History of Butler, Missouri
From: History of Bates County, Missouri
By: W. O. Atkeson
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka - Cleveland 1918


Butler is located about the center of the central township of the county, and is about the center of the county. The location is sightly and healthful. It is surrounded by rolling prairies as far as the eye can see; and a view of its environments from the top of the court house is inspiring. The panorama thus brought within the vision can not be surpassed anywhere. It is a picture for the landscape painter. It affords you at one view the beauty and wealth of this great county.

So situate and so environed it is natural that the inhabitants of Butler should love their little home city with a tenderness not often found. The population of Butler is a little less than three thousand at this time; but here we have everything desirable in society, 'churches, schools, telephones, municipal water and light, paved streets, opera houses, photo shows everything calculated to afford real pleasure and to build a strong moral and religious sentiment in the hearts of the people. Butler is famous for its three strong banks and its large trust companies, and our mercantile establishments would be a credit to a city of ten times our population.

There is no more desirable place to live in the state. The people are progressive, generous, and mutually helpful. Butler is a good place to be. It is as free of vice as any city of its class in the state. It is "dry" - forever.

The original town of Butler was laid out on April 19, 1852, not exactly where it is now, but very near it. At that time the Hon. William Orlando Butler of Kentucky was very popular with all Southern Democrats, and although he had been defeated for vice president in 1848 - only six years before Butler was named for him, and which fact has kept his name secure in the annals of this era, he was so beloved by John E. Morgan, J. S. Wilkins and John W. Montgomery, and their associates that they called the surveyed bit of high, virgin prairie "Butler." In the "Americanized Chambers' Encyclopedia," printed in 1880 we find this brief mention of him:

"William Orlando Butler, 1793-1880; born in Kentucky; served in the Indian battles of 1812, and under Jackson at, New Orleans, and after the war practiced law in Kentucky. He was a member of Congress, 1839-43, and next year Democratic candidate for Governor; in 1848 the Democratic nominee for vice president, but not successful. He served as major general of volunteers in the war with Mexico, and was wounded at Monterey. He was a member of the peace Congress of 1861."

In 1848, Lewis Cass of Michigan and William O. Butler were the Democratic running mates; and they were defeated after a spirited campaign by General Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, the Whig running mantes. This result was largely caused by ex President Van Buren's defection, who had the support of the organized Free Soil party and the faction of the Democratic party known as "Barnburners," whose united strength Was sufficient to take the state of New York out of the Democratic column, and give its electoral vote to Taylor and Fillmore by a plurality and thereby assure their election, In the early days of Bates county many of its inhabitants came front Kentucky and this Kentucky personnel to say nothing of the prevailing party sentiment at the time doubtless explains why and how the county seat was named Butler. In what follows in our history, the rejection of the town plat and the return of the deeds made to lands as a donation to the county of John E. Morgan and others, resulting in a new survey, no change was made in the name. Indeed it seems to have been officially recognized as Butler before what was finally determined to be the legal plat of Butler, as we have it today, was made. This involves a long story; and we must be content to state the facts, without side remarks, as briefly as may be in order that the reader may understand. The details are too technical.

The first survey, made in 1852, had the public square almost directly in front of the present Logan-Moore Lumber Company's office. The Bennett-Wheeler Mercantile building and the Farmers Bank, or at least a part of it, now occupy what was the public square of the first survey. The second survey was made in 1856, as shown by plat herewith, and this survey put the public square where it is today. John C. Kennett was the original 'settler on the townsite. His log Cabin was located on lots 1, 2, and 3, block 1, Montgomery's first addition to Butler, beginning With the lot now occupied by the city hall and the fire department, and occupying all that block except lot 4, on south side of the block next to Chestnut street. Montgomery bought Kennett out, and Kennett went to California. In 1854 John E. Morgan moved onto the townsite and erected a log house on the ground afterward occupied by the Christian church building, and now by the Logan-Moore Lumber Company. He kept his house as a sort of a tavern, and at the time he was the representative of Bates county in the General Assembly. His log house may be fairly said to be the first hotel in Butler.

After Butler was, laid out couch & Smith built the first business house in 1856, and they ran a general merchandise store. Then, came McComb & Robison, and they built the next business house on the corner where the restaurant (destroyed by fire since the above was written) was across Chestnut street north of Bennett-Wheeler Mercantile Company. Then Loring & Burnett opened a general store in 1858. Samuel Loring came from Papinsville and William Burnett from the southern part of the county. After 1858 others came in rapidly, and the town began to grow rapidly. Joseph S. Hansbrough was the first physician and surgeon. He was killed during the war by bushwhackers from Kansas. Among the first attorneys at law were Stearns, Hollingsworth and Barrows, all coming up from Papinsville after the county seat was located in Butler. Stearns died in Butler after the war. Mrs. Martha Morgan opened the first school in Butler in 1856. The school house which was also used for preaching, political meetings, and for holding the terms of county and circuit court before the court house was finished, was situate on Block 5, Montgomery's first addition, about where Dr. J. M. Christy now resides.

William Harmann opened the first saloon in the fall of 1856, thus coming with the county seat, the courts and lawyers. His place was where the restaurant now is, or was until recently. Van Buren Van Dyke obtained the first merchant's license after the county court moved up from Papinsville. The first saw and grist mill was erected in 1867 by M. S. Power, Brothers.

The first church edifice for exclusive worship was erected by the Christian congregation in 1860. This church and all the business houses around the square were destroyed by fire in 1861. The court house was burned at the same time, an old history says: "By a squad of cavalry sent from Kansas for that purpose by the order of Col. James Montgomery." The reason given for this incendiary burning was to "prevent Southern sympathizers from harboring Rebels." It is related that while the town was still burning Col. Sydney Jackman of the Rebel army came into town at the head of a cavalry company, and the Union soldiers retreated toward Kansas, were pursued by Jackman and his men as far as the Miami, and killed and wounded three or four of Montgomery's men.

In April, 1862, Col. Fitz Henry Warren, with the First Iowa Cavalry occupied the town, and remained until August, when he returned with his command to Clinton, Missouri. About the time of his departure Colonel Jackman and Gen. J. S. Cockrell of the Rebel army were headed toward Butler; but they continued their march up through the eastern part of the county, on north into Jackson county, where they were engaged in the famous Lone Jack battle on August 16, 1862.

Butler was incorporated June 19, 1872. First trustees: Henry McReynolds, chairman; George W. Evans, William E. Walton, Albert' Harper, Wilson S. Boggs, J. L. Church, clerk; James K. Brugler, attorney.

Butler was incorporated as a city of the fourth class April 7, 1879, and William, Page, who now resides in Kansas City, Kansas, became the first mayor of. Butler. The first aldermen were William E. Walton and Joseph L. Pace of the First ward; G. W. Patterson and John A. Deviney, of the Second ward; marshal, John C. Bybee; treasurer, F. J. Tygard; collector, J. C. Clark; street commissioner, James Keep; attorney, John C. Hays; clerk, Thomas W. Silvers., Of this first administration of Butler after getting' out of the village class, only Mr. Walton and Mr. Silvers and Mr. Page are still living. The former two still reside in Butler. In 1889 Butler was organized as a city of the third class.

In 1877, M. S. Power sold his mill to his' sons, E. R. and M. R. now owned and operated by the Cannon Power, who continued to improve and operate it until their recent deaths, and the mill was then sold to Cannon Brothers, who are now operating it in connection with their large elevator situate near the Missouri Pacific depot. The old Empire mill owned and operated by John F. Lifker has long since ceased to be and a residence now occupies its former site. The woolen mill and carding machine of McCuntock & Son, which was established in 1868 and for many years furnished our people through M. S. Cowles & Company with yarns, blankets, jeans, flannels, cassimeres, etc., has passed away under modern improvements and economic conditions. The Diamond mill, better known as the Fairchild or later as the Fay mill, was burned some years ago, and has never been rebuilt. The Butler elevator erected in 1880, has been succeeded by. the Cannon Brothers' elevator, and the Peoples elevator, both now in active operation, and among the largest in this section of the state. The planing mill of Wyatt & Boyd, erected in 1882, has long since been out of existence. The Butler Carriage Works, erected in 1882 by Catterlin & Legg, was only recently destroyed by fire; and the wagon shops of Robinson & Son, begun in 1873, has also passed away. In passing, reference is made to the fact that in 1881, a company was organized and put into operation here the first electric lighting plant, the first plant of the kind in Missouri outside of the city of St. Louis. Four powerful lights were put upon the cupola of the court house, which not only lighted the city, but were visible for fifteen or twenty miles around. This bit of enterprise gave Butler the name of the "Electric City." It was succeeded many years ago by a modern plant owned and operated by the city, and Butler continues to be the best lighted city of its class in the state.

At the present time Butler is a well rounded out and fully equipped little city of about three thousand people. A modern opera house, three large banks, two trust companies, three modern hotels, four garages, all sorts of mercantile stores, blacksmith and wood working shopsin fact, everything that a city of ten thousand people usually have; and a Federal postofface building now in course of erection will soon be completed. A new, modern brick depot affords comfort to travelers, and railroad employes of the Missouri Pacific, and the Inter-State, with its terminus here;

Within the last year the Baptist congregation conipleted a thirty thousand dollar church edifice, the finest church house in this section of the state.

Survey of the Town of Butler, Bates County, Missouri.
"Survey number 80 made 22nd, 23rd, and 25th of October, 1856. "For James McCool, commissioner of county seat of Bates county, Missouri.

"Beginning at a limestone standing corner to section 14 and 15; 22 and 23 running thence south on random variation 8 degrees east, 110.00 chains, set a temporary 1/4 section corner post 79.23 chains. A sandstone standing corner between sections 22 and 23; 26 and 27 then connected for 54 section corner between sections 22 and 23; reset a sandstone; thence north with the line dividing sections 22 and 23; 13.50 chains or 56 poles and plant a sandstone for N. E. corner to the tract of land upon which a portion of the town of Butler is located; then from a point which is 30 feet south and 60 feet west from the last described corner, proceed to lay off the town of Butler for the number and size of the blocks and lots.

"R. L. Duncan, County Surveyor.
"Bates County, Mo.

"G. I. Cummins,
"William Able and William Mathes."
"Survey number 93 made 20th and 23rd of February, 1857 for James McCool Commissioner of the county seat of Bates county, Missouri being a completion of the above survey, also in addition to the same, beginning at a limestone, which is thirty poles north of the 1/4 section corner between sections 22 and 23, the same being N. W. corner to block number 47, thence from this point proceed to lay off that part of the town Tieing east of the line dividing section 22 and 23, see plat above.

"R. L. Duncan, County Surveyor.
"Bates County, Missouri.

"Riley Anderson, Vanburen Vandike, Stephan Thomas, and Mr. Doron; qualified ehainmen. Filed and duly recorded 26th day of June, 1857.
P. B. Stratton, Recorder."

Deeds Conveying the Streets, Alleys, and Public Square in Said. Town.

"State of Missouri,
County of Bates:
"Know all men by these presents that we John E. Morgan and Martha W. Morgan, his wife, of the County of Bates and State aforesaid have this day released and set apart all parts and parcels of land on the above plat, which are laid and marked out on said plat as streets, lanes, and alleys, and which, are on the part of said plat east of the section line, between sections twenty two and twenty three, the said streets and alleys of the dimentions therein marked out, to be and remain public highway forever. Witness our hand and seal the 9th day of August A. D. 1853.

"John E Morgan (Seal)
Martha W. Morgan (Seal)"

"Know all men by these presents that I, John C. Kennett propriator of all that portion of land constituting blocks No. 8, 9, 10, 11, 1, 2, 3, 4, and all that part of land included in the Public Square on the above plat have this day aleined, released, and set apart for public use all streets, alleys, and lanes as marked out on the above plat by the surveyor, to the public, and the same to remain common as for the public use, and open highways forever. Witness my hand and seal the 6th day of August, A. D. 1853.

"John C. Kennett. (Seal)"

"State of Missouri,
County of Bates:
"This day appeared before me, Isaiah Ashley, J. P., John C. Kennett and acknowledged the foregoing plat and deed to be his act and deed for the purpose therein set forth, and no other. The same John C. Kennett is personally known to me. Witness my hand and seal this 9th day of August, A. D. 1853.
"Isaiah Ashley, (Seal)
"Justice of Peace."

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