Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chapter 6: The hidden fact about James Kerr

James Kerr
Several of you have asked me when I am going to finish this series on Major James Kerr, the man for whom Kerrville and Kerr County are named, wondering when I will finally get to the one new piece of information I’ve learned that will change the way we think about the name of our community. I’m thinking it might be this with this very post!
For those of you just now joining us, I have used the past several columns trying to get to the newly discovered information, though limitations of space have prevented me (so far) from reporting what I’ve learned.
(This series of articles began after a chance meeting with Walter Womack, a descendent of Major James Kerr, intrigued me because of one small comment Mr. Womack made: “You know,” he told me, “there is one thing few people know about James Kerr.”)
Last week we left Major Kerr residing beside the Lavaca River with his only surviving child, a daughter named Mary Margaret.
But even from this isolated spot, Kerr was in the thick of things in the early history of Texas and knew many of the leaders of the state.
According to a 1957 sketch written by James Kerr Crain, a descendent, “James Kerr's association with Stephen F. Austin developed into a warm friendship that ended only with the death of Austin with Kerr at his bedside. When young Mary Margaret Kerr was baptized into the Catholic faith, Stephen F. Austin was her godfather. It so happened that on her ninth birthday Austin was at the Kerr home, Mary Margaret, or Minnie as she was called, had begged her father often to give her a gun for her very own; on this birthday she renewed the request which was overheard by her godfather. He sent into Mexico an order for a small and light rifle to be mounted in silver and to bear the inscription: "Minnie's Rifle". It was an excellent weapon and fired accurately; so much so that many were the requests to use it.”
Another aspect of James Kerr is repeated in the sketch.
“The Texas James Kerr was not a handsome man. Indeed, at one of the rare social gatherings of the sparsely settled community he was a contestant in a simple frontier game called, ‘Uglying for the Knife.’ The contestants lined up before the judge and the one deemed the ugliest was presented with a knife as a prize; the winner must then carry the knife until he met an uglier man to whom he would transfer it. On this occasion a fellow contestant striving for the prize called out; "Stand just as God Almighty made you, Kerr." Whether our ancestor was making faces at the time is not related; at any rate he won the knife. A year or so later Major Kerr attempted to pass the knife to a newcomer who recoiled exclaiming: "Mister, shoot me but don't give me that knife, if I am uglier than you then I want to die." I have concluded always from this sequel that Major Kerr was not making faces when he won the knife.
“In 1833 James Kerr married a second time. His bride was Sarah Fulton, the adopted sister of John J. Linn of Victoria. This made life more pleasant for little Mary Margaret who had never really known her mother. Four days before this second marriage James Kerr was baptized into the Catholic Church. I have in the old Kerr bible the baptismal certificate. It is written in Latin and is dated September 20th 1833. The ceremony was performed in San Patricio by Father John Thomas Malloy. His sponsors were Richard Everard and Elizabeth McGloin.”
Well, I’ve run out of space again, but we’re a lot closer to the surprising new information I’ve learned. Hopefully I’ll get it squeezed in my next post.
Until then, all the best.

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1 comment:

  1. I just found Chapter 6 of the James Kerr articles.

    Now, I can't find Chapter 7.

    What was the new information about James Kerr?



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