Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Monday, February 16, 2015

1860 Kerr County, by the numbers

Enumeration of the Slave inhabitants of Kerr County, summer of 1860.
Click on image to enlarge
In the summer of 1860, just four years after Kerr County was created, Theodore Weidenfeld collected information on our county for the federal census.
The document he created is now online, and was found by a friend with whom I frequently correspond: John MacCrossan, who lives in Derry, Ireland.
The 1860 census of Kerr County is a very interesting document, and has more than a few surprises in its handwritten tables. The document tells a lot about life here in the earliest days of our county.
For one thing, Comfort was in Kerr County in those days, before Kendall County was created. In fact, in 1860 the voters of Kerr County voted to move the county seat from Kerrsville to Comfort. The census document gives a few clues why this happened.
First, the facts:
The census enumerates the citizens of Comfort, the citizens of Kerrville, and those who lived outside those two communities; the rest of the county is divided into two precincts. The area around Comfort was Precinct 2; the area around Kerrville (and farther upriver) was Precinct 1.
The total population given for Kerr County in 1860 was 634, including 49 slaves.
Comfort had a population of 91: 52 men, 39 women. Of the men, 37 were of voting age.
Kerrville had a population of 68: 38 men, 30 women. Of the men, 15 were of voting age.
There were more people near Comfort than near Kerrville, too: Comfort, and the land around it, was settled first, largely by German immigrants from New Braunfels, who began moving into the area in the early 1850s.
Kerrville really didn't have a beginning until 1856, though a small group of settlers lived here. It wasn't until 1856 that Joshua D. Brown offered site for a town at the very first Kerr County commissioners court. Though Brown and others had lived in the area since the late 1840s, it wasn't until 1856 that Brown obtained title to the land on which the oldest part of Kerrville now rests. Brown purchased the land from the heirs of B. F. Cage, who assumed the veteran had died -- although it turns out Mr. Cage was quite alive at the time, living in nearby Blanco.
The summer of 1860 was a time of turmoil in Kerr County -- this was when the storm clouds of the American Civil War were building in the east.
The census makes clear that conflict was present even here in the newly formed Kerr County. It's true there were 49 slaves in Kerr County, but they were not evenly distributed over the county.
One slaveholder, Dr. Charles de Ganahl, owned 24 of the 49. Dr. Ganahl had just over 4,000 acres near present-day Center Point. In the 1860 census, Ganahl's land was in Precinct 1.
In fact, almost all of the slaves in Kerr County in 1860 were in Precinct 1. There were 9 slaves held in Precinct 2, the area around Comfort; there were 40 in Precinct 1, the area around Kerrville.
In the town Comfort, there was only one slave: a 10-year-old girl, who was owned by a woman. Kerrville counted 2 slaves: a 28-year-old male, and a 10-year-old male. The rest were held on farms and small ranches, but mostly in the area around Kerrville.
19 of the 49 slaves here were 10 years of age or younger. None of the slaves are named in the document; they are only counted.
Precincts 1 and 2 were also divided by language; most of the families in Precinct 2 spoke German in their homes; in Precinct 1, English.
This division of language mirrors the division of slave ownership, too. When the county voted on the question of secession of Texas from the United States, Kerr County narrowly voted to secede, 76 to 57. However, there is some evidence to suggest Kerr County would have voted not to secede had the votes of Precinct 2 (near Comfort, in the German-speaking portion of the county) been counted fully.
Yet another division was the selection of the county seat. In 1860 voters selected Comfort over Kerrville, though even in this election there was some chicanery, as many of the votes from Kerrville were thrown out.
Until next week, all the best.

To see the 1860 Census of Kerr County, click HERE
To see the 1860 Census of Kerr County slaves, click HERE

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 14, 2015.

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