about pioneers and the things they accomplished during their lives
on the Texas frontier are widely available from many sources.
Today's writers and historians can find a wealth of knowledge both
online and from microfilm editions of old newspapers. It's those combined
sources that provided me with the information I needed to bring you
the story of James Kerr.
According to the Handbook of Texas and author Stephen L Harding,
we are presented with a colorful rendition of life on the frontier
and the many exploits of James Kerr.
was born in Kentucky in 1790 but eventually wound up in Missouri after
his father moved the family there in 1808.
Young James fought in the War of 1812 and would go on to serve as
a sheriff in Missouri - he also became a successful politician in
the "show me" state.
James Kerr showed up in Texas in 1825 and became surveyor-general
for Green DeWitt's colony. He eventually moved his family to Brazoria
so he could be closer to his friend Stephen
Later in 1825, tragedy struck the Kerr family - his wife and two children
died of cholera. There was one surviving child, a three-year-old girl.-
But once again James Kerr was called to serve Texas. He left his daughter
with some friends in San
Felipe and set out with a group of men, including Erastus "Deaf"
Smith, to build what would become the capital of Green DeWitt's colony
- Gonzales, Texas.
The men build some crude cabins on the banks of a creek near the Guadalupe
River. However, after Indians burned the settlement, the town was
moved a few miles further west and nearer the Guadalupe.
Kerr continued to work as a surveyor and attorney. He was involved
in signing a treaty with the Karankawa Indians.
Because he was considered one of Austin's "Old
Three Hundred," Kerr was given a league of land in what is now
Later he turned up in the Lavaca River valley area where he represented
the settlers living there. He was a delegate to the Convention of
In 1835 hostilities were brewing between colonists and the Mexican
government. James Kerr was very involved in watching the activities
of General Antonio López de Santa Anna. He sent out a letter warning
people of the Mexican army advancing on San
Antonio. The city would eventually fall to the Mexicans only to
be retaken by the Texans later.
James Kerr fought the Lipan Apaches and as a member of the General
Council, he was instrumental in assigning Sam
Houston to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokees. While Texas
was still a republic, Kerr represented Jackson
County in the House of the Third Congress where he introduced
legislation to make Austin
It's probably safe to say that Kerr was heavily involved in the activities
of the young
republic. He was always available when Stephen
F. Austin needed him to spy, fight, or negotiate with the enemy.
The people around Jackson,
Lavaca, and Gonzales
counties seemed to have confidence in his ability to serve them
as a soldier and politician.
On a lighter note, author Stephen L. Harding writes, that although
highly respected, Kerr wasn't considered a very handsome man.
There was one incident in a saloon where he was approached by a rather
ugly and inebriated man who told Kerr, "I am sorry but I'm gonna have
to kill you."
Kerr asked the man why he wanted to do that. The man replied, "I have
always said that if I ever saw a man uglier than I am, that I was
going to shoot him."
Kerr asked the man to stand by a window so he could get a better look
at him. After looking the man over, Kerr said, "Shoot away, stranger,
if I am uglier than you, I don't care to live."
The drunk failed to follow through with his threat and James Kerr
lived to leave his mark on the Lone Star State - Kerr
County and Kerrville
are named in his honor.