From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Chivis, John C.

(born: 1864  -  died: 1943) This entry was submitted by DeShana Collett, who also provided the newspaper sources cited in this entry.

John Chivis was a farmer, jockey, thoroughbred racehorse owner, and horse trainer. He was born in Bourbon County, KY, and died July 28, 1943 in Lexington, KY [source: Kentucky Death Index]. He was the son of Henry Chivis and Rosetta Winn Chivis, husband of Cora Haggard, and brother of Aaron Chivis and Henry Winn.

In 1870, the Chivis family lived in the Hutchinson District of Bourbon County. Henry Chivis supported his family as a farmhand, and his son Aaron was also a farmhand. Aaron may have worked with horses. Other members in the home were Rosetta, John, and nine year old Amanda Evans. In the next census record, 1880, Amanda Evans was not listed, and the couple's seven year old granddaughter, Sallie Winn, was a member of the household. [Sources: 1870 U.S. Census, last name spelled "Chevis"; and 1880 U.S. Census]

[Taken from DeShana Collett's genealogy research: Sallie Winn was the daughter of Henry and Kate Winn, the great-great-great-grandparents of DeShana Collett. In 1880, Amanda Evans and her son, Richard Chivis, were living and working with their former slave owner, Jane Skinner.]

The Chivis family's youngest son, John, would train horses and ride them in races held at colored fairs. In 1895, he was one of the 9 African American men indicted by the Fayette County grand jury for conducting a fair near Muir Station, located in Fayette County near the Bourbon County line. The men had not secured the legal right to hold a fair. Acting on their behalf was Colonel William Campbell Preston Breckinridge who secured pardons for all the men from Kentucky's Democratic Govenor John Young Brown.

The governor was finishing out the last days of his term when he issued the pardons; he would be replaced by Republican Governor William O. Bradley. Colonel Breckinridge was an advocate for the legal equality of African Americans. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Kentucky, 1885-1895. Like Governor Brown in 1895, Colonel Breckinridge had served his last term and left the U.S. House of Representatives. He had returned to Lexington, KY, where he practiced law and was editor of the Lexington Herald. The names of the other African American men he helped get pardoned were John Taylor, James Lewis, William Lewis, John Spencer, Willis Daniel, Jesse Friend, John Hayes, and Alex Cole [source: "Other news of the state," Courier Journal, 12/07/1895].

After his pardon, John Chivis was listed in the Lexington city directories as a farmer, but he was also a jockey and rode in races held at the Lexington Colored Fair. He won many races and awards. [For more information see the following articles: "Ring Awards," Lexington Leader, 09/13/1901, p. 8; "Rain stops races at Colored Fair large crowds will attend on biggest day's card today," Lexington Leader, 09/16/1909, p. 8; "Big crowd enjoyed first day of colored fair - good racing witnessed - today's entries," Morning Herald, 09/11/1901, p. 7; and "The fair results of yesterday's track events - today's entries," Morning Herald, 09/12/1901, p. 5.]

John Chivis worked with thoroughbred horses for over 40 years, including the following horses: Sadie, St. Augustine, and Sunshine Boy. The horse Sunshine Boy, owned by John Chivis, won the first race in 1938 at Keeneland [sources: "Sunshine Boy...," Lexington Leader, 10/23/1938; within "Tunica Scores," Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/23/1938; and "Daily Racing Form Charts" in Keeneland Daily Racing Form, 10/24/1938 (online)]. Ridden by Johnny Littrell, Sunshine Boy had come from behind in the stretch to defeat Lillian Roth by a nose. The horse Maderis came in third, and the pace setter, Wicked Time, came in fourth.

Sunshine Boy's owner, John Chivis, also owned the horses Mary Gardner (trainer E. G. Brown) and Meg-Allen. John Chivis worked and trained for W. C. Goodloe and trained at Churchill Downs.

John Chivis died at his home, 443 Ohio Street in Lexington, KY. He was 78 years old and had suffered from a number of illnesses. His funeral services were conducted by H. L. Stewart, and he is buried in the Highland Cemetery in Lexington. His wife Cora died in 1953 and is also buried in the Highland Cemetery.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Hutchinson Station, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Morning herald (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Lexington herald (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Daily racing form (serial)
NKAA Source: The Cincinnati enquirer (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Chivis, John C.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2018-11-12 16:40:40