Kempner is located at the junction of U.S. Highway 190 and Ranch Road 2313, on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Lampasas River in southeastern Lampasas County. It moved a number of times during its early years of development. It was first settled in the early 1850’s, when a number of families named Pickett moved to the area, which became known as Pickett Valley. The majority of the settlers were land and slave owners of prominence until the Civil War. The community was also briefly known as Brummersville during 1865. The Pickett cemetery is still located slightly west of Kempner. Around 1854 Dan W. Taylor moved to the area with a large herd of cattle and built a store for his men on Taylor Creek, two miles from the present town site. He was an influential man in the community and was often consulted to settle local legal differences. A post office named Taylor’s Creek was established in his store in 1873.
The area was rowdy and lawless in its early days. There was considerable Indian trouble. Taylor asked Governor F.R. Lubbock for ammunition to help the settlers hold their own against the Comanche, but Lubbock wrote back that he and his neighbors should contact a man named Mr. Foster in Burnet for their gunpowder. As if that wasn’t bad enough, several stagecoach and mail robberies occurred between Taylor’s Creek and Belton.
After Taylor’s death, the state sent Texas Rangers to the area. The crimes changed from Indian raids and stagecoach robberies to more common acts of the day: unlawful card playing, dogging hogs, maliciously killing dogs, disturbing the peace by using unbecoming or vulgar language in public places, such as the post office and churches, the unlawful carrying of pistols and fighting.
After Mr. Taylor’s death the community was named after a local landowner named Phillip Slaughter. The Taylor’s Creek post office was discontinued in 1878, and that same year a post office named Slaughtersville was established.
In 1882 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway was built through the area, two miles from the Taylor store, and the community’s center finally became fixed when the post office was moved to a frame building near the railroad tracks and renamed Kempner after Harris Kempner, a Galveston merchant and director of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe. The first postmaster at the new location was Johnnie Chance. The coming of the railroad caused the population to double. The first rock store in town was erected by Jo Brown. By 1884 Kempner had two steam gristmills and cotton gins, a church, a district school, and telegraph service, and by 1896 a hotel had been built. Telephone service was available by 1914. In 1918 a Mr. Rancier organized a bank in Kempner; this establishment later failed, and the stockholders lost their accounts.
The population of Kempner remained at an estimated 103 from 1904 to 1926. It rose briefly to 300 in 1927 but began to drop again in the 1930’s, reaching 125 in 1933 and remaining at that level for a number of years. It began to rise again in the mid-1960’s until it reached 420 in 1974, where it remained through 1990. Nine businesses were reported in 1986. By 2000 the population was 1,004 with fifty-four businesses.
The town voted in 1997 to incorporate. The vote was 200 in favor, 33 against. The push to incorporate came when the Copperas Cove City Council annexed land that extended into Lampasas County, leaving residents to wonder if their community could be next.
The original City Council was composed of Mayor Roger Fancher, Council members Rex Hooten, Linda Mosley, Paul Cook, Sylvia Tucker, and Dora Silva.
The Kempner Police Department began with a City Marshall in May 2000. The Office of Chief of Police was established in April 2004. The current department is comprised of a Chief and two full-time officers.
The City of Kempner is a Type A General-Law municipality and was incorporated on August 9, 1997.