James H. Butler

From the Portrait and biographical record of Hancock, McDonough and Henderson counties, Illinois : containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county (1894)
May, 1894. Lake City Publishing Co.

JAMES H. BUTLER, who is numbered among the early settlers of Henderson County, now resides on a farm on section 20, Raritan Township. He was born in Jefferson County, Ky., near Middletown, July 15, 1826. His father, Hezekiah Butler, was a native of Baltimore, Md., and was of Irish descent. Having arrived at years of maturity he married Margaret Payne, a native of Virginia, and they became the parents of the following children: Susan, widow of William Groom, and a resident of Camp Point, Ill.; N. V., who graduated from the Keokuk Medical College, and also from the St. Louis Medical College, and died September 16, 1878, leaving a widow, who is now living in La Harpe, Ill.; James H., of this sketch; Norman R., who died in 1886; Charles S., who is living in California; Mildred, deceased; Mary K., wife of Paul Johnson, of Missouri; Elizabeth, who died in 1855; Hezekiah, a farmer of Henderson County; Tobias, who was wounded in the battle of Chickamauga, and died the following spring, a minie-ball having passed entirely through his body; George W., a merchant of Camp Point; Margaret, wife of Henry Hedges, who is living in Garnett, Kan.; Jefferson, who died in 1890; and one child who died in infancy.

The father of this family followed farming throughout his life. He removed from Maryland to Kentucky, where he lived until 1832, and in that State was married. In the year mentioned he removed to Adams County, Ill., locating near the present town of Columbus, where he entered two hundred acres of land from the Government, paying the usual price of $1.25 per acre. It was still in its primitive condition, not a furrow having been turned or an improvement made thereon. He at once erected a log cabin, and continued its development until 1865, when he removed to a farm in Hancock County. A few years later he took up his residence in the town of Augusta, where he made his home until his death, which occurred on the 1st of February, 1891, at the age of ninety-three years, lacking a few months. His remains were interred in the Columbus Cemetery. His wife passed away in April, 1858. Both were members of the Christian Church, and were highly-respected people.

James H. Butler was a child of only six summers when he accompanied his parents to Illinois. In this State he grew to manhood upon a farm, and in a log schoolhouse, two miles from his home, he began his education, the school being conducted on the subscription plan. With the family he shared in all the hardships and trials of pioneer life. Quincy, which was eighteen miles away, was their nearest market, and they also had to go some distance to mill. Mr. Butler started out in life for himself at the age of nineteen, and after working as a farm hand for his father for two years, he purchased a farm, upon which he resided until the spring of 1850. On the 25th of March of that year, with a horse-team, he started across the plains for California, attracted by the discovery of gold, and on the 5th of July he reached Weaverville. Until the following October he engaged in mining, and then went to San Francisco. Later he made his way to Oregon, and took up six hundred and forty acres of Government land within nine miles of Portland, but in the fall of 1851 he sold his claim and by the water route returned to his home in Adams County.

Ere leaving for the Pacific Slope, Mr. Butler was married, on the 1st of March, 1849, the lady of his choice being Miss Nancy J. Matlock. Six children have been born unto them: Julia, who became the wife of Robert H. Barnes, a banker of Raritan, but is now deceased; George H., a harness-dealer of Stronghurst; John, who died April 15, 1868; Tobias E., who married Mollie Houchin, and follows farming in this locality; Charles C, County Superintendent of Schools of Henderson County; and James P., who is yet living on the home farm.

After his return from California, Mr. Butler remained in Adams County until the spring of 1852, when he removed to Hancock County, and purchased one hundred and sixty acres of partially improved land near West Point, where he made his home for three years. He then rented a farm near La Harpe for a year, after which he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land on section 29, Raritan Township, Henderson County, upon which he made his home for fourteen years. His next purchase made him the owner of the two hundred and forty acre farm on which he now resides.

Mr. Butler manifested his loyalty to the Government during the Civil War by enlisting on the 14th of September, 1862, as a private of Company G, One Hundred and Eighteenth Illinois Infantry, and was elected First Lieutenant. He was mustered into service at Camp Butler, and took part in the engagements at Arkansas Post, Thompson Hill, Gibson, Black River Bridge, and the siege of Vicsburg. On account of physical disability he had to leave the army, and was discharged August 2, 1863. In politics, he has always been a stanch supporter of the Republican party. He holds membership with the Christian Church, and is one of the highly-esteemed citizens of the community, for his sterling worth and strict integrity have gained him universal confidence and esteem. As one of the leading farmers, valued citizens, and early settlers of Henderson County, we present him to our readers.