Born in Springfield Township, Mercer County, May 18, 1813, James was the son of Samuel and Mary (Moore) Kerr, his father a native of Adams County, Pa., who moved to Slippery Rock to take charge of the Mt. Etna and Hickory furnaces. His father served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1834, 1843, 1856-1857, and 1869, representing, at different times, Butler and Mercer Counties. Senator James Kerr received a rural education; worked as a mail carrier from age nine to thirteen; pursued various occupations before moving to Harrisville, Butler County after 1830; taught school in 1833; was a contractor for the Pennsylvania Canal, 1837-1840; for forty years thereafter, pursued merchandising in Harrisville and engaged in farming; built the Marion Furnace in 1847; served as superintendent of the Maple Furnace, Allegheny Township, 1846-1848; and raised and sold cattle to eastern markets. Politically, the Senator aligned with the Democratic Party through 1854, joining the emergent Republican Party in 1855; served as Justice of the Peace for thirty years, from 1852; burgess of Harrisville, 1838; was a Federal Elector for Lincoln and Hamlin, 1860; elected Associate Judge of Butler County, 1861; and state senator in 1868, serving one term, 1869-1871. He married, first, Priscilla McMillan, who died in 1868; and second, Catherine McCallan of Cherry Township. The Hon. James Kerr retired from public life in 1890, and passed away, March 31, 1896.