Indian wars and pioneers of Texas Page: 153 of 894
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INDIAN WVARS AND PIONEERS OF TEXAS.
Maj. James Kerr, the First Pioneer in Southwestern Texas.
Many noble pioneers who have wrought for the
settlement and civilization of Texas sleep in their
graves never to be resurrected in memory except
at the bar of God, with the welcome, *' Well done,
thou good and faithful servant." Some left
kin(lrecl or friends to assert their merits and shield
their reputations in the record of the history of
their times. Many did not. There has been a
tendency to concentrate the entire honor and the
glory of settling Texas-with some, on one manwith
others on a handful of men. The truth is,
that near the same time half a dozen Americans
conceived substantially the same idea, among
whom stand the names of Moses Austin and Green
DeWitt of Missouri, Robert Leftwich of Tennessee
and several others. To the Americans of the first
quarter of this century, while Texas was a terra
incognita in fact, it was a paradise in the imagination
of many. Its beauties and fertility had been
portrayed by traders and trappers and the adventurers
under Toledo, in 1812-13. Moses Austin
received his right to introduce American immigrants
just before the final fall of Spanish power in
1821. He returned home, sickened and died.
His son assumed his responsibilities and was accor(led
his privileges, the whole being finally
perfected on the 14th April, 1823. From this
(begun in 1821) sprang the first American colony
of Texas. The applications of DeWitt and others,
almost simultaneously made, were delayed on
account of the rapidly changing phases of political
events in Mexico, till the spring of 1825, although
DeWitt's grant was promised contemporaneously
with that of Austin. DeWitt, assured of success,
did not await the final consummation by the newly
organized government of Coahuila and Texas, but
proceeded to his home in Missouri to perfect arrangements
for the settlement of his colony, through
which ran the beautiful mountain rivers, Guadalupe
and San Marcos, while the limpid Lavaca formed
its eastern boundary. Yet he was again present
at the final consummation of his plan in April, 1825.
De Witt, in Missouri, secured the co-operation
of James Kerr, then a member of the senate of
that State, who became the suveyor-general of the
colony, its first settler, and for a time its chief
manager. Mr. Kerr was born near Danville, Ky.,
September 24, 1790, removed with his father to
St. Charles County, Missouri, in 1808, was a
gallant soldier in the war of 1812-15
under Capt. Nathan Boone
ha been sheriff
of St. Charles County, a representative in tle
legislature and then a senator. He had a wife,
three little children and eight or ten favorite negro
servants. With these he arrived at the mouth of
the Brazos in February, 1825. Before the first of
July his wife and two of his little children had
the first in a camp, the others on the roadside.
During July he reached the present site of
Gonzales, accompanied by five or six single men
and his servants. lie erected cabins, laid out the
town site as the capital of the future colony and
began the survey of its lands. On the 1st or 2d
day of July, 1826, in his absence, Indians attacked
his houses in the temporary absence of most of
the inmates, killed one man and severely wounded
another, robbed the establishment and then retired.
Thereupon Maj. Kerr removed nearer the coast,
to the Lavaca river, in what is now Jackson County,
but continued his labors as surveyor of De Witt's
colony, and subsequently, also, as surveyor of the
Mexican colony of De Leon, next below on the
Guadalupe. To his laborious duties, in January,
1827, were added the entire superintendence of the
affairs of Col. Ben. R. Milam, in his proposed
From 1825 till 1832, Maj. Kerr's house was
the headquarters of Americanism in Southwest
Texas. Austin's colony on the one side, and De
Witt's and I)e Leon's on the other, slowly grew,
and he stood in all that time, and for several years
later, as a wise counsellor to the people. When
the quasi-revolution of 1832 occurred, he was
elected a delegate to that first deliberative body
that ever assembled in Texas, at San Felipe,
October 1, 1852, and was on several of its committees.
That body of about fifty-eight representative
men, so strangely overlooked by the
historians of Texas, laid the predicate for all that
followed in 1833-35-36, and caused more sensation
in Mexico than did the better known convention
of 1833, which did little more than amplify the
labors of the first assembly.
Maj. Kerr, however, was a member of the
second convention which met at San Felipe on the
first of March, 1833, and was an influential member
in full accord with its general scope and
design. He presided, in July, 1835, at the first
primary meeting in Texas, on the Navidad river,
which declared in favor of independence.
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Brown, John Henry. Indian wars and pioneers of Texas, book, 1880~; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6725/m1/153/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .