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Hon. Daniel Kerr


Posted By: Tammy (email)
Date: 11/15/2011 at 23:09:04

HON. DANIEL KERR, ex-Congressman and an attorney at law of Grundy Centre, well deserves representation in this volume, for he is one of the leading and influential citizens of the county. He was born on Highfield Farm, near Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland, June 18, 1836, and was named in honor of his grandfather, Daniel Kerr, Sr. There were two clans of Kerrs, which were noted for the part which their members took in the border wars of Scotland. The grandfather of our subject, Daniel Kerr, owned two farms in Scotland: Highfield Farm and Kerrsland. In 1841, Hugh Kerr emigrated to America and settled in Madison County, Ill., becoming one of its pioneers. He purchased an unimproved tract of land, and upon the farm which he there developed, made his home until his death, in 1874. He constructed the first diamond harrow ever made in Illinois. He was one of the good farmers in this part of the state, and was very successful in the operation of his land. He owned about one hundred acres, for he believed that one man could not operate more than that and do it well. He married Margaret Galt in Scotland. The father of our subject was a member of the Yeoman Cavalry of that country. The paternal grandfather of our subject was an Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and Hugh Kerr held membership in the same religious organization. In politics he was a Republican.

Our subject was only five years of age when he came with his parents to America. He was reared on the old home farm in Madison County, Ill., attending the district schools until ten years of age, and then spent two years in Shurtleff College, in Upper Alton, Ill. He remained on the farm until 1855, when he entered McKendree College, of Lebanon, Ill. With the exception of one term, during which he taught school, he pursued his college course uninterruptedly. He was graduated from the scientific department of McKendree College in 1858, after which he engaged in teaching school, spending his leisure hours in the study of law. In the winter of 1861, he entered the law department of McKendree College, and was graduated after a year’s course. He had previously read law with Solon Thatcher, also under Gov. A. C. French, who was the chief executive of Illinois in 1848, and under Hon. A. W. Metcalf. In 1862, he was admitted to the Bar.

On the 12th of August, 1862, Mr. Kerr enlisted in the service of his country. He helped to raise three companies of the One Hundred and Seventeenth Illinois Infantry, and he joined Company G. He was made Second Lieutenant in April, 1863, and First Lieutenant in August, 1864. He participated in the battles of Pleasant Hill, Tupelo, Nashville, the capture of Ft. Blakely, and altogether was in twenty-six different engagements. For about one year he had command of his company, and was also Acting Adjutant of the regiment a part of the time.

After the war was over and Mr. Kerr had been discharged, he served as Principal of the high school in Alton, Ill., but subsequently resigned in order to practice law in Edwardsville, Ill., where he remained for three years. In 1868, he represented Madison and Bond Counties in the State Legislature, and was a strong opponent of the railroad tax bill and the lake front bill. In 1869, he came to Grundy County and bought a farm of eighty acres, and in the spring of 1870 brought his family to the new home. His fine home adjoins the city limits. He has laid out several additions to the town.

On the 9th of November, 1864, Mr. Kerr married Clara T., daughter of John Estabrook, a native of Boston, who was descended from one of the earliest settlers of the United States. His father was a soldier in the Revolution. When fifteen years old he went to Pittsburgh, where he became acquainted with a young man by the name of Sylvanus Holden. In 1816, they bought a raft and floated down the Ohio River to Shawneetown and went thence to St. Louis, where they saw the first steamboat that ever made that port. In 1817, Mr. Estabrook entered one hundred and sixty acres of the wild prairie in Madison County, Ill., and in connection with Mr. Flagg, planted fine orchards there. He remained on that farm until his death. After a married life of sixty-two years, both he and his wife passed away, in 1880. In the Kerr family are the following children: Margaretta, wife of H. S. Rogers, of this county; George H.; Mary T., wife of D. C. Shuler; John Estabrook; William G., a student in Cornell University; Lillian, who is engaged in teaching, and Edward C.

After coming to this county, Mr. Kerr practiced law in Grundy Centre until his election to Congress. For seven or eight years he served as Justice of the Peace and was the first Mayor of this city. He has been a stanch Republican since the organization of the party, and on that ticket in 1883 was elected to the Legislature. In 1886, he was elected to Congress and was re-elected in 1888, but at the end of four years declined another nomination. He has taken a prominent part in campaign work. In 1860, he made sixty-two speeches for Abraham Lincoln. While a member of the Fifty-first Congress, he served on the Committee on Public Grounds and Buildings, and secured five public buildings for Iowa. He obtained public buildings for Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Burlington, Davenport and Ft. Dodge. He secured the location of a federal court in Cedar Rapids, and received a complimentary letter from leading citizens, regardless of party, for his services.

Socially, Mr. Kerr is a Knight Templar Mason, and is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Legion of Honor. He served as an elector on the Blaine and Logan ticket in 1884. He was a member of the Committee on Resolutions that incorporated the prohibition plank in the party platform, and has ever been an ardent worker for the cause. For ten years, he served as a member of the Board of Education, and helped build the first schoolhouse here. He is ever found on the side of progress, does all in his power to promote the general welfare and to aid in the upbuilding of town and county. His public and private life are alike above reproach and he has won honorable distinction through merit. He was true to his country in the days of war, and faithful to its interests when in Congress. Mr. Kerr is one of the most prominent and most highly respected citizens of Grundy County.

Portrait and Biographical Record
of Jasper, Marshall and Grundy Counties, Iowa


Grundy Biographies maintained by Tammy D. Mount.
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