Kerr County Courthouse, Kerrville, Texas

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“Kerr County is fifty miles northwest of San Antonio in the Edwards Plateau region of south central Texas. The irregularly shaped county is bounded on the northeast by Gillespie County, on the east by Kendall County, on the south by Bandera County, on the southwest by Real County, on the west by Edwards County, and on the northwest by Kimble County.”

“The county was named for James Kerr, an Old Three Hundred colonist and an important figure in the Texas Revolution. Kerrville is the county seat, and Ingram is the only other incorporated community. The county is served by Interstate Highway 10, U.S. highways 83 and 87, and State highways 16, 27, and 39. Kerr County is drained by the Guadalupe River and its tributaries and covers 1,107 square miles of undulating to hilly land with elevations that range from 1,500 to 2,000 feet above sea level.”

“The first attempt at Anglo settlement in the area of the present Kerr County occurred in 1846 when Joshua D. Brown led a group of ten men to the Guadalupe River and established a shingle-making camp at the site of present Kerrville. They were soon driven off by Indians, only to return to the site, which they named Brownsborough, in 1848. A number of settlers moved into the area in the early 1850s, erecting sawmills on the various streams and establishing farms. Indian raids became increasingly troublesome in the early 1850s, and in response the United States Army established a post at Camp Verde in southern Kerr County on July 8, 1855. This post became the headquarters for the famed experiment with camels as transport, and promoted development in the area as well as providing protection. Settlers faced the dangers of Indian attack for the next twenty years, and the final raid took place in 1878.”

“On January 26, 1856, Kerr County was formed from Bexar Land District Number 2. Brownsborough changed its name to Kerrville and became the county seat. The county was organized and held its first election in March of that year. For several years the new county seat grew slowly due to its remoteness and exposure to Indian attacks, and in 1860 county residents decided to move the county seat to Comfort, a more well-established community to the east. Two years later, when Comfort became part of the newly established Kendall County, the county seat was returned to Kerrville. By 1860 Kerr County had a population of 634, including 49 black slaves.”

“Many settlers had come to the county from the upper south, particularly from Tennessee, while substantial numbers of German immigrants moved down from the settlements at Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. Cattle and sheep ranching established an early dominance over the county economy; by 1860 there were over 4,000 cattle and 1,100 sheep, while only 2,201 acres of farmland were devoted to crops.”

“As tensions increased during July of 1862 Kerr and other counties were declared to be in rebellion against the state of Texas, and Confederate forces were ordered to take measures to suppress the rebellion. In reaction to this a party of unionists, mostly German immigrants from Gillespie, Kendall, and Kerr counties, rendezvoused on Turtle Creek in Kerr County and headed south to seek asylum in Mexico. They were intercepted by Confederate forces and most were killed at the battle of the Nueces in Kinney County or while attempting to cross the Rio Grande.”

“The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway built through Kerrville in 1887, further stimulating the county economy. Kerr County’s population more than doubled during the 1880s, reaching 4,462 in 1890, then grew more slowly to just under 5,000 in 1900. County agriculture around the turn of the century was dominated by cattle, sheep, and goat ranching. By 1900 the cattle industry had reached its peak, with some 56,000 head on county ranches. Sheep ranching also expanded during the same period, as the number of sheep in the county increased from 15,504 in 1880 to 37,115 in 1900. In 1910 the number of sheep in the county overtook the number of cattle, and the sheep industry continued to grow as the cattle business declined during the 1920s and 1930s.”

“The early twentieth century witnessed the beginnings of the tourist industry in the county. Religious groups found the pleasant climate and beautiful Hill Country landscape congenial for camp meetings. The Westminster Encampment for Presbyterians, the first of these church-run camps, was established in 1906, and the Methodist Kerrville Assembly Grounds were established in 1924. The Country Cowboy Camp Meeting was established in 1940 and was still meeting annually in the 1990s. A related development was the growth of summer camps and dude ranches. By 1950 there were twelve summer camps in the county, and by 1989 that number had grown to over thirty camps serving more than 23,000 children. By the 1920s Kerr County had developed a reputation as one of the healthiest locations in the country, a reputation that led to significant developments in county health care and demographics.”

“The Hill Country setting of the county also attracted wealthy Texans and residents from other states looking for attractive sites for country homes. The county has also attracted numerous visitors with its opportunities for hunting and fishing. In addition to the large number of deer native to the county, Kerr County became an early center of the exotic game industry, and Kerrville is the headquarters of the Exotic Game Association. The Kerr Wildlife Management Area has studied the interaction of domestic, wild, and exotic animals since the 1950s and supervises controlled deer-harvesting through hunting programs.”

“The Kerrville Folk Festival, a popular showcase for Texas performers, operated independently of the arts and crafts fair after 1972, and was attracting crowds of 25,000 by the 1990s. The Jimmie Rodgers Jubilee is another popular Kerrville musical event.”

“Politically, the county’s voters supported the Democratic presidential candidates in every election from 1896 (the first year the area participated in a national election) through 1920. The county supported Republican presidential candidates in 1924 and 1928, returned to the Democratic partyqv for the Franklin Roosevelt years, then voted Republican in virtually all presidential elections from 1948 through 2004. The only exception occurred in 1964, when native-son Democrat Lyndon Johnson carried the county.”

“Kerrville (population, 23,177) is the county seat and the home of Schreiner University. Other towns include Ingram (1,846), Center Point (800), Hunt (708), Mountain Home (96), and Camp Verde (41). The county is served by the Kerrville Airport. Visitors are attracted to the area by the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Kerrville-Schreiner State Park, youth camps and dude ranches, and the Cowboy Artists Museum.”

Mark Odintz, “Kerr County,” Handbook of Texas Online


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