Historical Review of Butler
One of the first settlers here in Butler was Pope Williams, who owned and cultivated the land on which Butler now stands.
Butler was first called Fourth Lock, on account of its being the fourth lock and dam on the Licking River, being situated at this place at the time of the attempt to make the river navigable. Though the enterprise was abandoned, the probability of it yet being completed is often discussed. The principle trouble lies, we are told, in the fact that there is an accumulation at the mouth of the Licking River at Covington and, consequently, Shallowness, so that the cost of removal would be too great.
Perhaps very few Butlerites know that Butler is not the first name given our town. After the growing importance of the place demanded a more graceful name then Fourth Lock, it was called Clayton and about the year 1852, when the new railroad had been completed, an attempt was made to give Clayton a post office. There being another post office in the state named Clayton, the name Butler was selected. It was then either 1852 or 1853. We have been informed that Mr. Joel Ham, a contractor working on the dam, named the place Butler in honor of W. O. Butler, [of Carrollton,] a member of Congress from this district.
The first store was started by the Hams about 1837 and prospered as long as the work on the locks and dam continued. However, the Ham brothers soon moved to Cincinnati.
The next store was started by Uriah Kendall of Cincinnati in 1848 in part of his fourteen room house, situated where now is the residence of Dr. W. H. Yelton. The merchant and Miller Kendall’s orchard and pasture were where the R. F. Shaw’s store, residence and adjacent buildings now are. The next store was started by Messrs. Gus and Dan Yelton, which seemed to prosper several years. Another store was started by Mr. Harry Stephenson and operated by Mr. L. M. Armstrong, one of the shrewdest businessmen that Butler of Northern Kentucky ever knew. Mr. Armstrong finally built a store of his own and it was occupied by the prosperous merchant, Mr. John A. Faris. Mr. Dick Wheeler, however, had started a store about 1856 which was previous to the starting of one by Mr. Stephenson. Mr. Kendall’s saw and grist mill was run by the Hon. U. S. Patton, a clear-headed, conservative business gentleman. He was very successful, accumulated a fortune, and was elected to the legislature of Kentucky as a representative from Pendleton County. He afterward sold out his interests in the Butler lumber, flour and grist mills to Mr. C. C. Hagemeyer and Company, who have so added to the buildings previously established, increased capacity and improved throughout, that the firm now enjoys the reputation of being one of the most complete combined mills in the state.
Tobacco, which has become such a universal crop and such a stable article of commerce, and which has contributed much toward the building Butler to its present size was first prized in hogsheads by R. F. Shaw in the old orchard under an apple tree.
W. L. Barton was the first blacksmith in Butler. An attempt at teaching was made in an old blacksmith shop shortly before 1860, when the first schoolhouse in Butler was built. It was a one story, one room frame building and was used about 1882 or 1883 when it was moved to where it now stands, opposite the residence of C. C. Hagemayer. It is now occupied by John T. Williams. Many of the residents of Butler who have since grown to men and women will ever remember many hallowed associations of school days past and gone that were spent in this old school house.
The first graded school Butler had was under the principalship of T. M. Barton, the pioneer teacher of Pendleton County. This was before the new house was erected and three rooms, or all of the upper story of the Armstrong, now the John Farris, store was rented. Miss Kittie Storch, a highly accomplished graduate of Cincinnati, taught French, Latin, elocution, etc. Mr. Marion Bradford taught penmanship, bookkeeping, business forms, etc., while T. M. Barton and Miss Rouse taught the other departments. The present building was erected at a cost of $1,300 and is yet entirely inadequate for the number of children in the district. A plan is in progress at this time to build and addition of two rooms and otherwise fix up and beautify our public school building.
In 1871 the Bridge was built at an immense cost. This concentrated the business of the surrounding county at Butler, making it a place of permanent prosperity. In the same year was built the town hall, church, and Masonic hall, allin one building. Up to this time there were no church organizations exept that of the Methodist, who were few in number and who held meetings in the school house. Up to this time nothing like this much business was ever known in Butler and it was an era of great pride. The town was incorporated in 1856.
The Kentucky Central [later L&N] Railroad was completed in 1853 when the post office was established.
Judge J. J. Yelton was the first physician. Dr. F. M. Harris formerly lived here, but now practices in Vincennes, Indiana. Judge J. J. Yelton has occupied various positions of the town. He has lived for seventy-six years in and around Butler.
An election was held in November 1882 to decide whether or not whiskey should be retailed in Butler. It was found that the majority were opposed to its sale and ever since Butler had been a temperance town. Now there are no saloons and three churches. Butler has always been noted for maintaining a high place of morality. It is one of the most peaceful towns in the state and citizens are law abiding and industrious.
In October 1882, the railroad company erected a very nice depot which not only added to the wealth of the town but was a decided ornament.
The Butler Enterprise, a weekly newspaper devoted to the interests of Butler and vicinity as well as Pendleton County, began several years ago with Leslie L. Barton, Editor and proprietor. It was printed at Falmouth, the Guide book and job works, and edited and published at Butler. The editor, being but a youth, began its publication for experience more particularly than for lucrative compensation. It was issued weekly and regularly for a while, but the editor, in time, left for the West, and the paper was suspended, but only temporarily. It started up again May 4, 1889 and has since been issued regularly on Saturday morning at the low price of sixty cents per year. Though Butler is scarcely large enough to support a paper, the liberality and public spirit of its citizens are maintaining it manfully.
Butler had a green grocery, a drug store, four general stores, two meat shops, three blacksmith an wagon shops, no saloons, one Odd Fellows Hall, a police court, one Masonic hall, three churches, one brick kiln, two attorney’s offices, three cooper shops, one barber shop, one photograph gallery, one stirrup factory, three doctors’ offices, four hotels and boarding houses, two shoe shops, two carpenter shops, one flour and grist mill, one saw mill, one newspaper, one public school building, two schools in session and many residences of modern architecture.
Butler is situated on a slight elevation above the Licking River, surrounded by rough, but, by nature, an exceedingly rich country.
The great fertility of the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky has contributed to the wealth of the people and prosperity of Butler. It contains 800 inhabitants. It is on the Licking River and the K. C. R. R. about 28 miles south of Cincinnati, about 11 miles north of Falmouth, the county seat, and about 8 miles from the Ohio River. It is next to the largest town in Pendleton County, and one of the oldest.
from the Butler Enterprise, by Mr. William Jones, June 1, 1889