J. W. BUTLER. A worthy example of what can be achieved in North Texas by perseverance and tireless industry is seen in the person of the subject of this brief sketch whose life record until recent years was one of few successes and many reverses. An adopted son of the Lone Star state, he has demonstrated to native and stranger alike that his mission here was to do something for his community while he was doing something for himself. That he is in the midst of the realization of his ambition his evidence and that of his friends amply testify.
Mr. Butler is the proprietor of the cotton gin at Charlie, Texas, and as such and as a harvester and thresher of grain and manufacturer of native lumber, is the most widely known man of the great bend between the Wichita and Red rivers. He came to Texas enfeebled in health and in purse and both have experienced the physical and financial rejuvenation which follows a residence in this section and a serious dip into its industrial affairs.
Pike county, Illinois, was the birthplace of Mr. Butler and his natal day was January 13, 1858. He grew up on his father’s, Levi Butler‘s, farm and obtained his education in the country school. The family went to that county about 1838 from Wisconsin, but the father was born in the state of New York. The latter married Louisa Wilson, reared a large family and died in Morgan county, Illinois, in 1892, at the age of sixty-two years. His wife was a daughter of Joseph Wilson, born in Lancashire, England. Mrs. Butler died in 1893 at fifty-eight years of age. The children of this worthy couple were: Parvin, of Comanche county, Oklahoma; Joseph, of Miller, Missouri; J. W., of this notice; Ellen, wife of L. D. Elidge, of Valley City, Illinois; Emma, of Chicago, Illinois; Louise, who married Richard Windsor, of Valley City, Illinois; Anna, now Mrs. Frank Ellis, of Valley City; and Maggie, wife of J. D. McCarthy, of Maples, Illinois.
On the approach of man’s estate J. W. Butler began the serious side of life. His early employment was with the Wabash Railway Company, at day labor, and later being with the Detroit Bridge and Iron Works. Deciding to become a farmer he went in debt for his first horse. For eight years he was a renter of land and with his small accumulations he engaged in the implement business. His experience as a merchant was a sad one, for it lost him “his all.” He came to Texas in 1890 in the employ of a windmill concern and while at Sherman was forced, by exorbitant expense bills, to leave the road and seek other fields. With eighteen dollars as his capital he left for Clay county, not knowing, of course, whether he “would sink or swim.” He went to work at tank and windmill building for farmers and ranchers and in 1893, three years after his advent to the state, put in a wheat crop on the shares. This experiment proved a decided success and he repeated it but that crop of wheat has never “come up.” He continued to farm by proxy following his trade in the meantime, till 1897, when he was aided to a threshing outfit by his neighbor, Robert Sawdon, and a successful business at this work was the result. The work of the farm, the threshing of grain, the making of lumber and the business of the gin have occupied his time the past few years. He has worn out several reapers and one threshing outfit, and is one of a few men whose experience with machinery has not encompassed his financial ruin. For one who has—likewise his wife—suffered from an enfeebled constitution, until the climate of Texas brought relief and strength, he has wrought successfully and well in Texas. In 1896 his wife’s confinement in a sanitarium cost him a thousand dollars and in 1901 eight hundred dollars more was the price of her treatment in a like institution in San Antonio.
In 1903, Mr. Butler bought up the old gin at Charlie and replaced it with an entirely new one of latest improvement and pattern. It was erected at a cost of three thousand dollars and has a capacity of twenty-five bales a day. The season of 1903 he ginned one hundred and seventy-seven bales, and in 1904 nine hundred and forty-five bales and his place of business is the really important one in the little village. He owns a small farm of one hundred fifty-six acres and rents much other land for the planting of a large acreage to crops.
Mr. Butler married November 1, 1882, Emma L., a daughter of David Pyle, formerly from Cincinnati, Ohio, but early settlers in Illinois. One child, Virgil, born July 3, 1886, is the issue of their marriage.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 46-47.