History of Butler Township, Miami County, Indiana
From: History of Miami County, Indiana
Edited by: Mr. Arthur L. Bodurtha
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


Butler township is one of the eastern tier. It is bounded on the north by the Wabash river, which separates it from the townships of Erie and Peru; on the east by Wabash county; on the south by Harrison township, and on the west by the township of Washington. The Mississinewa river enters the township near the middle of the eastern border and flows in a northwesterly direction to the Wabash river, and the southern part of the township is drained and watered by the Big Pipe creek and its tributaries. The area of the township is a little over thirty square miles.

Before the white man came to Miami county, the territory now comprising Butler township was the favorite hunting grounds of the Miami Indians. When the treaty was made with representatives of the United States government, by which the Indians relinquished their title to the lands, several individual reservations were established within the present limits of the township. Francis Godfroy's reservation, No. 9, occupied the triangle in the forks of the Mississinewa and the Wabash; east of this was the reservation granted to the wife of Benjamin; along the eastern border, directly south of the Mississinewa, was the reservation of Ozahshinquah and her sister, daughters of Frances Slocum; south of Godfroy's reservation was that of Osandiah; along the western border of the township and just south of the Mississinewa was the reservation of Wappapincha, and immediately east of it was Tahkonong 's reservation. All these lands are now in the possession of white men and have been brought to a high state of cultivation.

Some of the most picturesque and romantic scenery in Miami county is in Butler township. The "Pillared Rocks" and the "Cliffs" of the Mississinewa and the rugged bluffs along that stream are among the beauty spots of Indiana. In the southern part of the township the surface is generally level, with undulations here and there. The soil in this section is a black loam that yields abundant crops. Along the river bottoms the soil is fertile and some of the most productive cornfields in the county are to be found in the Wabash and Mississinewa valleys in Butler township

Martin Wilhelm is credited with being the first white man to locate within the limits of the township. In 1839 he brought his family from Pennsylvania and entered a tract of land a little southeast of the village of Peoria. After living here for about a year, he sold his farm to Isaac Litzenberger and moved to another about two miles southwest of Peoria. Soon after the advent of Mr. Wilhelm came Benjamin Barnes, James and Thomas Clayton and Hugh Banks. Barnes settled a short distance west of where Peoria now stands, but afterward sold his land there to Frederick Wilds and established a new farm north of the Mississinewa. Some years later, Barnes, his brother and two other men were drowned in the Wabash river while engaged in rafting logs. Thomas Clayton was a son in law of Benjamin Barnes and settled on a tract of land adjoining that entered by his father in law. He remained a resident of the township until his death, some years after the Civil war. James Clayton located a claim on the north bank of the Mississinewa, opposite the site of the village of Peoria, but did not live long enough to enjoy the full rewards of his labors in his new home, as he died about six years after coming to the township. Hugh Banks remained in Miami county but a short time, when he removed to Wabash county.

When the sale of canal lands was held at Peru on October 5, 1840, there was a flood of immigrants to the Wabash valley. Many of the newcomers were unable to purchase lands to their liking in the canal strip, but they entered government land and became residents of the county Among those who settled in Butler township in this year were John and Isaac Litzenberger, James Beard, Moses Falk, Samuel Robertson and the Hahns - Benjamin, John and David. As stated above, Isaac Litzenberger bought the farm of Martin Wilhelm, and John located upon the land where the village of Peoria was afterward laid out. Moses Falk established a trading house at that point and for a few years carried on a thriving business with the Indians.

In the summer of 1841 Joseph Votaw settled in the northeastern part of the township, on land that he had previously purchased. His first dwelling there has been described as "a hastily improvised structure, resembling in its make up, an Indian wigwam covered with a tent cloth, the construction of which required the united labors of himself and wife for about two or three hours." Mr. Votaw was an industrious man and soon had a cabin ready for his family. He opened a blacksmith shop - the first in Butler township - soon after his arrival and carried on a successful business in that vocation for many years.

As early as 1836 Jonah Sullivan made a tour through the Miami country and selected a tract of land in section 3, near the Wabash county line and about a mile and half north of Peoria, as his Indiana home. In 1840 he purchased the tract and went back to his native state of Ohio, where he married the girl of his choice and the next year brought his young wife to the unbroken forest in the valley of the Mississinewa. His brother came with him as an assistant and when they arrived at their destination a number of Indians gathered to witness the unloading of the household goods from the wagon. The sight of these natives caused the young man considerable anxiety for the safety of the party, and as soon as a tent was pitched he hurried away in search of a civilized community, leaving Jonah. and his wife to fight their battle alone. Mr. Sullivan's first work was to dig a well, after which he erected a hewed log house, a story and a half high, that for many years was pointed out as the best residence in that portion of the county.

Others who located in the township in 1841 were Isaac Deeter, William Parks and Rev. Joseph Davis. The last named was a Baptist minister, who had visited Miami county at intervals for several years before he became a permanent resident. During the next decade a number of new settlers came into the township. Among them were Edmund Wright, Michael Bradley, Jacob Henley, Adam Fansler, John Davidson, Jonathan Johnson, William Cipher, Samuel Ramsey, Zachariah Wallick, Henry Watts, David and William Miller, Jeptha and James Long, Thomas Keyes, Joseph Werhle, John and Solomon Fegley, Thomas Timmons, Benjamin Wellick, John King and the Fenimores. By 1850 every part of the township was settled by a thrifty and industrious class of pioneers.

Shortly after the treaty of 1826, the government built a mill on the prairie east of Chief Godfroy's to grind corn for the Miamis according to the treaty provisions. About 1843 Isaac and John Litzenberger built a sawmill near the site of Peoria. A little later a run of corn buhrs was added, which had a daily capacity of about fifty bushels. Some two years later Matthew Fenimore built a sawmill near the present town of Santa Fe. In 1847 he built a grist mill near by and carried on a successful business until the mill was destroyed by fire about 1877. It was rebuilt, but its operations were confined to custom work. The Litzenberger mill at Peoria was sold after a few years to Dr. John C. Helm, who developed it into a large flour mill. This mill was also destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt by Joseph Stewart, who bought the site. At various periods in the history of the township sawmills have been established at different places and the demands of commerce have practically consumed the valuable timber that once covered the greater part of the surface.

It is thought that Frank Litzenberger, a son of Isaac and Sarah Litzenberger, was the first white child born in Butler township. He was born in 1841, and the same year the first marriage in the township was solemnized, when Nancy White became the wife of James Wilhelm. Joel Davis, Joseph Votaw and Job Morris erected the first frame dwellings in the township and the first orchard was planted by Jonah Sullivan, who obtained his trees from the nursery of Matthias Moyer, in Richland township. The first religious services were held at the home of James Beard by Rev. Mr. Beloit, a Methodist minister, in 1841.

Butler township was established as a separate political division on September 1, 1841, when the county commissioners fixed the following boundaries: "Commencing at a point where the north line of Township 26 north, Range 5 east, intersects the line between Miami and Wabash counties; thence west on the line dividing Townships 26 and 27 north to the northwest corner of Township 26, Range 5; thence south with the said township line to the southwest corner of said Township 26, Range 5; thence east with the south line of said township to the boundary line between Miami and Wabash counties; thence north with said boundary line to the place of beginning, being all of Township 26, Range 5, which lies in Miami county."

That portion of the township lying north of the northern line of Township 26 was at that time all included in the Indian reservations. After these reservations passed into the possession of white men they were added to Butler township and the northern boundary was extended to the Wabash river.

The first school in Butler was taught in 1842, in a log house on the farm of one of the Longs, but the name of the first teacher has been lost. In 1843 a log schoolhouse was built near the Clayton cemetery, in the northeastern part of the township, and Jacob Elliott taught the first school here in the fall of that year. The following year Margaret Mackey, a native of Ohio and a woman of fine attainments, taught a term in this house. In 1913 there were ten brick schoolhouses in the township, 237 pupils were enrolled in the several districts and ten teachers were employed. The amount paid in teachers' salaries during the school year of 1912-13 was $3,843.75. This township is introducing the "consolidated school system," and at the close of the year 1913 a new building was being erected at a cost of $15,000 to accommodate the consolidated districts. With the completion of this building the school property of the township will be worth about $25,000.

The only railroad in the township is the Chesapeake & Ohio, which enters the township from the south, near the village of Santa Fe, and runs across the southwest corner. Santa Fe and Peoria are the only villages in the township.

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