Monday, March 5, 2012

James Kerr comes to Kerrville

As you know, I collect Kerrville items of historical interest, everything from photographs and paintings to printed materials, ledgers, and diaries. The great majority of these items were given to me by friends. (If you have an item you'd like to bring by, I'd love to see it!)
Portrait of 
Maj. James Kerr
Something quite remarkable came into the print shop the other day, and that's saying something, since most days a new item is given to me to be a part of my collection, and many of the items are rare and of high historic value.
For many years it has been a staple of my history talks to tell my audiences James Kerr never actually visited the community which bears his name.
In those talks I usually include the following: "The founder of Kerrville, Joshua Brown, named the community for his friend, Major James Kerr, an influential person in Texas' War for Independence. The two knew each other from Gonzales, where Kerr was an administrator and surveyor for the DeWitt Colony. There is no evidence James Kerr ever visited Kerrville or Kerr County."
The portrait after some computerized
magic spells and such.  Click to enlarge.
And, despite the item which came to the print shop this week, that is still true. James Kerr, as far as we know, never visited Kerr County. But this week he came in spirit.
What came to Kerrville this week is remarkable because it's a framed photographic portrait of Major Kerr. Given that Kerr died in 1850 this relic is quite unusual: portraits that old are extremely rare.
The pose is one I've seen before, in fact the only pose I've ever seen of James Kerr. It's unique in that it appears to be a print from the original negative, with some of the details enhanced by hand; some areas appear to be highlighted in pencil. It's actually a wonderful portrait, even if Maj. Kerr looks a little cross in the photo.
The image is a little over 9 inches tall and 7 wide, printed on a cream paper in black. There are some cracks in the portrait, but it appears to have been well-conserved. It is in an oval frame behind curved glass.
This particular portrait spent a number of years in Gillespie County. A friend there, when asked where the portrait should go, brought it to me. I'm very thankful.
And so, finally, James Kerr comes to Kerrville, where I hope he'll stay.
* * *
Dr. Joseph Luther's 
new book.
Dr. Joseph Luther, who, like me, is a Kerrville native who loves Kerr County history, has published a wonderful new book: "Camp Verde: Texas Frontier Defense," and my friends at Wolfmueller's Books are hosting a book-signing for him Saturday, March 3rd, from 3 to 5 pm at their store at 229 Earl Garrett Street.
I would recommend calling Wolfmueller's at 830-257-7323 to reserve a copy; I'm pretty sure, given the subject and the local popularity of the author these will sell like hotcakes.
And go support the author during his book signing event -- I'm sure he'll have some colorful comments to share with those in attendance. These events are always fun, and I hope to see you there. And it's fun to support local authors, don't you think?
The book is also available online.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic Kerrville and Kerr County items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 3, 2012.

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