This Week in Texas Methodist History January 24
A. B. F. Kerr Solicits Support for Rutersville, January, 1850
Alfred Benjamin Fontaine Kerr (1823-1881) emigrated with his family from Tennessee to Texas in 1831. The party of immigrants landed at Harrisburg on April 21, 1831, and the Kerr family made its way to a new life in what later became Washington County.
In 1844 he was converted at a camp meeting conducted by Robert Alexander. After being educated at Rutersville College, he entered the Texas Conference in 1847. He served Matagorda, Seguin, and Goliad. While serving Seguin, he organized the church in San Marcos. At the 1849 annual conference he was appointed agent for Rutersville College. One sees the appointment “agent” often in journals of the period. Today we would call the same position “development officer,” or “fund raiser.” A. B. F. Kerr’s job was to travel the Texas conference, preach, attend camp meetings, and solicit donations for the support of the college.
Texas continued to be cash poor but land rich. Many of the donations Kerr obtained were in land rather than cash. Some of that land consisted of unsurveyed, unpatented claims on land rather than the land itself.
Fortunately for us Kerr left a diary that was later published by his daughter Margaret Ingraham. Here are excerpts from January 1850.
This book is to register my daily deeds and actions. O: May I not do anyting of which I would be ashamed to record.
As yet, I have accomplished but little; may the Lord direct and guide me successfully for Christ’s sake.
On the sixteenth (of December 1849) I made an effort to preach at San Marcos and urged upon the congregation the duty of Christians to pray for their ministers.
On the 17th I rode to Austin where I spent Tuesday attending to business and procuring advice relative to the business pertaining to my agency.
Wednesday. I rode to brother Coleton’s.
Thursday. I rode to Mother Hunt’s.
Friday, I rode to Rutersville.
Saturday, I received and made out lists of deeds, title books, notes of donation, etc.
Sunday, at eleven, I heard brother Peel preach from the text---“O, Israel, thou has destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” That night I made an effort to preach.
Monday, I met the board of trustees; received some instruction from them and home after dark.
December 25. I spent at home.
On the 26th I rode to Capt. Chrisman’s (Chriesman) where I learned of aunt Thomson’s death.
On the 27th, I rode to uncle Thomson’s.
Owing to a very cold spell of weather, I remained at home until the 31st.
On that day I rode to brother James W. Scott’s.
On Jan 1, 1850 I procured a deed from Bro. Scott for 320 acres in Brazos County.
. . .Jan. 8. rode to Chapple Hill where I attended to business, concerning my work. I also got some blank deeds from brother Bragg.
. . .On Jan. 12 I saw L. P. Moore from whom I had a title bond. He said his land is not yet patented by the government. There is some difficulty about the title. So soon as he gets a patent he will deed 100 acres to the college.
On the (Feb.) 5th rode to Rutersville. Enroute, left my brother William’s (Kerr) deed at his home to be acknowledge before a notary public and thence forwarded to S. B. Brigham, Matagorda.
Thus the diary continues---riding, obtaining deeds, taking them to the court house---that’s the way fund raisers worked in the 1850s.