Joshua D. Brown, Founder and Father of Kerrville
THE FIRST SETTLER OF KERR COUNTY, TEXAS;
JOSHUA D. BROWN, FOUNDER AND FATHER OF KERRVILLE
Paper and oral history by Jan Powell Wilkinson for the Edwards Plateau Historical Association meeting and publication.
Those of us here today love history and are proud of the stories our ancestors have told us. We have all traveled down these crooked paths but today I will attempt to keep on the straight path of my family history. I have been working on bits and pieces of the facts for many years about our family legend and my great-great grandfather, Joshua D. Brown.
My mother was Joan Auld Powell, and her mother was Gussie May Brown Auld, and her grandfather was Joshua D. Brown (1816-1877) [my 2nd great grandfather]. He is unfamiliar in most local historic accounts; but he was very important to the settlement of Kerrville and Kerr County. There is no school or street bearing his name, but he was the first Anglo-American pioneer to this, the upper Guadalupe River, and should rightly be known as the “Father of Kerrville.”
Joshua D. Brown was a frontiersman, a patriot, a Mason, a father, and a shingle maker. He descended from old English stock who settled in Baltimore and Carroll Counties, Maryland during the U. S. Colonial Period.
Edward [my 3rd great grandfather] was the father of Joshua D. and was the son of Joshua [4th great grandfather] (1757-1826) and Honour Durbin (1761-1848). It is believed that Joshua was named after these grandparents. I believe the middle initial “D.” is for Durbin, but I cannot find any signature by him other than Joshua D. or J. D., so this is not yet proven. Others think it is David. The many ancestors in the Brown family repeat the same name each generation and it has been very difficult to keep them straight.
Our family’s first known genealogical records begin with my 7th great grandfather, who was George Edward Browne (with an “e” on the end), born in either England or Scotland in approximately 1685. He married Mary Nancy Stevenson and they have two sons, Edward George and Richard, both born in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland. Edward was my 6th great grandfather, born 1714 in Baltimore, who died in 1770 at Pipe Creek, Frederick County, Maryland. He married Nancy Stevenson, who was born in 1716 and died in 1776. Their son, Edward is my 5th great grandfather, born in 1734, died in 1823, and married Margaret Durbin in 1753 in Baltimore. Their son Joshua was my 4th great grandfather, born in 1757 in Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, died 1826 in Madison County, Kentucky, and married to Honour (Honora/ Honor) Durbin, daughter of John Durbin and Ann Logsdon, in 1780 in Maryland. The couple migrated to Madison County, Kentucky and had seven children before dying there. Their son Edward is my 3rd great grandfather who was born 1789 in Kentucky but died in 1846 in the former DeWitt Colony, Gonzales County, Republic of Texas.
The Brown-Comly Families Genealogy book (on page 6) states Edward was a farmer, and the owner of a grist mill and distillery. He was an earnest Episcopalian and a patriot. He was born in Pipe Creek, Frederick County, Maryland (which is now Carroll County). During the American Revolution, he enlisted 18 July 1776 and served under Captain John Reynolds in Maryland. He is listed under Daughters of the American Revolution No. 248941. It is evident that he moved to Berks County, Pennsylvania and then to Cumberland County; and after the close of the war, in 1785, he moved to Burgestown in Washington County, Pennsylvania. From there he moved to Holliday’s Cove in Brook County, West Virginia. Then about the year 1795 he moved to Madison County, Kentucky, where he remained until his death on August 14, 1823. His first wife, Margaret Durbin, was born in 1736 to Samuel Durbin and Anne Prudence Logsdon. She died at Holliday’s Cove, West Virginia on March 20, 1795. He married his second wife, Sarah Callaway, the widow of Major Hoy, on November 27, 1797; and they bought a parcel of land on Tate’s Creek, Madison County, Kentucky. There were no children of this marriage. He was 89 years old at the time of his death in 1823. Also found in The Brown-Comly Families Genealogy book (on page 7), Joshua spent his childhood in Frederick County, Maryland. We find that in the years 1780-1782 he was captain of a company in the 8th Battalion of the Cumberland County Militia, of which Alexander Brown was the colonel. [See page 562, volume six, Penn Archives, 5th series]
The impetus for the family of Edward Brown to depart for Texas occurred in Saltillo, Mexico: the colonization law of the joined States of Coahuila and Texas, enacted on March 24, 1825. Under empresario grants issued from April 14, 1823 until the last issued, May 11, 1832 (twenty-six in all), DeWitt’s Colony was granted on the 15th of April 1825. Green DeWitt of Ralls County, Missouri had the right to settle four hundred families west of Austin’s colony and north of Don Martin DeLeon’s Colony. Before these grants were finalized, Major James Kerr resigned his seat in the senate of Missouri, and with his wife, children, and servants, he moved to Texas under an agreement with DeWitt to become surveyor and administrator (temporary) of the colony. He arrived a full month before the concession was made to DeWitt at Saltillo. Kerr was surveyor of the colony (and also surveyed DeLeon’s Colony) and had charge of it when DeWitt was absent. He surveyed the ground and built log cabins a mile west of the present town for the capitol and named it Gonzales in honor of the first Governor of Coahuila and Texas. Each capitol was allowed four leagues of land. After Indian troubles, the colony was moved to the Lavaca River and block-houses were built for defense. Their little fort was called “Old Station.” Later, DeWitt and others returned to Gonzales. Seven years later, this part of Texas was to become the “Lexington of Texas” in the revolution against Mexico.
Edward Brown and Janey Campbell – August 8, 1815 _ Marriage Ledger, Kentucky Clerk Office
In Kentucky, Joshua D.’s father, Edward’s first wife was Rosanah Campbell and they married on August 31, 1812. They had a son, Honor A. Brown, born about 1813 in Madison County, Kentucky. I am unsure what happened to Rosanah, but on August 8, 1815, Edward married Janey Campbell (born about 1793; unsure of death) (believed to be the sister to Rosanah) in Madison County, Kentucky. Their only child, Joshua D. Brown, was born sometime in 1816. I have been unable to find JDB’s birth month or date record or any reference to when his mother died.
His father Edward married his third wife, Anastasia Worland (abt. 1784-1837), but I do not know what date they married. They had seven children, all born in Kentucky: James Steven Brown born 24 Apr 1817, John C. Brown (1823-), daughter Mary Jane Brown (1824-1857), Edward W. Brown (1826), Diana J. Brown (1827-1906), Honer Anne Brown (1828-), and Anastasia Brown (1830-1913). After the death of his wife Anastasia, in Gonzales, Texas in 1837, Edward married Sara Goss (1789c-1843) in 1837 in Sabine County, Texas and they had a son, John Caleb Brown (1838-1919).
Joshua D. Brown, at approximately age 21, came to Texas before October 1, 1837. He was following his father Edward (1789-1846) and step-mother Anastasia Worland Brown (1779- 1837) to Sabine County, Mexico/Texas where they emigrated before in 1831. He, along with his father and third wife and children, all moved to Gonzales.
An unconditional certificate No. 90 was issued by the Board of Land Commissioners of Gonzales County to Joshua D. Brown for 640 acres dated 8th Nov 1837 and issued 5th Jul 1844, witnessed by R. E. Brown and W. M. Phillips. Joshua D. and Rufus E. Brown were witnesses for the William M. Phillips certificate. Rufus Easton Brown was a year older than Joshua and was the son of Henry Stevenson Brown and Margaret “Peggy” Kerr, who was sister to James Kerr. Joshua D. was close to the Kerr family. They were together in DeWitt Colony and later R. came to the Center Point area of Kerr County in 1856. Henry Stevenson’s father Caleb Brown was a younger brother of Joshua in Maryland.
Certificate Ledger, Sabine County, Texas, 8 November 1837
As a patriot, Joshua D. Brown endured the hardships and perils of war by participating in military service for Texas Independence during 1839-1842. He later was a minuteman responding to and defending against Indian raids and performed military duty against Mexico for the Republic of Texas, serving in the Cherokee Expedition under General Rusk in 1839. He was a private soldier in the Company of Mounted Volunteers commanded by Captain Adam Zumwalt in an expedition of the Woll Campaign in 1842; and he was in the battle fought against the Mexican invading army on Salado Creek in Bexar County near the City of San Antonio on or about the 11th of September 1842, during the Dawson Massacre. Joshua D. was also in the Somervell Campaign known as the Mier Expedition in the year 1842, under the command of Captain Isaac N. Mitchell (who was married to James Kerr’s daughter), serving in the Regiment of Col. James R. Cook, and returned after having crossed the Rio Grande at Laredo. Joshua D. was in Col. Ben McCulloch’s Spy Company in 1846. An application for a pension was filed by Joshua D. Brown in 1875. One affidavit dated the 23rd of March 1875 says that during the night before the Battle of Salado, Joshua D. rode in company with Private Tilberry who the bearer of a dispatch from Captain Dawson to Colonel Caldwell. That he was one of the volunteer detail sent by Colonel Caldwell to the scene of Dawson’s Massacre. He, with said detail, found the men of Dawson’s command yet warm in their blood upon the field of battle. Later, Joshua D. Brown served the Confederate forces during the Civil War under Captain Henry T. Davis for the Texas State Troops, mustering in during April 1862, and ending service in July 1863.
De Cordova’s Map of the “State of Texas -1850”
After his military duties were over, Joshua D. Brown left the town of Gonzales to learn a new trade. He moved west to what is now a part of Kendall County north of Waring, Texas on Curry’s Creek. The site, known as Brownsborough or Brownsburg settlement, was approximately four miles from what is now Comfort on the Guadalupe River. After a few months of learning to make cypress shingles out of the bald cypress trees he decided to move up river to make his own shingle camp. He went west to the headwaters of the Guadalupe and found abundant cypress trees and a large spring to build his camp. In 1846, he, along with nine other shingle makers, established the first known business, a shingle making camp, near what is now downtown Kerrville, Texas.
This shingle camp was able to work peacefully and provided some safety to the others living in the area. It is said that half the men stood guard and the others worked. When the ox wagon was full of shingles, they would take them to San Antonio or Austin to trade for supplies. The journey required about four days. Shingle making was a new industry and there were also good markets in Gonzales and San Antonio. The 1,000 shingle bundles were packed and sold for $5 to $8 per bundle. During this time, there was little or no money in circulation and everything a man had to sell was traded for something he needed or did not have. When Indians became overly troublesome, these men returned to Kendall County settlements or to their former homes in Gonzales; but they came back to Kerrville in 1848.
After returning to Gonzales, Joshua’s father Edward died December 1846 and Joshua was the executor for his estate. He married his first wife Eleanor Smith on 20 July 1846 and they had a daughter, Mary Louisa Brown, on 21 December 1847. Unfortunately, Eleanor died in Gonzales on 8 July 1848. But, on 20 May 1849, Joshua married Sarah Jane Goss (1834-1892), daughter of Rev. John Frederick Goss (1811-1892) and Mary Lee “Polly” Dear (1808-1892), originally from North Carolina, and they had seven children.
Their first born was a daughter, Eleanor Ann “Ellen,” who arrived 7 Feb 1851 in Gonzales. On 16 Jan 1868, she married Peter Osborne Alonzo Rees and they had 13 children in Center Point, Kerr County, Texas. John William Brown born 8 Dec 1854, married Frances Henley on 19 Aug 1877. Mary E. L. A. Brown was born 31 Mar 1857 and died sometime after without confirmation. James Stevens Brown born 16 Apr 1859 in Center Point, married Martha Ann Witt on 25 Nov 1879 having eight children; and he died 18 Apr 1941. Nicholas J. Brown, born 1861 in Center Point, married Elizabeth Fenley and he died about 1906. Virginia A. Brown, born 10 Sep 1868 in Center Point married Charles Barlemann 15 Sep 1887, and she died 7 Apr 1890. Joshua D. and Sarah’s youngest child was Alonzo Potter Brown, born 17 Apr 1870 in Kerr County and married Grace Ida Stulting on 18 Nov 1891. They had three children and were my great-grandparents.
1873 tin-type of Joshua D. Brown and wife Sarah Jane Goss Brown with youngest child, Alonzo Potter Brown
Joshua sold his property in Gonzales and moved his family permanently to what he called “Kerrsville,” which he named after his cousin and friend, Major James Kerr, veteran of the War of 1812 and the Battle of San Jacinto; during the period of the Texas Republic. James Kerr was Joshua D. Brown’s father Edward Brown’s first cousin by marriage. His first cousin Henry Stevenson Brown’s wife was Margaret Kerr. James Kerr was her brother, and because Kerr was the first Anglo-American to settle on the Guadalupe River at Gonzales before the state was the Republic of Texas. Major James Kerr had an important role of Texas’s beginning and played a key role in the break with Mexico and the struggle for establishment of an independent Republic of Texas. Joshua D. Brown participated in the founding of Texas along with Kerr in many military campaigns. Major Kerr represented Jackson County in the House of the Third Congress and introduced anti-dueling legislation as well as a bill to make Austin the State Capitol. Kerr never came to Kerrville because he died in 1850 in Jackson County on his farm seven miles north of Edna on Kerr’s Creek and was buried in the Kerr Cemetery. Engraved on the vault over his site is:
“Sacred to the memory of Dr. James Kerr, born in Boyle County, Kentucky, September 24, 1790. Emigrated to Missouri in 1808, then to Texas in the year 1825. Having participated in most of the trying scenes of the struggle for Texas Liberty, he died in Jackson County, December 23, 1850.”
Kerr was a life-long friend of Stephen F. Austin, the most successful Texas empresario, who was instrumental in bringing American settlers to this new land, known as “Original Three Hundred”, and Kerr followed him to Texas from Missouri.
Major James Kerr (a Lieutenant in the War of 1812) was surveyor-general of the Green DeWitt Colony, whose grant was awarded by the Mexican government on April 15, 1825, to settle 400 colonists on the Guadalupe River, and also the DeLeon Colony. Kerr, like Austin, above all other interests, was an unwavering and loyal Anglo-Mexican patriot, working for the welfare of the Texian colonists, and their economic and political freedom as adopted citizens of Mexico. His name has been honored on our town (Kerrville) and county (Kerr County).
In 1850, Joshua D. Brown moved his family to what was known as the old Brown place behind the present-day Kerr County “Ag Barn” on State Highway 27 on the north side of the Guadalupe River. He built a log cabin and two story log barn with fine chinking. His brother-in- law Spencer Goss’s barn, just below his, was not chinked, and during an Indian raid, even though they could not open the barn door, they shot through the walls and killed all the animals. This is where the youngest son, A. P. (Alonzo Potter) built his home when the old homestead burned in 1877. To help understand the value of the land; Joshua gave approximately 100 acres to his son Nick Brown and he traded it for a horse. Most of the land was sold for 50 cents an acre. Today, the name Joshua D. Brown is found throughout the land titles in Kerrville. He was the first real estate broker in Kerrville. The first 88 pages of Book 1 of the Kerr County Deed Records are for lots for businesses and homes sold by Joshua D. Brown.
In 1855, Joshua D. Brown, along with many other locals, petitioned the State of Texas to form a new county out of Bexar County, and on January 26, 1856, Kerr County was formed by the 6th Texas Legislature.
Joshua D. Brown’s log cabin, 40 feet by 25 feet, with rock lined cellar, built after 1850, near present location of VA Hospital on Comfort Highway (Collier Brown Book, 1980)
On May 15, 1856, Brown bought 640 acres for $2 an acre from Alfred D. Beck of Gonzales, all of Survey 116 in Kerr County which was awarded by the State to Benjamin K. Cage (Beck’s half-brother) for his service at Battle of San Jacinto. Four days later Joshua D. Brown asked the very first Kerr County Commissioners Court to make “Kerrsville” the seat of county government. The next day, May 20th, the court accepted Mr. Brown’s proposal to locate the county seat of Kerr County on Survey 116, owned by said Brown and “that said Brown shall make a good and satisfactory warranty deed to said county to at least four acres of land for a public square; and all the streets that may be laid out in the town plat, said streets leading out from the public square for county use to be eighty feet wide, and all cross streets to be sixty feet wide; one choice good sized lot fronting on the public square for county use, one lot suitable for public church, one lot suitable for public school house, one lot suitable for public jail, and that the above be received on the above named conditions.” There was also a stipulation in the deed that the “water privileges of the river front of said river” belong to the public. We need to thank him for his foresight to make our streets the width they are so our town could grow and expand without problems. I want to thank Joshua D. Brown for coming here in 1846 and becoming the “Father of Kerrville.”
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