History of Kerrville


Synopsis by Chuck Lutz


Were it not for some unusual twists of historical fate, and the efforts of a respectful friend, Kerr County could have easily been known as Brown County. But instead it became Kerr, in 1856, after being formed from a large portion of what was then Bexar County.

The name honors the soldier, statesman and surveyor, Major James Kerr who is generally considered to be the first American settler on the Guadalupe River. Interestingly, it is unlikely that Major Kerr ever visited the area whose County bears his name. The fact is that he died six years before Kerr County was created by the Sixth Texas Legislature.

So how could it have been called Brown County? Joshua D. Brown (1816-1874) is documented to be the first actual settler to make his home on the upper Guadalupe River - the area where our County is located. Born in Kentucky, Brown migrated to Texas in 1830 and settled in Green DeWitt's Colony at Gonzales. James Kerr, also a Kentuckian, was a Colony official and the two became good friends. They both served in the Texas struggle for independence from Mexico in 1836.

After independence was won, Brown returned to Gonzales, married and, in 1844, searched westward for a new home. A settlement at Curry's Creek was his first stop - in the area now known as Kendall County. There, he learned the art of shingle making - a profession made possible by the availability of cypress trees. Cypress had the quality of sealing itself when moistened, making it in high demand for pioneer roofing. Shingles, packed in bundles of 1000, ranged from five to eight dollars each and San Antonio was a handy market.

By 1846, most of the cypress trees had been cut and Brown decided to check out a rumor that giant cypress could be found in abundance near the headwaters of the Guadalupe. Upon discovering the rumor to be true, he and a group of fellow shingle makers traveled several days upstream, locating the large stands of cypress, and selected a site near what is now the 900 block of Kerrville. Within 10 years, the settlers of the upper Guadalupe River began petitioning the Legislature to create a county for their area and they won approval on Jan. 26, 1856. The larger town of Comfort was then in this new county and its German residents wanted the new county's seat to be located there. However, many of the residents had not taken out citizenship papers before the election was held so, in March of 1856, Brown's shingle camp area was selected as the new county seat - by a margin of three votes.

Brown, who had donated four acres to his new County Seat, insisted that it be named for his friend, James Kerr, instead of himself. And so it was, that the shingle camp became known as Kerrsville (note the s) in Kerr County. Later, in 1862, the newly formed county of Kendall absorbed the town of Comfort. And in 1866, Kerrsville was renamed Kerrville.

  Copyright 1998 Charles E. Lutz