We in Kerrville use his name every day, and I often think that when we say his name we forget that those letters, those sounds, once represented a person, a living person.
The same is true with the subject of this column: although we use his name daily, we rarely remember that it once was the handle of a living, breathing person.
He was born in September 1790, in Danville Kentucky. He moved with his Baptist-preacher father to St. Charles County, Missouri, in 1808. He served with honor in the War of 1812, being made lieutenant under Captain Nathan Boone.
After the war, he returned to Missouri. Missouri was good for the young man, and his neighbors elected him sheriff, then state representative, then state senator.
As he was serving in the Missouri State Senate, our mystery man met Green DeWitt, an associate of Stephen F. Austin. DeWitt was a carrier of the “Texas-Bug,” and the bug bit this fellow hard.
He came to Texas with his wife, three small children, and (although I regret to report it) 10 slaves, arriving at the mouth of the Brazos River in 1825, and continuing to the present site of Gonzales in July of that year. His wife and two of his children died on the journey; only he and a daughter survived.
Six single men, along with his slaves, were with him when he surveyed the town of Gonzales on the Guadalupe River. There they built cabins, and became the first American settlers on the Guadalupe.
Our mystery man remained active in politics in his new home of Texas, being elected to the convention of 1832 and also to the second convention which met in 1833 beside the Navidad River, which came out for independence, where he presided. He was also elected to the third convention at San Felipe in 1835, and finally to the convention held at Washington-on-the-Brazos that declared for independence.
During the War for Texas Independence, he was appointed a major in the Republic of Texas Army.
In 1838 he was elected to the Third Texas Congress.
His later years were spent at his plantation in Jackson County, down in the fertile coastal plains, an area known today for rice, cotton, corn and milo near Lake Texana State Park.
He died in 1850, and was buried on the south bank of the Lavaca River, in Jackson County, a few miles south of the city of Edna.
It is doubtful that this man ever came to Kerr County, although he settled downstream on our river. He had a good friend that did settle here however, Joshua Brown. They had known each other probably from their mutual time in Gonzales. Brown insisted that the town and county he founded be named for his good friend, Major James Kerr. And so it was.
See – I thought you’d know the fellow’s name: Major James Kerr, who pronounced his name “Karr,” rhyming with “car.”