Yvonne Dalluge
Kathleen Jacobitz
Marcia Borcher
Sandi Corbitt-Sears
Dick Taylor

David Butler

 This descriptive sketch is from Portrait & Biographical Album of Johnson and Pawnee Counties Nebraska published by Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1889 (p. 111).

THE HON. DAVID BUTLER.  Closely connected with the early history and the development of Nebraska and associated with it at perhaps the most critical period of its history, the gentleman whose biography is here sketched must ever be remembered by the citizens of the State in that association.  Chosen by an overwhelming majority in 1866 to be the first to occupy the Governor's chair under the new organization; re-elected with enthusiasm to the same office in 1868, and yet again honored by the confidence of the people in 1870, he has done perhaps as much as any one individual in safely launching the "Ship of State," Nebraska, upon her unparalleled voyage of ever-growing success. 

     Gov. Butler was born in Greene County, Ind., near the town of Linton, Dec. 15, 1829.  He is the eldest son of ten children, of whom six survive.  The grandfather of our subject, Thomas Butler, was a native of Virginia, and removed to Indiana and became one of the earliest pioneers of that Territory.  As the country developed he was prominently identified with the various enterprises that helped to that end, and enjoyed the greatest confidence and respect of all who knew him.  The maiden name of his wife was Mary Robinson. 

     The father of our subject was born in the year 1809, was reared upon the pioneer farm of his father, and grew up amid surroundings what would to-day be anything but congenial by reason of the primitive condition.  He became an enterprising and prosperous farmer, and also dealt very extensively in cattle.  He became the husband of Nancy Christy, the daughter of Joseph Christy, Esq.  Like her father, she was born in North Carolina. 

     The early life and boyhood of our subject were spent amid agricultural surroundings, and such education as he obtained was received first in a private school, where he was prepared for the public institution, in both of which he made rapid progress, and drank as deeply as was permitted at the fountain of knowledge.  He remained upon the farm until he was twenty-one years of age, but long before attaining his majority was a thorough, practical farmer, and understood all that was necessary in regard to the management of stock.  In his youth he had given promise of powers and intelligence, and though they lay dormant for many years, were bound to make themselves know and felt, as had been the case of the Virginia pioneer in In-
to whom reference was made above. 

     Upon attaining his majority Mr. Butler began farming on his own account, supplementing the same by trading in cattle, which he drove through to Wisconsin, where they were at a premium, owing to the fact that the country was just being opened up for settlement.  He continued thus engaged until the year 1852, when he embarked in mercantile pursuits, retaining, however, his interest in his cattle trade.  These engagements, although somewhat diverse, were not incompatible, and in them he was quite prosperous until the financial crash of 1857.  He was a heavy loser at that time in the failure of the Citizens' Bank at Gosport, Ind., and also through the inability of many his creditors to meet their payments from a like cause.  He, however, struggled manfully against the relentless tide of difficulty that threatened utter ruin, and finally succeeded in paying dollar for dollar of every liability, with interest due.  Mr. Butler in early youth took an unusual interest in political questions, and proved that the possessed a gasp off mind and independence of character by forsaking the Democratic traditions of hiss father's house, and casting his first vote for the Republican party at its birth.  In 1856 he was nominated by the Republicans of the Twentieth District in Indiana for the State Senate.  Not having had any political experience, and the opposition springing a third candidate, he was persuaded to withdraw before the election, not, however, without having made a spirited canvass, though a partial one. 

     In the fall of 1859 Mr. Butler removed to Pawnee City, Neb., and there associated himself with the Hon. W. B. Raper, and with that gentleman embarked again in business; but even here he retained his interest in the cattle trade, and was very shortly gratified to see his earnest efforts rewarded, and to be able to fill a larger place than had been possible before is trails in 1857.  This partnership lasted until 1861, when Mr. Butler was elected a member of the Territorial Legislature. 

     In 1863 Mr. Butler was elected State Senator for a term of two years, representing the First District which comprised the counties of Richardson, Pawnee, Johnson, Gage, Clay Jefferson, and all the unorganized territory lying to the westward.  Both the House and Senate Mr. Butler made his mark, and did good service for is constituents and the State, and it was as a result of the ability then manifested and recognized, the personal worth and high character sustained by him, that he was nominated and by a large majority vote passed by the hand of the people to the highest chair of office within the gift of the people. 

     Among the services rendered the State by Mr. Butler while in the Legislature may be mentioned the introduction of a bill for the reapportioning of Nebraska, the passage of which he worked very hard to procure, but in Legislative halls as in every other the green-eyed monster of jealousy is bound to find admittance.  It was so in this case, and to this was due the failure of our subject in spite of his hard work; but upon renewing the fight in the Senate he was successful, and the bill went through intact. 

     As above noted Mr. Butler was elected Governor in 1866 of the newly admitted State, and during his term of office managed the office of State so wisely and so well as to receive at both the two subsequent elections the expression of a grateful people by re-election to the same high office.  While serving his second terms as Governor, the Legislature committed to his car the delicate and laborious work of removing the capital from the city of Omaha to a central position in the interior of the State a part of Nebraska then almost uninhabited.  This was successfully accomplished, and a State House, State University and Lunatic Asylum erected without the aid of legislative appropriations.  The city of Lincoln with its public buildings is a monument of Gov. Butler's financial sagacity in the management of affairs of State. 

     After retiring from the Governorship Mr. Butler returned to and continued mercantile life, prosecuting the interest connected therewith even more extensively than before.  He continued to make Pawnee City his headquarters until 1868, when he removed to Lincoln, the capital, residing there until 1874, when he located upon his present farm three miles west of Pawnee City.  This beautiful property, which is known as the Uplands Stock FArm, comprises 320 acres, which is supplied with admirably arranged and substantially constructed buildings, such as would be needed for his purpose.  Besides dealing in cattle, he raises and feeds quite a large number annually, while every winter considerable attention is paid to the fattening of cattle for the market.  At one time he was a breeder of Short-horn cattle, and his farm was well stocked with thoroughbreds of the most favored breeds of both cattle and hogs. 

     The marriage of Mr. Butler was celebrated in January 1860, when he was united with Miss Lydia Storey, of Bloomington, Ind.  The family circle of Gov. Butler comprises four children, who bear the names subjoined: Violet E., Seth D., Darias and Paul.  At all times our subject has taken a most active interest in the political and general interests of Nebraska, and has been unfailing in his efforts to advance the same.  On the 4th of September, 1888, he was nominated for Governor on the Union Labor ticket as their standard bearer, and stumped the State in behalf of the movement.  He is a prominent member of the I. O. O. F., and is affiliated with Interior Lodge No. 9, at Pawnee City.  Gov. Butler is a man of much reserve force, bright, clear intellect, possessing in no small measure the power that is indispensable in directing and managing enterprises of magnitude.  He is at all times a true gentleman, strong in friendship, every genial, affable and courteous, both winning and retaining the admiration, respect and friendship of his fellows. 

Transcribed for this site by Dick Taylor 1999

Copyright 2008 Pawnee County History

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