without his wife and son. After a time he renewed his acquaintance with Mrs. Pitts, and the acquaintance soon ripened into a warmer feeling more than mere friendship, and the two were married.
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Dr. Marvin was a fine business man, and when he assumed control of Mrs. Pitts' property it had increased in value, and by judicious investment, at a time when Atlanta real estate was on a boom, he soon became a very wealthy man.
In 1888 the Georgia Southern and Florida railroad was built from Macon southward, crossing the Savannah, Americus and Montgomery; also, a newly built road at the little town of Cordele, in the southern part of the state. Cordele was a boom town, and Dr. Marvin was quick to take advantage of the opportunity offered to make profitable investments there. He placed his money so judiciously and manipulated the property with such success that he soon became a magnate in the little town. He established the First National bank, of which Joseph E. Bivins, an active young business man of Americus, was made cashier. Dr. Marvin engaged in local politics, which he controlled through his wealth and influence, and became mayor of the town. He took the side of prohibition and won, and was otherwise of great influence in shaping the government of the town.
He continued to deal in real estate, and in two or three years was recognized as the wealthiest man in all that section. But in 1891 he was stricken with sudden illness and died. His widow was inconsolable. She procured the services of a skilled embalmer and had the body carefully treated. It was then placed in a handsome and costly casket and placed in a conspicuous position in her parlor where she could gaze on the dead face of her husband through the glass front of the coffin. This eccentric action on her part created a great deal of comment, but the widow paid no heed to it, and the grewsome reminder of connubial happiness remained there for about three years, the widow occupying the lonely mansion with no other companion during all those years.
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Young Bivins, in the meantime, conducted the affairs of the bank with such success and ability that he was elected president to succeed Dr. Marvin. He was a young man about 30 years of age, active and vigorous, and he looked after the affairs of Mrs. Marvin with the utmost diligence.
As she was well advanced in years, and, apparently, so devoted to the memory of her late husband, nobody supposed that she would consider for a moment any suggestion of another matrimonial venture, consequently, when the marriage of President Bivins and Mrs. Marvin was announced, the community was electrified by the news.
But they were married, and to add to the sensational features of the wedding, when they started North on their bridal trip they took with them the casket containing the body of Dr. Marvin, and at Macon turned it over to an undertaker for burial, while they proceeded on their journey.
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Bivins assumed control of the Atlanta property of his wife, as well as her interests in Cordele, and for a time all went merry as a marriage bell, but very unexpectedly there appeared another actor on the scene in the person of a young man calling himself Harry Marvin, who claimed to be the son of Dr. J. B. Marvin, by his first wife. He claimed that his mother was dead, and that he was the sole and lawful heir to his father's estate. The appearance of this young man created somewhat of a sensation, and for a while Bivins and his wife resisted the claims of the heir-at-law. He appealed to the courts, however, and succeeded in establishing his identity. Thereupon Bivins and his wife decided upon a compromise to avoid costly litigation.
Young Marvin was given the titles to a generous share of the Atlanta property, on the condition that he urge no further claim upon his father's estate. In a year or so after this settlement, Mrs. Bivins died, leaving her husband sole heir to her estate.
And now, while still a young man and in the prime and vigor of life, the possessor of large and valuable properties, Joseph E. Bivins, the third husband of a remarkable woman, has passed away, leaving young Marvin as the only actor in this chain of romantic incidents. Bivins left no immediate heirs, and it is supposed that his property will go to distant relatives.
Whether young Marvin will contend for an additional share in the complicated estate or not, remains to be seen. The case is a most singular one in all its bearings, and nothing like it has ever been chronicled in the history of the state. -- St. Louis Globe-Democrat.