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Christopher Kerr 1817-1886


Posted By: Cathy Joynt Labath (email)
Date: 11/17/2004 at 21:23:12

Portraits and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties. Chicago: Lake City Pub. Co., 1890.

Christopher Kerr, deceased, an honored pioneer and farmer of Van Buren County, whose family is still living on section 16, Union Township, was born in County Armagh, Ireland, on the 3d of March, 1817. He learned the trade of a weaver in his native land and acquired his education in its public schools. When a young man of twenty-three years, with a hope of bettering his financial condition in the New World, he bade good-by to home, friends and the Emerald Isle, and alone started for America. On the voyage he had an attack of small pox, but had about recovered his health on reaching this country. He made his first location in Pennsylvania, where he remained until he got money enough to travel, when he went to Canada. A short time afterward, however, we find him in Ohio, where the succeeding three years of his life were passed. It was in 1844 that he came to the Territory of Iowa with the intention of making his future home on its broad prairies and settled in Van Buren County. This was an important day for both the county and himself, as he prospered here, while the community gained a valued citizen. After entering forty acres of land, he embarked in merchandising in Winchester, which he continued for some six years, or until 1850, when, attracted by the gold discoveries in California, he crossed the plains with an ox-team. At the end of a year he returned with $1,600 in his pocket, which furnished a fair start. Removing to his farm, he purchased an additional eighty acres, and then began the development of his land, which in course of time yielded abundant harvests as the reward for the labors expended thereon.

On the 23d of December, 1852, Mr. Kerr was united in marriage with Miss Sarah Moxley, who died in December, 1859, leaving four children, but only one of the number is now living - Melissa, wife of Charlie Sherrod, of Farmington. On the 7th of March, 1861, Mr. Kerr was a second time married, the lady of his choice being Miss Mary Addy, who still survives him. She was born in County Cavan, Ireland, January 12, 1835, and is a daughter of James and Margaret (Foster) Addy. Eight children were born to them, six of whom are living - James V., born January 4, 1862, is at home; Maggie L., born December 28, 1863, is deceased; Jessie G., born October 20, 1865, is the wife of William Prather of Dakota; Leila Reins Ramsdel, born June 1, 1867, is deceased; George W., born August 20, 1869; Hulda Emma, July 9, 1872; Aaron Stanley, March 12, 1875; and Amelia E., May 27, 1877, are at home. The children were provided with good educational advantages, and Leila and George were students at the Normal School at Shenandoah.

Mr. Kerr died at his home in Union Township, July 19, 1886, respected by all who knew him. At the time of his death he owned four hundred and sixty acres of land in Van Buren County and three hundred and twenty acres in Missouri, which left his family in comfortable circumstances. With a capital of $50 he began life in this county, but good management, industry, and pluck overcame the disadvantages which lay in his path, and he at length became a well-to-do citizen. In proportion as he was prosperous, his generosity increased. He was charitable and benevolent, ever ready to extend a helping hand to those less fortunate than himself, and the poor and needy found a true friend. He also gave liberally for the support of those enterprises calculated to benefit the community or upbuild town and county. In his early life he was a supporter of the Democratic principles, but when the question of slavery became an issue he joined the new Republican party formed to prevent its further extension, and became an influential member of local politics.

Mrs. Kerr still survives her husband and is living on the old home farm in Union Township, where she has erected one of the finest residences in the county. Her management of the business interests reflects credit upon herself. She is a faithful member of the Methodist Church, of Winchester, and the family is well and favorably known throughout the neighborhood.

**** Note: As I transcribed this I was wondering if Christopher Kerr was in any way related to John Kerr, also of Van Buren Co., who married my great grand aunt, Ann Catcott Kerr on March 15, 1868. I don't know much about her or John Kerr. I do know that in the Administrator's Petition for her father's estate (Samuel Valentine Catcott) dated 23 Mar 1893 that under heirs it was listed "Ann Kerr whose whereabouts is unknown but the last known of her she was an inmate at St. Joseph Insane Asylum, Mo., but whether now or not he does not know." Hmmm, wonder why she was sent there!

Cathy Joynt Labath


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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