- ABNUS B. KERR. A noted writer has said: "The present is the child of all the past, the mother of all the future." If this be true, where will the generations of the future find a more impressive lesson or faithful guide than in the study of the lives of those men who have achieved a successful prominence in the busy walks of life? There is in the intensified energy of the business man, fighting the everyday battle of life, but little to attract the attention of the idle observer: but to the mind fully awake to the stern realities of life there are noble and immortal lessons in the life of the man who, without other aid than a clear head, a strong arm and a true heart, conquers adversity and wins for himself honors and distinction among his, fellow men. Among such men we may mention Abnus B. Kerr, who is one of the leading business men of the county. He was born March 4, 1832, in Augusta County, Va., of which state his parents, Robert G. and Cassandra C. (McCutchen) Kerr were also natives. Robert G. Kerr was born in 1803 and died in Fayette County in 1893, at the ripe old age of ninety years. His father, William Kerr, was one of the first settlers of Virginia, and was in the war for independence. He came from either Scotland or Ireland, and his wife was a native of Holland. William Kerr and wife reared a family of eight children: David Samuel X., William, Jr., Robert 0., Betsie, wife of John Wallace; Sallie, married Peter C. Hogue, an eminent Baptist minister; Peggie, married Elijah Hogshead of Virginia, and Jane, who married Dr. William T. Anderson, a prominent surgeon of White Sulphur Springs for many years, is still living. Our subject's maternal grandparents, Downey McCutchen, commonly known as Captain McCutchen, was also in the Revolutionary War and held the rank of captain in the Army of Patriots of Virginia. Both the Kerrs and McCutchens were large property owners and very influential families. Mr. McCutchen reared a family of seven children: Robert, Chapman, Cyrus, a physician; Amanda, married Colonel Emonson of Lexington, Va., and became the mother of three daughters: Cassandra C., Rebecca and Temperance, who married William Suddeth and became the mother of one son, James, who is now an eminent physician of Washington, D. C. Robert G. Kerr, a farmer and planter, was the son of wealthy parents, and remained in Virginia until 1874. He met with many reverses on account of security debts, and our subject cared for him amid the remainder of the family until the death of both parents, the mother dying in 1880, when, seventy-five years of age. This worthy couple reared four children: A. B., Mary C. A., Jerusha E., wife of J. E. Gillespie, and Robert 0. of Bell County. Abnus B. Kerr, the oldest of the above mentioned children, secured a fair education in the common schools of Augusta County, Va., and in 1852, when twenty years of age, he started out to fight the battle of life for himself. He went to Charleston, V. Va., and from there down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. Many were taken sick with cholera on the boat, and died at the rate of five a day, and of the eighteen who started with our subject, two died of that dread disease. Boats were not allowed to stop in the towns, but would land at wood yards, and other places, and dig pits in the sand for the corpses of their unfortunate comrades. About fifty persons were thus buried. On this boat was a lady who was going South with her little child to join her husband, who was a merchant in Louisiana. The lady promenaded the deck with Mr. Kerr, seemingly in the best of health, but before morning she was a corpse. Her body was placed in a casket and conveyed to New Orleans. The child clung to Mr. Kerr, and would not go with any of the ladies, and he took charge of the forlorn little creature until it reached its father in New Orleans. From New Orleans Mr. Kerr went to Indianola, and thence made his way to Gonzales by ox team, landing in that town with little money November 1, 1852. He at once succeeded in getting work, and was bookkeeper for a Mr. Gishard, a Frenchman, with a salary of $5l per month. He remained with that gentleman but one month, for he had to keep the books and clerk as well. As he could not do both at once, he was obliged to take care of the books at night, In a little house open to the weather. There Mr. Kerr contracted pleurisy, cattle very near dying and when he recovered paid all his money to the doctor. He was without money, out of a position, had no friends, and was too proud to write home for money. As he could not get work at his business?bookkeeping?he decided to turn his hand at anything; and as the first brick house of Gonzales was under construction at that time, he accepted a position as hod-carrier for the masons, at. seventy cents a day and board himself, paying forty cents per day for board. This building was known as the Kiser Hotel, and on it our subject worked as hod-carrier until March, 1853. At that time Major Neighbors was raising a company of rangers to guard the surveyors going north to survey land in Peters Colony. This land was to be surveyed from where Dallas now stands, north. Mr. Kerr wished very much to go, but had no horse or outfit, which all rangers were required to furnish. He had shown such spirit and grit after his sickness, in taking up the hod, that he won the respect and esteem of all, and one citizen, a Mr. H. Saddler, said he would furnish the saddle, a countryman furnished the horse, another a gun and thus Mr. Kerr was equipped, with the understanding that he was to pay for the outfit should he ever get able. The company was organized at Austin and started in March, with a company of surveyors, under Colonel Hitchcock. This land was to be surveyed for the Texas Emigration and Land Company of Peters Colony. Seventeen hundred square miles were surveyed in nine months, and many very interesting experiences had our subject during that time. At one time a chief of the Wichita tribe had stolen a number of Government horses from Fort Crogan, or near Burnett, and Major Sibley, who was in command, followed with horses and men, and overtook him and wife and followers near the Indian agency, on the Clear Fork of the Brazos, where the company of rangers were camped. The latter assisted in capturing the chief and his wife, and he was kept closely confined in a tent. While there he stabbed his wife and started for Major Sibley's tent to assassinate him, but was stopped by a guard, whom he shot. Other guards came up and the chief was shot through the breast. Finding the wound mortal, the latter plunged the knife in his own breast. On the 2d of July, 1853, Mr. Kerr and a friend, Mr. Gibbons of Arkansas, decided to go to Fort Belknap, a distance of twenty-five miles from the camp of the rangers, to get their guns repaired. While hunting a suitable place to cross the Brazos River, they came suddenly on a camp of 150 Indians on the warpath. Mr. Kerr and his friend lost no time In getting away from there, but were pursued by Indians on foot and on horseback. The friend was on a fine mare, and this left our subjects little pony in the rear. Mr. Kerr called to his companion to wait, but the latter seemed to be deaf. The race continued until within sight of Fort Belknap, and the horses of the boys were almost exhausted. They reached that place in safety, and a party of soldiers started back after the Indians, but did not succeed in capturing any. After remaining a week at the fort the boys returned by a different route, and with an escort of dragoons. On the 31st of November Mr. Kerr was transferred from the ranger service to the surveying corps, where he received $60 per month, $30 more than he had received previously. Still later he was transferred to the transcribing department, where he received $75.50 per month. In that capacity he served until he reached Austin, November 1, 1853. He then clerked for some time, and was offered a salary of $75 per month to work in the land office. About this time Mr. Kerr and his companions were paid off for their trip with the surveyors, and Mr. Kerr received $140. Returning to Gonzales, he paid off his debts, spent a short time with his friends, and on the last of January, 1854, he went to Cibolo, near SeIma, Bexar County, and purchased a small herd of cattle, a tract of land from J. M. Hill. He made considerable money out of this. During the fall of 1854 he met his first wife, Miss May Murcer [Mercer], and while she was attending school, they were married August 2, 1855. Mrs. Kerr was the daughter of Levi and Sarah (Munifee) [Menefee] Murcer, the father, a large sugar merchant and a wealthy and influential citizen at Egypt. During the fall of 1855 Mr. and Mrs. Kerr loaded their household goods in an ox wagon and moved to Fayette County, on a tract of 200 acres of land that her grandfather, Judge Munifee, had given her. This land was unimproved, and Mr. Kerr built his own house with lumber brought from Higgins' mill at Bastrop. He also fenced in some land and engaged in farming and improving his place up to the outbreak of war. During that eventful period he took charge of his father-in-law's stock, and, together with his own, moved them to Colorado County, where he remained for two years. Returning to Fayette County in 1866, he began surveying, and soon became familiar with the land of the county. He engaged largely in land speculations, buying and selling large tracts of land, and accumulated considerable property. Since then he has been engaged for the most part in farming, stock-raising and merchandising. By his first union Mr. Kerr became the father of four children, as follows: Thomas 0., a merchant of Muldoon, James L, manager of a rock quarry: William B. of San Antonio, manager of the coal and wood business at that place; and R. L. Kerr (deceased). Mrs. Kerr, who was a most estimable lady, and an earnest member of the Baptist church, died in 1868. In 1870 Mr. Kerr married Miss Bettie Ragsdale, a native of Texas, and daughter of Charles C. and Sarah (Scallorn) Ragsdale, early settlers of Texas. Four children were born to his second union; John A., a graduate of the Law School of Texas, at Austin, prior to his twenty-first year (something that had never happened in Texas before), Is now practicing his profession in Fayette; Mary, died in 1882; Charles 0., a student, and Alice L. Mr. Kerr and sons own a large business in Muldoon, this county, and a large stone quarry at that place, the finest in the state. He has a $300,000 contract with the city of Galveston to furnish rock for the city, and sends out from thirty-five to forty car loads per day. Mr. Kerr also owns one-half interest in coal mines at Rockdale, Milam County, shipping twelve car loads per day. The company has leased this mine to the Brickett & Egget Plant Co., and on this they get a royalty of thirty cents per ton. The company with which Mr. Kerr is connected have other mines they will open soon, and sell in the crude state as now. The mercantile business is in charge of one of his sons, and is the most successful enterprise of the kind In the county. Mr. Kerr owns in Texas 50,000 acres of land, and has under cultivation about 4,000 acres, which makes about seventy-five farms, occupied by about seventy-five renters. Mr. Kerr also owns 50,000 acres of land in Mexico, on which there is quite a village. This ranch is worth at least $300,000. The Southern Pacific is planning a road through it, and Mr. Kerr has given the right-of-way. Our subject has taken little interest In political matters for a number of years, but during middle life he served fourteen years as justice of the peace, tax collector, school director, notary public and county commissioner. Finding nothing in politics, he quit. He was sent by, the county to Denver, Col., to devise a means of getting deep water at Galveston. This was the convention that gave that enterprise a start. He is a strong advocate for deep water on the Texas Coast. Socially he is a member of the A. F. and A. M., a Royal Arch and demitted member. Few men in the state are at the head of as many enterprises as Mr. Kerr. Charitable and generous, he gives freely to all worthy enterprises, and takes the lead in all good work. From the year 1870 to 1880 Mr. Kerr was prominently identified with the organization of the Texas State Grange, and for eight years was a member of the first executive committee He undoubtedly possesses a mind the equal of which few men can boast. He controls to-day more different financial enterprises than any other man in the state, and is known and recognized far and near as the "Millionaire Rock King of Texas."?pp. 449-454.