My father visited all of Texas’ 254 counties gathering material for his book about historic county jails and mentioned to me afterwards that he wanted to go back and research Austin, Texas and its history. He never got around to it. But Dr. Jeff Kerr did.
If you are a Texas history buff and ever wondered how the city of Austin came about, here’s a read you don’t want to miss!
From the book’s introduction -
“In 1838, Texas vice president Mirabeau B. Lamar, flush from the excitement of a successful buffalo hunt, gazed from a hilltop toward the paradise at his feet and saw the future. His poetic eye admired the stunning vista before him, with its wavering prairie grasses gradually yielding to clusters of trees, then whole forests bordering the glistening Colorado River in the distance. Lamar’s equally awestruck companions, no strangers to beautiful landscapes, shuffled speechlessly nearby. But where these men saw only nature’s handiwork, Lamar visualized a glorious manmade transformation--trees into buildings, prairie into streets, and the river itself into a bustling waterway. And he knew that with the presidency of the Republic of Texas in his grasp, he would soon be in position to achieve this vision.
The founding of Austin sparked one of the Republic’s first great political battles, pitting against each other two Texas titans: Lamar, who in less than a year had risen to vice president from army private, and Sam Houston, the hero of San Jacinto and a man both loved and hated throughout the Republic.
The shy, soft-spoken, self-righteous Lamar dreamed of a great imperial capital in the wilderness, but to achieve it faced the hardships of the frontier, the mighty Comanche nation, the Mexican army, and the formidable Houston’s political might.”
Of the book, Alwyn Barr, author of Texans in Revolt: The Battle for San Antonio, 1835 says -
“In his lively depiction of the founding of Austin as the capital of Texas, Jeffrey Kerr offers colorful accounts of the scenic setting, early settlers, and contentious times. Against the broader controversy of how to maintain and develop the Republic, he guides us through the ongoing struggle waged between Mirabeau Lamar and Sam Houston, the first two presidents, over the desirability of a new frontier capital.”
And, Harold Hyman, William P. Hobby Professor of History Emeritus, Rice University says -
“Seat of Empire is the best relatively succinct account I know of the events, places, and people so central in the city's and state's history. General readers, state and local lawmakers, college students, and historians will find pleasure and profit in its pages. Kerr provides illuminating contexts for the passionately contested and inevitably politicized question of location and sketches adroitly the picturesque (and often picaresque) pistol-packing politicos caught up in the jousts.”
Jeff Kerr entered Rice University in 1975 with plans of becoming a writer and historian, but practical considerations prevailed, and in 1984 Kerr took his medical degree from Texas A&M University. After a residency at Wake Forest University, he moved back to Texas and established a pediatric neurology practice in Austin. Kerr resides in Austin with Sharon, his wife of over 30 years. The couple has two grown children. Previous works include Austin, Texas-Then and Now and The Republic of Austin.
Find out more about Dr. Kerr HERE
© Copyright 2013 Edward Blackburn. All rights reserved.