Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chapter 1: I Discover a Secret About James Kerr

Major James Kerr,
for whom Kerrville
is named.
I have discovered something new about Major James Kerr, the man for whom Kerrville and Kerr County are named, and this new fact was discovered after a chance encounter with one of his descendants.
As some may know, I once served on the board of the Kerrville Folk Festival, I think as their token non-Folkie. While visiting the grounds there during the past festival, Stuart Vexler, chairman of the festival board, introduced me to Walter Womack, a descendent of Major James Kerr. “You know,” he told me, “there is one thing few people know about James Kerr.”
I listened closely. If true, it would add an interesting new fact to the slim biography we have of the man for whom our community is named. Mr. Womack promised to send along additional information, and, after a few weeks, I received a link to a website which included family history, complete with a lengthy sketch about James Kerr.
The sketch was written in 1957 by Maj. Gen. James Kerr Crain, himself a distinguished Texan from Lavaca and DeWitt counties, a graduate of West Point and an Army veteran of both World Wars. "Our" Major Kerr was Crain’s great-grandfather.
“My mother's maternal grandfather was Major James Kerr, for whom I am named,” wrote James Kerr Crain. “The title of Major derived from a commission he held in the army of the Republic of Texas. This James Kerr played a prominent part in the early days of Texas and of Missouri and like all who stood out in those days he was a hardy character. Major Kerr's grandfather, also named James was born in Ireland. He is described in John Henry Brown's Family Register, prepared in Indianola, Texas, in 1853, as "an Irishman fresh from the bog, very fond of his grog, and when groggy very piously inclined." This same Register relates that this James Kerr married the widow Hyde in Pennsylvania in about 1746. From this marriage there were three children, two daughters and another James Kerr. The son, James Kerr, was born in Pennsylvania October 8, 1749. He became a circuit rider of the Baptist church in what was then Virginia. in the course of the circuit riding he became acquainted with the family of Richard Wells. He fell in love with Patience Wells, reputed to have been so named because she was one of twenty-four children. His affection was reciprocated by Patience, but not by her parents, so the young couple eloped with Patience riding double behind the impetuous parson whose worldly goods consisted of one horse.
The newly married pair removed to Kentucky and settled about two miles from Danville, now (in 1853) Boyle County, Kentucky. There in 1790 my great-grandfather James was born on September 24th. He was one of ten children. As this number crowded the family nest several of the young brood removed to Missouri which was then a part of French Louisiana. The Preacher and Patience visited their children in Missouri and there Patience died. Preacher James returned to Kentucky and later married Phebe Bonham; there were no children of this marriage. By 1808 all of the Kerrs, including the father and his second wife, had removed to St. Charles County, Missouri. The elder James Kerr is said to have been the first Protestant minister west of the Mississippi River.”
Well, Gentle Reader, I really hate to see that I’ve run out of room in my post today: I haven’t gotten to the new interesting thing about Major James Kerr yet. Perhaps I can squeeze it in next time.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who hopes to write a book about the history of our area.  You can connect with Joe on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joeherring, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joeherringjr.


  1. Joe, first thanks for your help on the HOT funds for the festival hope we get some. Second enjoy your history updates. Third lets find a better picture of Maj. Kerr he looks a little "disturbed" in the photo you have! All the best and keep up the blog.

    Bill Stacy

  2. You should squeeze it in here & now since this blog post surely will let you input more characters!

  3. James Kerr was my great, great, great grandfather and Kerr is my middle name. I have a copy of the family history that was written by General James Kerr in 1957. He was not a handsome man and we have a family story that goes like this: One day Major Kerr went into a bar and a man approached him and said "I am sorry to tell you sir that I am going to have to kill you". Major Kerr responded "why. might I ask would you do such a thing", to which the man responded, " I have always said that if I ever saw a man uglier than me that I was going to shoot him". Major Kerr pause a moment looking quite perplexed, he then asked the man if he would kindly step over to the window where there was better light. At that point Major Kerr looked the fellow over quite thoroughly and then quietly backed away. He said "go ahead and shoot man, if I am uglier than you I don't want to live".


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