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  Texas : Features : Columns : "Letters from Central Texas"
Texas Hill Country

KEMPNER

by Clay Coppedge
For much of its history, this little town in Lampasas couldn't stay put. The immediate area was known as Picket Valley when a number of people named Pickett moved there in the 1850s, but by 1865 it was known as Brummersville. The Pickett Cemetery is still there, just west of the present city of Kempner.

Daniel Webster Taylor came to the area in 1854 and brought with him a large herd of cattle and some cowboys, enough that he felt compelled to build a store for them. The store doubled as a post office named Taylor's Creek. You pass over Taylor Creek on one side of town as you drive in (or through) on U.S. 190.

The area was rowdy and lawless in its early days. There was considerable Indian trouble. Taylor asked Governor F.R. Lubbock for ammunition to help the settlers hold their own against the Comanche, but Lubbock wrote back that he and his neighbors should contact a man named Mr. Foster in Burnet for their gunpowder.

As if that wasn't bad enough, several stagecoach and mail robberies occurred between Taylor's Creek and Belton.

After Taylor's death, the state sent Texas Rangers to the area. In the book "Lampasas County: Its History and People," Walter Prugh notes: "The crimes changed from Indian raids and stagecoach robberies to more common acts of the day: unlawful card playing, dogging hogs, maliciously killing dogs, disturbing the peace by using unbecoming or vulgar language in public places, such as the post office and churches, the unlawfull carrying of pistols and fighting."

The Taylor's Creek post office was discontinued in 1878 and a post office named Slaughterville - in honor of Phillip Slaughter, not mass carnage - was established at the same site.

The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway came through in 1882, running a couple of miles from Taylor's store, and the town settled down as Kempner in honor of Harris Kempner, a native of Poland, a Galveston merchant and director of the railroad. Prugh writes of Harris Kempner: "He joined Parson's Brigade, Confederate Army, and was wounded in the Red River Campaign. He was left on the battlefield for dead but recovered and served to the war's end. Then he helped to rebuild Texas."

Part of his rebuilding efforts involved establishing a large and successful wholesale grocery in Galveston with a man by the real name of Marx Marx. Kempner was a stockholder and director of national banks in Cameron and Gatesville and eight other cities in addition to being director of the railroad.

While other towns of Kempner's ilk declined in the 20th and into the 21st Centuries, Kempner has more than held its own. Its population was listed as 300 in 1927 but dropped to 125 in 1933 and stayed around that number for several years.

The town voted in 1997 to incorporate. The vote was 200 in favor, 33 against. The push to incorporate came when the Copperas Cove City Council annexed land that extended into Lampasas County, leaving residents to wonder if their community could be next. The 2000 census lists Kempner as the home of 1,004 people.

Kempner is located at the junction of U.S. Highway 190 and Ranch Road 2313.

Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" >
February 23, 2006 column
* * * * *

KEMPNER, TEXAS

Lampasas County, Texas Hill Country
Highway 190 and Ranch Road 2313
10 miles E of Lampasas
12 miles W of Killeen

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