Mrs. J. M. Blades, president of the Butler Women’s club, wishes to leave for future generations as accurate account of the History of Butler as possible, unfortunately, some records are not available and some are lost or destroyed. Mrs. Blades and the entire club wishes to thank the good folks of Butler and Falmouth for their valuable information. Without their help this History of Butler could not have been written. Miss Amy Grant and Mrs. Ethel Bowling gave most of this information of times past.
People entering Butler may wonder at its narrow streets compared with other towns. The streets built many years ago, accommodated only horses, buggies and wagons. At that time the Licking River was navigable having been dammed and logs were brought to the mill on a raft. The town was known as the fourth Lock.
Mr. Chris Hagemeyer moved to Butler (then known as Boston Station) and having purchased a share in the lumber and grist mills from Mr. U. S. Patton and with Mr. Uriah Kendall formed C. C. Hagemeyer and Company. The secretary for the lumber company was Mr. John Mitchell. Many Colored families lived along the river and, as well as whites, worked in the mills.
There were three saloons, walk ways mostly lumber, and streets of clay. A one room jail was built on Mill Street below the present day Methodist Church.
Mr. Jim Orr, Charlie Sorrell, Arthur Purdy, and Bill Huff served the town at various times and, by means of a ladder, lit the coil oil street lamps each morning. Before coal oil was used in the homes, candles were used and those were made by the folks themselves.
Mr. Pope Williams owned a large amount of land in and around what is now known as Butler. His son, Elmon Williams, inherited the farm and sold a part of it to Mr. Charlie Peoples who developed it into lots, now the town of Butler. Among the very early settlers were the Williams family (Pope and Elmon), Lidge Yelton, Will Barton, C. C. Hagemeyer, Peoples family, Duckers, Bonars, Cowles, Holmes, Ryders and Howes.
In building county roads, gravel was used. Sometimes prisoners were placed on rock piles to break rock. Several toll gates were placed at various points to help pay expenses. On Greenwood Pike (now 609, connecting highways 177 and 17), a toll gate was operated by Pete Howe, one on Kidwell Hill by Mr. Kidwell and another close to the Hornbeek farm across the Licking River was attended by Mrs. Adelene Barton Porter, who later married Mr. Hensely and moved to the Demossville toll gate.
A ferry boat was used to cross the river before the old wooden bridge was built around 1870-71 at the cost of $18,500. It was once known as the longest covered bridge in the world. Because of the ice barge and several times high water, it was thought best to rebuild the bridge. It was replaced by a concrete structure costing $200,000 and known as Pendleton county American Legion Memorial Bridge. It was dedicated Oct. 20, 1937 by the Governor A. B. Chandler and several members of the State Highway commission. Music was furnished by a military band from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. Ladies of the churches of Butler served chick dinners for $1 per plate. Double wedding of Miss Lillian Paul of Alexandria, Kentucky to Mr. Russell Burlew of near Butler, and Miss Merle Yelton to Mr. Fred Talley was a highlight of the day. It was performed on the bridge by Rev. James Talley.
A railroad was laid out about 1852, known as the [Kentucky] Central Railroad and later a second track was laid. Butler, at that time was considered railroad center, known as the K. C. Division Kentucky control, a branch of the L&N Railroad. The passenger and freight depot built about this time was very helpful to the people. On baggage coaches, mail was sorted ass the train progressed and thrown off at various stations. Farmers brought their five and ten gallon cans of milk and cream, which the local train would carry, a well as other commodities. A train stationed at Butler each night, known as “the Dinkey,” accommodated working people, leaving early mornings and returning in the evenings. The first passenger coaches were heated by charcoal stoves and seats were sometimes along the side. A few minor wrecks of derailed cars, but in June 22, 1956, 44 cars derailed across from the Grant homestead. Wreckage was strewn for at least one half mile. No one was injured. Several men living in Butler worked as mail clerks on the trains going through. These were: Ray Poe, Charlie Lambert, Will Crout, Ed Myers, Don Conners, Sid Lawrence, Harry Yelton, and H. H. Lawrence. Now Donald Doyle and Thomas Moreland work for the L&N Railroad. Section foreman who were responsible for the upkeep of tracks were: Bidge Redman, Mark McHargue, Elgy B. Manuel, and Wm. Holland Sr. Station agents were Ollie Yelton, William Pitman, Wm. Ryder, and Jarvis Nelson Owens. As population increased and automobiles became plentiful, people stopped riding the trains and trucks began taking the freight handled by the railroads, so the depot was closed to both passengers and freight. Another old landmark, the old wooden covered bridge, was torn down October 7, 1977 by Barton Burlew and helpers. For many years, students came to school from Kenton, Morning View as far as Visalia. Boston Station children walked the railroad tracks, some quite a distance.
On November 29, 1907 a telephone exchange was established on the second floor of the Butler Deposit Bank Building. It had a one position board; later a second was added. In case of electric failure a mechanical device, called a calculagraph, that ran on batteries, served the operator to ring numbers by hand, much as people did to get parties on their own lines. Before electricity they probably used the same system, as electricity came around 1915. In the early 30’s a button placed close to the switchboards could be released in case of fire reported to the operator and the siren rang until answered by one of the firemen. Among the first trouble shooters was Tom Marius, who drove a horse and buggy on service calls. As progress in all lines of industry progressed the “exchange” was cut over to the dial system at Williamstown on December 10, 1940, and operators who wished transferred to other exchanges. It seems indefinite s to who the first chief operators might have been. Older folks here think there was one before Miss Nora Shelley, who served only a few months. Other chief operators were: Mrs. Maymie Lamber Kobinger, Miss Pidge Rouse, and Miss Bessie Howe. Through the dial system customers can now obtain their most of their own numbers by direct dialing without operator assistance. As part of the Williamstown exchange since 1940, it was changed again on October 26, 1973 to 209 W. Seventh Street in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The company was nicely represented at Butler Women’s Club June 18, 1868 when Mrs. Jacobsen of Madeira, Ohio, from the personnel department, and Mr. Jack Strauer of Groesbeck, Ohio, showed slides which illustrated improvements in telephone techniques.
During the Civil War, many from here have served. Some who were taken prisoners and sent to Camp Chase were: Pope Williams, Peter Howe, Lidge Yelton, Will Barton, and Tom Yelton. While there was no fighting here, a branch of Morgan’s Cavalry men were sent through here to some unknown destination. As for medical treatment, it was at that time very crude. A little whiskey was given before an arm or leg was amputated. The patient was held down while the doctor used a saw. Some recuperated. Many died because of infection.
Mrs. A. J. Grant (Nora Williams) daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elmon Williams, was among the first to attend a one room school on Mill Street where the Shields family lived a few years ago. Later, a one room school was built on Railroad Avenue, now known as South Street., probably where Miss Kate Parsons now lives. As population increased, Mr. Williams allowed a two-room school to be built on his property. This was remodeled from time to time and in 1900 a High School was established with Mr. Ben Frye as teacher. Mr. Ernest Rouse attended this school for a while. The first graduates were Edna Grant, Corinne Shelley, Ray Poe and Edith Poe. In 1927 a new brick building was built. Mr. Chris Wilson was superintendent of the county school system. The Butler School became a part of the County Consolidated Schools. The high school became part of Pendleton High in 1959. A new school called Northern Elementary was built in 1972 and in October 1972 the Butler School Building was sold to Mr. Gilbert Laycock, who has made the building into an apartment building.
The Williams and A. j. Grant family helped in the progress of Butler. Miss Amy Grant lives at the home place. For many years they had a summer resort. Many rented cottages and some came for the delicious and generously served food served in a spacious dining room. Fishing and swimming in the lakes and skating in the winter were lots of fun. A foot bridge crossed the lake. Swings were plentiful. Many church picnics and social affairs were held there. Many of the first citizens of Butler were buried in the family cemetery in back of the Grant home.
In 1884 a Baptist church was built on church Street (now called Peoples Street). It was replaced by a new brick church in the Grant subdivision, dedicated in 1959. The first funeral held in the new church was that of Miss Bessie Howe, long time member. The last funeral held in the old church was that of Dr. J. M. Blades, who had been a deacon of the church for many years.
A Christian church was built in 1885 across the street from the Baptist Church. A few years later the Christian church moved to the property of the late C. C. Hagemeyer. A few years ago this property was replaced with a modern brick building. It was dedicated August 12, 1972. The annual Butler Homecoming affair is now held at the new Christian Church.
For a time the Methodists occupied what is now the Masonic Hall. Mr. C. C. Hagemeyer was instrumental in getting a new brick church on High Street in 1917. The Catholic Church in High Street became an apartment house as members moved away. Recently, a new church called the Full Gospel Church has been established in the old theater that formerly belonged to Mr. Charles Peoples.
The town from time to time has had high water, the highest floods being 1937 and 1964. In 1964 the roads were all closed and the railroad viaduct impassable. Several fires have occurred. Perhaps the largest and most destructive was where a small store belonging to Mr. John Smith in the residential area of the Perry family, Askew and Huff. The livery stables of both Mr. Henry Huff and Mr. Jess Galloway were destroyed. Years later a livery stable near the Sergent barn burned and the horses were destroyed.
The first automobiles were lighted with coal oil lamps and moved 8 or 10 miles per hour. Mr. C. C. Hagemeyer had one and people called it the “horseless carriage.” Butler was once called Lock Four and then Clayton, and as there was another Clayton in Kentucky, Mr. Joel Ham was credited with naming Butler in honor of Union General Benjamin Franklin Butler – major general in the Civil War. He had served in both the house of representatives and senate from 1853 to 1859. He represented this district in Congress of which Butler was apart. He was at that time from Carroll County, according to the Lexington Leader. It is interesting to know that in Mr. W. A. Caldwell’s History of Pendleton County an article in a paper of January 2, 1875 stated a social affair had been held at Bright Hope Grange was near Butler Station, Butler was incorporated neat the time of the Central Railroad in 1856, the railroad in 1853.
The first store was started by the Ham Brothers in 1837, then Uriah Kendall, followed by Gus and Dan Yelton and Harry Stephenson store operated by Mr. L. M. Armstrong in 1856. Mr. Dic Wheeler started a store. Later owners of stores were: Bob Shaw, Charlie Peoples, John Peoples, Harry Marshall, John Smith, Ben Fryer (Fryer and Son), Joe Taylor, John Gordon, Claude Record, Charlie Stith, Emma Dearborn, L. P. Vastine, Dane Fisk, J. B. Askew, Wm. Race, Mose Huff, Mr. and Mr. Charles Bay, Sam Deatherage, Mr. and Mrs. John Blanton, Dr. and Mrs. Lee Evans, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Montgomery, Mrs. Alice Taylor, and Mr. H. H. Lawrence. Several years ago there was a Blue Grass store managed by Roy Therkeld and an A. & P. managed by Mr. George Gedge. Mr. and Mrs. Phillip M. Ferris owned the General Store and locker that is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Louis McClanahan and is the only grocery store in Butler.
A creamery on Mill Street was owned by Mr. H. M. Owen Sr. and managed by Mr. Kenneth Taylor. It was later bought by Mrs. Jon Finely and operated on High Street in the building that is now owned by Mr. Paul Wright. Mr. Harry Ducker delivered milk in Butler each morning for many years. Everyone liked Mr. Ducker and children loved him. He often gave them a ride in his milk wagon.
Butler has in the past had many faithful and loyal doctors. Dr. J. Yelton, Dr. Shaw, and Dr. Harris went in buggies or horseback carrying medicine in saddle bags. Dr. Will Bradford practiced in Butler and surrounding country in the 1860’s and 70’s. Dr. L. J. Poe, John Wilson, W. H. Yelton, John Marcus Blades, Austin Beckett, and C. A. Waldemeyer, Dr. Reeves, and Dr. Hedges were dentists. Dr. V. W. Corbin began his practice in 1916 and is now retired.
Druggists were Dr. Harris, John Ryder, brother of Marion Ryder, Emil Neling, Rayburn Rucker, Clifford Hammond, and Clifford Ducker. Mr. W. C. Huddleston once had a Rexall Drug Store on the corner of Front and Matilda. Mr. Wm. Harrison now runs the drug store on the corner of Matilda and Peoples.
There were several blacksmith shops, Eli Straton on Mill Street, Albert Sertz cared for by John Hargis, and J. D. McHaton on Front Street. When automobiles came into use, garages were built. Blan Beckett, Ballard Yelton, W. A. Caldwell, and Landis Hardy.
Mr. Jim Madison repaired and made shoes and boots by hand. Other shoe repairmen were: Charlie Selbert, Lenard L. Elliott, and Everett Norton. Mr. Elliott also made wooden kegs and barrels for distilling whiskey for the Duckers and Cowles before prohibition.
A hat factory was owned by Miss Clara Gedge, who later sold hats in Peoples Department Store. Other millinery stores were run by Miss Edna Harris (Mrs. Henry Pettitt) and Mrs. Minnie Taylor Kirby. Mr. George Shotwell had a watch repair shop. He also kept bees and raised honey. Mr. Harvey Record retiring from Proctor and Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio and opened his T. V. repair shop in 1963. It is on Peoples Street in the building in which his father once had a department store.
Persons operating beauty parlors in Butler have been Ruth Daniels, Wilma Mullins, Margie Luersew, Rhea Smith, and Brenda McElfresh.
The Butler Rest Home opened on July 1, 1971 managed by Mrs. Sallie Cox and Grants Lick rest Home July 1, 1971 managed by Mrs. Ruth Sharp.
A second hand store is owned by Mr. Carl Lancaster. Auctions are held each Friday night.
Factories have come to Butler for a short time. We now have two. Ward Company was managed by Mr. James Lambert. It was sold recently to the Butler Products Company and the R. K. Display Company managed by Mr. Paul reeves of Falmouth, Kentucky. Mr. Robert Norton has an appliance shop.
Many hotels have been in Butler. The Hamilton family, Jim Harris, Carry Rardin, Mr. and Mrs. Corbin took their turns in the business.
There have been many boarding houses. Don Conner, Jim Madison, the Rouses, Mrs. Ernest Mam were in charge of these. Restaurants have had as proprietors: Mr. and Mrs. Gaver, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johns, Mrs. J. A. Montgomery, Mrs. Alice Taylor, Charlie Stilwell, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Payne, Mr. and Mrs. Delbert Reid, Mrs. Virginia Utley, Mrs. Bessie Reynolds, Kenzie Reynolds and Everett Shotwell.
Mr. Dewey Campbell was a magistrate in out district several years ago. Mr. Marcellus Grogan Jr. also served.
Butler attorneys were: Mr. Wesley Hardin, Billy Wilson, Ansel Howe, and Carry Rardin.
At one time there was a bakery in Butler. Mr. Max Yelton did electrical work and for a time sold T.V. sets. Mr. Ballard Yelton once owned a garage and had done some electrical work.
The lumber yards once owned by Mr. C. C. Hagemeyer, later Mr. A. L. Stith and Mr. Carl Myers, was sold to Mr. Donald Mullins and is now owned by Mr. Glenn Riggs and managed by Mr. John Rapp. It is known as the Butler Lumber and Coal Company and is located on South Street. Mr. Charlie Bay and Son are in charge of Shell Oil Co. outside of Butler but sell heaters and oil in Butler.
A Laundromat was opened by Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Cahill on Matilda Street, later sold to Mr. Carl Lancaster to be used as a part of his store. The fire department has always been a volunteer one. At first they had a fire wagon that carried a small tank of water and was filled by the firemen. On the side were pumps that when pushed up and down would release the water. Buckets also played a major part in fighting fires. Butler now has a motorized one, serving the town and the outlying territory. The department is sometimes called to other towns in the case of very large fires. The first engine was kept on Front Street. There was a siren on Beck’s Barber Shop. There was a small glass which could be broken to set off the alarm. A new town building on Railroad Avenue served for the later models until moved to a new building on Mill Street. When dialing came into use in 1940 the fire chief’s home was called. Now a number is dialed.
There have been several lodges in Butler. The most active now is the Masonic. Some few members of the Odd Fellows meet occasionally. The K. or P. lodge burned and a concrete building was erected. A D. of A. lodge joined with Martha Ross No. 2 in Covington. A Rebecca joined with Newport No. 65. For a few years the Lions Club was very active and did some fine work for the community.
A Butler Woman’s Club was organized as a Book Club in 1927 by Mrs. J. M. Blades, who was president. She is now president of the club. The club was federated in 1937. A few charter members reside in Butler today. They are: Mrs. J. M. Blades, Mrs. R. L. Poe, Mrs. Harvey Record, and Miss Amy Grant. They have always tried to help meet the needs of the community. This year they bought trees and shrubbery.
Mrs. B. J. Yelton and Mrs. Charlie Bay have planted flowers in various places in the town. Early in club history spirea was planted along Mill Street and it was beautiful for a while.
Among the early undertakers were: Bob Carne, Bob Shaw and Bradley, Jake Peoples, Frank Fryer, John Peoples, Charlie Stith, Wm. Tharp, Rudolph Fryer, and Charlie Peoples and Son. Charles Peoples is the owner now and is assisted by Frankie Ammerman.
One remembers the beautiful flower gardens of Mr. Claude Record and Mrs. Margaret Lawrence, or “Aunt Mag.” Aunt Mag was once asked how she managed to pull weeds. She answered that the flowers were so thick the weeds wouldn’t grow. She lived to be 105 years old. Both ladies loved and had a variety of flowers. Mr. Harry Yelton was noted for his beautiful roses and dahlias. A vacant lot by the railroad was nicely kept each year by Miss Hazel Huddleston and others.
In the early history of Butler a brass band was organized. Singing classes were conducted by Mr. William Fryer of Falmouth. The teachers who gave piano lessons are: Miss Minerva Kirby, Miss Katie Dudley, Mrs. May Wright, Mrs. D. P. Dehart, and Mrs. Clarence Cockayne.
A Chautauqua was given one summer in a tent in the school yard. A moving picture was owned by Mr. chug Peoples. Enjoyable plays were given by the school and other organizations. Mr. Sam Gray ran a picture show down on Mill Street for a while.
The first newspaper was published in Butler by Mr. Leslie L. Barton, later by Mr. Frank Billings. The paper was called The Pendleton Reformer. Mr. W. C. Huddleston owned it for a while and then Mr. Jack Wilson. Mrs. Loomis kept it for a few months before it folded. News is now furnished by our county paper, the Falmouth Outlook, by Mr. Warren Shonert.
The Butler Deposit Bank has had several cashiers. Some of them were: Mr. Ben Wiggington, Mr. George McLanghlin, Mr. Ira Yelton, and C. C. Flairty. A new building was erected in 1922. It was planned by Mr. Ira Yelton. The bank was forced to close in the depression years, July 31, 1931. A new bank was formed, knows as the Farmers State Bank. Mr. C. C. Flairty was cashier until he retired October 1, 1968. Mr. Ralph Bowling became cashier.
The first barber shop in Butler was owned by Mr. Jake Becker. Later his son, John Becker, entertained the mail populace while he cut hair, beards, etc. The shop has survived. Later barbers were: Emmit Whaley, Fred Taylor, Dan Thomas, and Winston Sharp.
Apartment houses in Butler are now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard J. Yelton, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Bay, Mr. Paul Wright and Mr. Fardo, Mr. and Mrs. Louis McClanahan, and Mr. Laycock.
Town records seem to have been lost in the flood of 1964. Some people who have served as mayors of Butler are Mr. Claude Records, Dr. Henry Bowling, Dr. J. M. Blades, L. P. Vastine, Charlie Bay, Delbert Reid, and Glendon Ramsey. It was during Mr. Record’s term the electric service came to Butler in 1915. It was a D. C. (direct current) plant run by generation in the day and operated on storage batteries in the night. Demand for electricity soon made expansion necessary. The City of Butler then bought the plant and the switch was made to A. C. (alternating current). Later the system was hooked to Kentucky Utilities which is still in effect. Dr. Henry Bowling, B. J. Yelton, and Homer Owen Sr. later obtained water works for the town.
Mr. C. B. Peoples served as sheriff of Pendleton County with Mr. Charlie Ashcraft as his deputy in 1922 through 1926. Mr. Ralph Bowling also served as sheriff from 1954 to 1959. He was judge from 1959 to 1960.
Mr. b. J. Yelton and Mr. Max Yelton sold TV sets for a while.
In World War II Henrietta Bowling (Manor) served as a nurse in the army and was stationed in Hawaii. Miss Edith McGill in the Air Force. After the war Anna Pauline (Polly) Bowling (Turner) was in the army’s nursing corps. All three were graduate nurses from the Speers Memorial Hospital in Dayton, Kentucky.
Robert Pharis was the only casualty from Butler. Pharis Park was named in his honor. However, the Grant heirs sold the land and it was made into lots, known as the Grant subdivision.
The Times-Star, May 14, 1948 stated that Uncle Bob Yelton would celebrate his 100th birthday with an open house at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Allen Pepper. Mrs. Pepper is now the oldest citizen of Butler.
The future of Butler belongs to the future, but of one thing I am very sure: The next generation will see many changes as I have observed during my lifetime and as I have accumulated facts in the history of Butler, past, and present.
- Mrs. Ethel Bowling gave us this additional information:
Mrs. Jane C. Bryant Bowling was born in 1852 at Butler, Kentucky. He mother, Mrs. May Bryant, owned property on Taylor Street and had a peach orchard. During the Civil War she made peach pies and sold them to the soldiers passing through Butler.
Mrs. Bowling remembers that her mother-in-law told her that Mr. Bob Shaw owned property on Taylor Street near the river where he made brick for his general store which he sold to Mr. Ben Fryer. The store now belongs to Mr. Louis McClanahan and is known as the Butler Mercantile company.
When Mrs. Bryant lived in Butler there were few houses and many people raised pigs. There was a pig pen on Mill Street. When pigs were caught running loose, the owners had to pay a fine to get the pigs released.
Grandma Bowling was the mother of Dr. Henry Bowling who came here in 1915 and practiced as a veterinarian until his death in 1944. She lived in the home of her son and daughter in law until she passed away.
by Mabel Howe