The Kerr - Carpenter - Haigis House: The Kerr Family
William Kerr and his wife Hannah were born in Ireland in the late 1700's but ventured to New England early in their lives. On November 11, 1823 William Kerr bought 1/2 acre of land on Central Street from Peter Carpenter and soon started working as a wheelwright. No buildings were present on the site in 1823, but in 1826 William Kerr sold this same land to Robert Boyd and the sale notes the transfer of a "...piece of land containing a small dwelling house, shop, and other buildings."
William Kerr must have had second thoughts about the sale of this property since he purchased it back from Robert Boyd in 1829 and the sale notes the 1/2 acre lot with dwelling house and shop. In 1848 William bought a lot adjoining his from William Carpenter to expand the total size of the lot.
While William Kerr worked as a wheelwright, the family expanded: daughter Catherine was born in 1820, daughter Julia was born in 1822, daughter Margarett was born in 1824 (she passed away at age two,) and son Robert was born in 1826.
During the 1840s both daughters married: Catherine Kerr married Erastus Payson Carpenter (E.P. Carpenter) and they lived together on Maple Place while daughter Julia Kerr married Jacob Daniel Hersey. But sadness soon visited when Julia's only child, son Temple, passed away in 1848 at age 1 from consumption. Julia fell victim as well and passed away only four days later at age 26. Catherine gave birth to a son, Gardner Anderson Carpenter in 1844. When she gave birth to a daughter in 1851, the couple named the child Julia in memory of Catherine's sister. Son William was born in August of 1852 and daughter Jenny was born in 1857.
As both daughters moved from the home to start their own families, William and Hannah Kerr accepted what were probably boarders in the expanding straw hat industry into their home. The 1850 census lists Sarah Ring (age 20), Eliza Chase (age 21,) Mary Almon (or Alamon, age 19,) Hannah Daily (age 20) and Samuel Robinson (age 13) as living in the Kerr home on Central Street. The later 1860 census has Willam Kerr and wife Hannah living at the home, but also four straw shop laborers: Lydia Bowin, Martha Miller, Sarah Miller, and Sarah King.
But the 1860s brought both tragedy and joy to E. P. and Catherine Carpenter's doorstep. Daughter Julia, named after Catherine's fallen sister, died in early 1863 from diptheria. A glimpse of sunshine came to the family when daughter Catherine was born in January of 1864. But on Thanksgiving morning of 1864, the couple's home on Maple Place was destroyed by fire.
Soon E.P. Carpenter, Catherine, and the children moved into the Kerr home on the corner of Central and Liberty Street. The Kerr home now became the Kerr-Carpenter home.
In the summer of 1866, Hannah Kerr passed away. In the spring of 1868, William Kerr sold the Kerr property to Catherine Kerr "for her sole and separate use free from the control and influence of her husband" for the sum of $3500. The first chapter on the home's history closed when William Kerr passed away there early in 1874.
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