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Robert Kerr

                                                      Marion County, Ohio.
[RKW worked up this file years ago. Robert Kerr was a stockholder in one of the Winfield banks.]
Winfield Courier, February 7, 1884.
                                                 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.
The following biographical sketch was taken from the history of Marion County, as compiled by Messrs. Lagett [?] Conaway & Co.
                                                           ROBERT KERR.

This well-known pioneer of Marion County was born in Miffflin County, Pennsylvania, October 27, 1870, and is the son of James and Betsy (Arbuckle) Kerr. The grandparents on both sides were natives of Ireland, named respectively James Kerr and William Arbuckle. Robert Kerr’s father was a farmer, and emigrated with his family to Knox County, Ohio, in 1818, where he bought a farm of 160 acres in Clay Township, on which Wm. Hays now resides. His wife, Betsy, died on this farm, aged 42 years; he subsequently sold his farm to his son, Robert, and moved to Licking County, Ohio, where he resided with his son-in-law, Aquilia Barber, until his death, at the age of eighty-seven years. Robert Kerr remained with his parents until nineteen years of age, receiving scarcely any advantages for securing an education. He now began to learn the tanner’s trade, at Martinsburg, Ohio, with Joseph Buyers, Senior, and completed his apprenticeship in two years and five months. By the end of this time, he hired out to drive hogs through to Baltimore, Maryland, at three shillings a day and board, excepting dinner, which he had to furnish himself, if he had any. On his return to Ohio, he found employment at general work around a saw-mill for several months, at $11 a month. While employed in the following harvest, he was prostrated by a fever. The sickness, with the expenses attached to it, soon took the greater part of his earnings. On his recovery, and for some time thereafter, he followed the business of clearing up land for different parties, at from $2.50 to $3.00 per acre. His part of the contract was complete when everything was cleared up within twelve inches of the ground; 113 acres or more ground was cleared up by him in that manner. While clearing the land he cut 1,000 cords of wood and upward, at twenty cents per cord, and made many thousand rails at 50 cents per hundred. About this time or a little while before, he had bought two eighty acre pieces of land, then in Scott Township, Marion County, but now in Crawford County; for the first eighty acres he paid $100; and for the other two, $200. He was married August 29, 1833, to Matilda Swaggart, a daughter of Daniel and Betsy (Coonrod) Swaggart, and at once commenced keeping house on his 160 acres of land. From this time he gave his attention to farming, clearing $100 cash the first year. About the third year on the farm, he began handling stock, which turned out tolerably well. He now for what money he had made, purchased 360 acres of land in Scott Township for $1,500, on five years time at six percent interest, payments to be made of $800.00 yearly. He stocked this land with sheep, and made enough money to meet his payments promptly as they fell due. He was then advised by an old Pennsylvanian, one Stephen Ulery, that he could make more money raising sheep than in anything else, and Mr. Kerr, acting upon his advice, bought quite a large number. The first year he sold his wool for 21 ½ cents, the second for 22 ½ cents, the third at 29 cents, the fourth at 33 ½ cents, the fifth crop for 40, the sixth for 50, and the seventh at 80 cents per pound. The last year his receipts from the sale of wool and sheep amounted to $33,000. After this the price of wool declined to 50 cents, and kept going lower, and Mr. Kerr sold out all his sheep and quit the business. Up to 1876-77, his principal business had been handling sheep and stock, and he now owns a herd of 1,024 head of cattle in the Indian Territory, 1,059 acres of land in Crawford County, 443 acres in Wyandotte County, and 2,573 acres in Marion County. He was one of the original stockholders of the Farmers Bank, of Marion, Ohio, of which he is now president, and of the Nevada Deposit Bank, of Nevada, Ohio, and now owns a large amount of stock in each; he is also a stockholder in a bank at Winfield, Kansas, which has but recently been established. He built, and still owns the Kerr House at Marion, at a cost of $60,000, and the Kerr House, at Nevada, at a cost of $18,000; both fine buildings, are an ornament to the towns where they are located, and monuments that speak well for the enterprise of the builder. He has made various donations of considerable amounts, one of about $53,000 to Hiram College, and another of $23,000 to Bethany College, of Virginia, and various minor amounts to other institutions. He is the wealthiest citizen and largest land holder in this section of the country. He has 4,000 acres of land, free from incumbrance, and other property, which at a cash valuation, would amount to $600,000. This large property was acquired by forty-five years of untiring energy, combined excellent financial ability, and strict integrity in all business transactions. He was formerly a member of the Disciple church for many years; but, for what he considered unchristian conduct of the members of that church, has not been a member of any Christian denomination since. His wife, Matilda, died in February, 1859. By this marriage there were eleven children, six of whom are living, named Elizabeth, Sarah, Stephen, Mary, John, and Amanda. Mr. Kerr was married the second time, in July, 1861, to Martha Williams, by whom there was one child: Addie. On New Year’s day, 1883, Mr. Kerr met with a serious accident at Caledonia, while walking down the street, which was very icy, he slipped and fell, causing a fracture or dislocation of the hip joint on the left side, and has not been able to walk since, and has made his home at Nevada, Ohio. He lived for forty-four years on the place where he first commenced keeping house, but for the ten years previous to the accident above mentioned, had lived in a house erected on his land in Scott Township, a short distance from his old home. Barring  his inability to walk, he is enjoying good health for a man of his age. He is now seventy-six.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum