months after writing my first poems I discovered that Hugh Kerr my 4th great
grandfather had written Texas first epic poetry book. My discovery occurred at
the Clayton Library, in Houston while reading a book on the history of Fayette
County. The writer, Julia Sinks had moved to Texas in 1840. Her trip from New
Orleans was made on the Steamship New Orleans. The passengers included Hugh,
General Sam and Margaret Lea Houston, and Samuel Maverick. “We found on board
also Mr. Kerr, author of the only Texas epic. The old gentleman plied Mrs.
Houston with quotations from his poems with the fondness of a mother for her
children, and it was pleasing to see the patient and attentive smile with which
she accepted the entertainment.” By this time Hugh had been a Texan for 9 years, having
arrived at Harrisburg on April 2, 1831.
Our Kerr ancestors had been well settled in Giles County Tennessee when they
decided to pick up and go to Texas to provide their children with better
opportunities. Hugh Kerr was married to Lucy Thomson, whose brother Alexander
Thomson was a business partner of Sterling Robertson. Alexander brought the
families by water. “We traveled by steamboat to New Orleans, then took passage
on a schooner and (as well as I remember) were 14 days crossing the gulf. We
landed at Harrisburg, Texas, where we remained a few weeks. We then went to a
place where the town of Millican now is, and afterwards located in Washington
County; having only one neighbor nearer than twelve miles of us.”, (Jane H. Kerr
Hill). The family thrived through the many hardships common to pioneers. “The
Indians were friendly then, and a party of them camped by a spring near our
house. They used to hunt and would share their game with us; and, knowing that
we were without bread at this time, they went off some distance to buy cornmeal.
On their return they divided the small quantity they had with my mother, who at
once had the cook to make some bread, and with tears in her eyes she divided it
among the children, both white and black, not tasting it herself.”, (Jane H.
Hugh was involved in business that took him away from Texas much of the time. In
1833, from Cincinnati he wrote Samuel Williams a letter regarding a trunk he was
sending. He also mentioned that Texas had received bad press in several papers
and that he had written articles to counter the bad news. Hugh stated that he
was on his way to Washington where he expected to be for a long time and offered
his services as a representative and loyal citizen of Texas. As things heated up
in Texas, he was still apparently away from home.
1836 the Alamo fell. Hugh wrote of this event.
Ten days and nights the Texans guard
That for, repelling undismay’d
Each fierce assault for them prepar’d
Efficient succour still delay’d
Some thirty men came to their aid;
One hundred eighty-two then count;
And this small band resistance made
Against some thousands in amount.
They yet maintain a constant strife,
Though long protracted, day and night,
Resolv’d to sacrifice their life
Before they would attempt a flight.
Hugh Kerr 1838
The invasion of Santa Anna and his eight thousand soldiers caused a panic
throughout Texas, especially when word of the Alamo’s fall arrived in the east.
The Kerr family packed their belongings and escaped to San Augustine, near the
Sabine River. After our little revolution was won the family returned to find
neighbors murdered and belongings stolen. The return trip also cost the family
2200 acres, the price of a wagon and team.
Certainly most of us Texans know that our independence was won on the San
Jacinto Battleground, April 21, 1836. Sam Houston saw this as his opportunity:
“We go to conquer it is wisdom growing out of necessity to meet the enemy now
every consideration enforces it, no previous occasion would justify it. I leave
the result in the hands of a wise God and rely upon his providence.”
This miraculous victory was due to Houston’s wisdom and courage, Santa Anna’s
ego, and certainly to the Lords providence