Today we celebrate the birthdays of two charming characters of the Old West.
James Kerr was born in Danville, Kentucky on September 24, 1790, the son of a Baptist preacher. As a young man he fought in the War of 1812 under Nathaniel Boone (son of Daniel Boone). After the war he served as county sheriff and served two terms in the Missouri House and one term in the Missouri Senate before moving to Texas as one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists and being appointed general surveyor of the Green DeWitt colony. In addition to his work as a soldier, a sheriff, a congressional representative, a senator, and a surveyor, he was elected as a delegate to several colonial Conventions and also worked as an attorney and a physician!
Kerr County is named in his honor in recognition of the role he played in the foundation of Texas.
Kerr was considered a rather homely man, but his intelligence and humor were well known. Read one of my favorite funny stories about James Kerr here.
Dixon was born in West Virginia on September 25, 1850. Two separate tragedies made him an orphan by the age of 12. An uncle cared for him and his younger siblings, but after a year Billy set out on his own because he felt that he should provide for himself rather than add a burden to his uncle’s household. Working his way along the Missouri River, he encountered a military outfit bound for the West and begged them to take him with them to tend the mules and oxen. Billy later said he wanted to see mountains and Indians. He was 14.
Dixon became a skilled marksman. When he got to Texas, he led hunting and trapping excursions along the Canadian River. Once he was camping with a group of 28 men and one woman in Adobe Walls when the trading outpost where they were staying was attacked by Indians. Outnumbered almost 40 to one, fellow buffalo hunter Batt Masterson challenged Dixon to shoot a mounted warrior on a ridge nearly a mile away. Dixon took aim and fired…and the Indian warrior fell from his horse, dead. The display of deadly accuracy convinced the Indians to call off their attack.
While digging holes for fence posts, Billy recounted this and many other wonderful stories to his wife, Olive, who wrote them down in a book entitled Life of Billy Dixon. It’s well worth the trouble to find a copy!