Kerrville traces its origins to a shingle-making camp (roof shingles were made from cypress trees) set up in the 1840’s by Joshua D. Brown on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River.
The community was originally known as Brownsborough but when a town was laid out in 1856, Brown insisted that the community be renamed Kerrsville (the “s” was dropped in 1866) after his friend James Kerr, a veteran of the Texan Revolution.
When Kerr County was established in 1856 Kerrville became the county seat and the town grew in importance with the opening of a large mill complex by German millers and in the late 1800’s became an important ranching centre, for sheep and goats as well as cattle.
Charles Schreiner, who was to go on to establish an empire centred on banking, wool production and ranching, came to Kerrville in 1869 to open a general merchandising business. He went on to own vast tracts of land around Kerrville. The town generally prospered in this period, boosted by the arrival of the railroad in 1887.
There was continued, steady growth in the 20th century and Kerrville was described as one of the wealthiest small towns in America.
The town has developed as a cultural centre and since 1972 has played host to the renowned Kerrville Folk Festival, said to be the longest continuously-running music festival in the US. The city also houses the Museum of Western Art.
Kerrville reputedly enjoys a healthy climate, a fact which drew people to the town in the early 20th century. “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers built a house here to help him deal with his tuberculosis.
Another song today from adopted Texan Slaid Cleaves, who in 1992 was a winner of the New Folk competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival. A bit of background to the song – and some Kerrville reminiscences – can be found here.
“We’ll be putting down the brisket and tequila
Down in Kerrville with the Seekers of the Shade
‘Cause a piece of you lives on
Not only in this song
But in all the lives you touched and every friendship
that you made.”