Sangamon County ILGenWeb © 2000
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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

HON. CHARLES KERR, M.D. - Through long years Dr. Charles Kerr has resided in Illinois, practicing medicine here and gaining prestige in his profession by reason of his devotion thereto and his marked capability. He has been a resident of Springfield since 1884 and has gained a liberal patronage in the capital city. The Doctor was born near the town of Baliaborough, County Cavan, Ireland, his parents being John and Mary (Woods) Kerr, who were of Scotch ancestry. By occupation the father was a farmer. Both he and his wife were born in Ireland, but the grandparents were natives of Scotland. John Kerr remained on the Emerald Isle until 1841 and then crossed the Atlantic to America. On reaching the new world he made his way into the interior of the country and worked upon a farm in Morgan county, Illinois, near Jacksonville, until 1844. He then returned to his native land in order to bring his wife and son to the new world. Returning with his family he settled upon a farm nine miles east of Jacksonville, in Morgan County.

Thus it was that the Doctor was reared to farm life. He attended the common schools near his home to some extent and largely supplemented the knowledge gained thereby through reading and study in the evening hours after working hard on the farm all day. He would often sit up until midnight, pouring over his books, and in this way he fitted himself for teaching school, a profession which he successfully followed in Morgan county in 1855-56-57. He regarded this, however, only as a step to other professional labors, for with the desire to become a member of the medical profession he read medicine at morning and night while teaching school, and when he had accumulated money enough to meet the expenses of a college course he matriculated in the Rush Medical College of Chicago, in which he was graduated in January, 1865. In the meantime, however, the Doctor had begun practice in 1859 at Pawnee, Sangamon county, and he there continued his professional labors for a number of years. In 1862 when the Civil war was in progress, he enlisted as a private of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Illinois Infantry, but was rejected by the examining surgeon. After his graduation from college, in 1865, he was immediately commissioned first assistant surgeon of the Fifty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with which command he remained until mustered out in January, 1866. From February until September, 1865, he held the rank of assistant surgeon, and at the latter date he was made major surgeon of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. In this way he performed effective service for his country, and although his health did not permit him to carry a musket in the field his work was, nevertheless, of great value in binding up the wounds and restoring health to other loyal sons of the Union. When his military service was ended he returned to Pawnee, where he continued in the practice of medicine until 1885.

In that year Dr. Kerr was elected a member of the Illinois Legislature for the thirty-fourth session upon the Republican ticket. He has always been a stanch advocate of Republican principles, and in 1856 took an active part in the Fremont campaign, the first year in which the party had a presidential ticket in the field. He was, however, at that time not old enough to vote, but cast his first presidential ballot for Lincoln in 1860. He has never wavered in his allegiance to the party since that time and hopes to vote for Roosevelt in 1904. While a member of the legislature he was one of the noted "one hundred and three" who elected John A. Logan to the United States senate. After the adjournment of the legislature in June, 1885, Dr. Kerr opened an office in the city of Springfield, where he engaged in practice until 1888. He was then nominated for congress by the Republicans of this district, which had usually a Democratic majority of five thousand. His opponent was Mr. Springer, who was elected by a majority of three thousand. This fact indicates the large vote which was given Dr. Kerr and the results show that he made the best race of any Republican in his district up to that time. At the close of the political campaign he resumed practice in Springfield and has since been an active member of the profession. He served as medical director of the Capital Accident Company in the year 1886, and he is a member of the county and state medical societies. In his profession he is well read and his investigations have been carried far and wide into many lines of medical knowledge. He has thus become a skilled physician and one whose energy and devotion to his calling have gained for him prestige in the ranks of the medical practitioners in this portion of Illinois.

Dr. Kerr was married in October, 1860, at Pawnee, Illinois, to Miss Eliza Sanders, and unto them were born two children: Edward E., who is now practicing medicine in Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Anna, who died in March, 1885. The mother of these children passed away in 1864, and in 1866 the Doctor was again married, his second union being with Miss Melissa McMurry. They had three children: Charles, who left home ten years ago and has never been hears from since that time; Mabel, the wife of Captain Harry M. Smith, who is engaged in the wholesale notion business in Springfield; and Maude, the wife of Captain Arnold Butler, who is an oil operator at Chanute, Kansas. He is a son of Colonel Speed Butler, who was one of the most prominent business men of this county and state and a warm personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Colonel Butler died about seventeen years ago. Dr. Kerr has always had the greatest affection for his children, delighting in providing them every advantage possible. His daughters were educated in the Ursuline convent of this city and his son Edward was educated in the Wesleyan College at Bloomington, in the chicago Medical college and in Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland.

Dr. Kerr is a Master Mason, belonging to Lodge No. 675, A.F. & A.M. He is also connected with the Knights of the Maccabees, the Modern Woodmen of America and Stephenson Post, No. 30, G.A.R. From his early boyhood days he was fond of reading, and while working as a farm hand he devoted his leisure and evening hours to books. Throughout his entire life this has been one of his marked tastes, and he is a man of broad learning and wide general information. In matters of citizenship he has been progressive and enterprising. He served as postmaster of Pawnee and in the state legislature, as before stated, but otherwise has not been active in seeking public office. He has, however, labored for the welfare of his county and state as a private citizen while faithfully performing his professional duties.

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