Downtown Kerrville has a rich and deep history. With the help of local historians, here is just a brief preview.
The land underneath what is now downtown Kerrville was once given by the Republic of Texas to a soldier for his service during the war for independence against Mexico. It's doubtful that soldier, B. F. Cage, ever saw the land Texas gave to him.
Years later, another veteran of that war, Joshua D. Brown, bought Cage's property from his stepbrothers in 1856, who mistakenly thought B. F. Cage had died. (Cage actually lived until 1887, in nearby Blanco County. History is silent on whether he ever found out about the transaction his stepbrothers made, or if he ever received compensation for the sale.)
When Brown acquired the property, he had been living on the place for several years, having built a small shingle camp there in the late 1840s. When Kerr County was organized by the state government in 1856, Brown offered a townsite for the county seat, which the Kerr county commissioner's court accepted at their very first meeting. Although Brown didn't yet own the property he offered, he soon completed the purchase. The new town was to be named "Kerrsville" in honor of Brown's friend, Major James Kerr.
It was the cypress trees which attracted Joshua Brown and a group of about 10 men to build their shingle camp here. Their first camp, probably past today's Schreiner University campus, was built in 1846, but was soon abandoned because various Native American tribes "proved troublesome."
The second camp, built around 1848, was near the intersection of today's Water and Washington streets, beside the little stub of a still-marked street named Spring Street. That second camp lasted. Some believe it was successful because the bluff there was easier to defend and offered a lookout view of the surrounding area. Others note a crippling epidemic among several local Native American tribes during the late 1840s. The camp's survival could be attributed to both reasons.
There were few folks in Kerrsville for a long time, even with its designation as the county seat. Growth didn't begin until after the Civil War, when an enterprising immigrant opened a general store on what is now Earl Garrett Street. Charles Schreiner, born in Alsace, was a brilliant businessman, and his efforts secured Kerrville's economic growth. It was largely through his efforts Kerrville gained a railway connection, in 1887, which further fueled the economic development of the county.
About the same time, another immigrant, Joseph Tivy, who was born in Canada, purchased a military grant which adjoined the old B. F. Cage grant, and made it an addition to the new city. Tivy was especially interested in public education, and donated land to establish the community's public schools, and served as the community's first mayor when Kerrville was incorporated in 1889.
Despite all of the changes since the earliest days of the community, several landmarks remain: the river, the beautiful cypress trees along its banks, and a pair of live oak trees in the 600 block of Water Street, known as the Founders Oaks, which were there when Kerrville's founder, Joshua D. Brown, lived on that parcel, on the bluff high above the Guadalupe River.