Books by Jeffrey Kerr

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Seat of EmpireSeat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas

2014 winner of the Sommerfield G. Roberts Award, presented annually by the Sons of the Republic of Texas as the year's best work of literature about the Republic 

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. 
 
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The Republic of Austin

 
A young girl kidnapped by Indians and spirited away; a man shot, scalped, and left for dead but rescued when a friend dreams that he yet lives; a group of young boys frolicking in a creek who witness a brutal murder; all within the city of Austin!  

Not the modern city, but the frontier version, in which Anglo settlers and black slaves walked dusty streets sparsely lined by log cabins and Indian encampments popped up occasionally on the edge of town.  The stories in Jeffrey Kerr's The Republic of Austin not only bring to life those long-gone days but, through maps, photographs, and the paintings of artist Ray Spivey, tie them to the modern cityscape.  Read this book to discover the vibrant past that pulsates yet among us.  
   
Austin, Texas, Then and Now
 
This should be the seat of future empire!

So exclaimed Republic of Texas Vice-President Mirabeau Lamar in 1838 from a hilltop commanding a sweeping view of the Colorado River and adjoining prairie below.  Within a year this landscape included a row of rough, log structures lining a muddy ravine leading up from the river.  Erected under the direction of Lamar’s friend Edwin Waller, these crude buildings soon yielded to other, more beautiful stone edifices, many of which survive in the shadows of the skyscrapers of modern downtown Austin.

How did the Texas capital transform itself from a buffalo-hunting ground into a metropolis of glass, concrete, and steel?  What kind of landscape confronted Austin citizens of fifty, seventy-five, and one hundred years ago?  And what of those who lived here before the European-Americans came?  Do traces of these earlier people linger in 21st-century Austin?

Open this book to step into Austin’s past, but also to see the past from a fresh perspective.  In Austin, Texas: Then and Now Jeffrey Kerr shows us not only how the city once appeared, but how the earlier scenery relates to the familiar sights of today.  Each historic photograph presented here is paired with an identical modern view taken from precisely the same spot.  Viewing the images side-by-side allows the reader a unique sense of connection to Austin’s earlier inhabitants.  Orienting maps and lively text enhance this fascinating look at the evolving Texas capital.  Older readers will enjoy recognizing scenes from long ago, younger ones will marvel at the recognition of hitherto mysterious city landmarks, and all will treasure this wonderful book.