History of Butler Twp. by A.J. Baughman

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Butler Twp.

source:  Mansfield News, 18 April 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye



By A. J. Baughman


Butler Township

Butler township forms the northeast corner of Richland county, and is bounded on the north by Huron and on the east by Ashland counties.  It was organized March 5, 1849, and named “Butler” in honor of Gen. William O. Butler, of Kentucky, a distinguished officer of the Mexican war, and a candidate for vice president on the ticket with Gen. Lewis Cass, in 1848.

The surface of Butler is generally level, and in early times a considerable portion of its area was wet, but since the township has been cleared of the heavy forests which formerly covered the country, drainage has been improved and the land rendered tillable and fertile with a productiveness that well rewards the farmer’ toil.  Many springs and streams which gave forth copious flows of water when the country was first settled, have nearly dried up.  This is taken by some as evidence of a diminished rainfall, but can be explained otherwise—partly by the better surface-drainage, resulting from removal of the forest, and partly by the deeper oxidization of the bowider clay which renders it porous, and depressions between the strata of clay, making deeper fissures, carrying the water-bearing horizon below the outlets of the old springs and beds of streams.

Jacob Foulks settled in Butler in 1815, and entered land on the Whetstone.  His son Ransom, who was born in 1816, was the first white child born in the township.  The first death was that of his daughter Nancy, in 1818.  Abraham Claberg was also a pioneer of 1815.  Robert Houston came in 1818, and John Owens in 1819.  John Wolf came at an early day.

The following are among the settlers who came later: Stevens, King, Young, Davidson, Morris, Stevenson, Patterson, Garrow, Forbes, Jacobs, Ingram, Oberlin, Secrist, Starr, Sheldon, Benedict, Stimple, Wetzell, Ford, Caufman, Robinson, Hanna, Gibbons, Chambers, McGuire, Wood, Rice, Outchall, Wharton, Thompson, Ellis, Dobbins, Middleworth, Stone, Enson, Viers, Sutton Huby, Backensto, Beatle, Vanscoey, Gualt, Leasure, et al.

The late Francis Graham, father of Mrs. J. H. Black, of South Main street, Mansfield, in giving reminiscences of pioneer life, a few years before his death, stated that he located at Ashland, then called Union town, in 1821, and engaged in the mercantile business.  Uniontown then contained about fourteen or fifteen houses.  The prices quoted by Mr. Graham were, no doubt, the same at Mansfield that they were at Union town.  The products of the country brought low prices at that time, from the fact that there was no market or demand for them beyond home consumption.  It was difficult for people to get money to pay their taxes.  Wheat was 25 cents a bushel, oats from 12 to 15 cents, and corn from 15 to 20 cents.  Butter from 5 to 6 cents a pound, and eggs from 4 to 5 cents a dozen.  Maple sugar was an important article of trade in Richland county, not from the high prices it commanded, for it only brought from 5 to 6 cents a pound, but from the large quantity made, some “camps” making a yield of from 1500 to 2500 pounds a season.  One season Mr. Graham bought maple sugar and filled 42 barels [sic}, of about 250 pounds to the barrel.  About the year 1826 John Stewart, for many years surveyor of Richland county, built a flouring mill on Bentley’s Run, a branch of the Rockeyfork, three miles southeast of Mansfield. Mr. Stewart advertised that he would pay 31 ¼ cents cash per bushel for good merchantable wheat delivered at his mill.  The farmers for 25 miles around hauled their wheat to this mill, pleased with the idea they could sell it for cash.  ‘Money’ continued scarce until after the opening of the New York and Erie canal, after which produce of all kinds gradually advanced in price, and the volume of currency increased.  Swindling, theft or robbery was of rare occurrence in northern Ohio at that time, Mr. Graham stated.

The late Peter Davidson, of Butler township, gave an interesting account, a few years before his death, of the conditions that prevailed in that part of the county in the ‘40’s.  He said: “I had to go as far as 45 miles to the city of Akron to get a grist of flour.  The home mills were run by water then, but owing to drought we were compelled to go elsewhere.  We would drive mostly with oxen.  I remember one night when I came to Huron with a load of wheat on my way to Milan, where all hauled their wheat at that time.  I stopped at Ruggles’ Corners.  There were two hotels there, and I counted 100 teams, all headed for Milan with wheat.  I will never forget the time I walked to Savannah, a distance of four miles, through the mud, and carried butter and eggs, which I sold at the store at 5 cents a pound for butter and 3 cents adozen [sic] for eggs.

The history of Butler township would be incomplete without giving at least a resume of Robert Montgomery’s checkered career.  He was a Scotchman by birth and a Presbyterian minister by vocation, who came to Butler in the ‘30’s, and bought the southeast quarter of section 20—one of the many good farms of that township.  He was a man of means and of brilliant parts; a ripe scholar and a preacher of great eloquence and power.  In 1843 fate seemed to turn against him, and to send him upon a downward course which in time caused him to become a fugitive from the law and to die in a foreign land.  Sunday, May 20, 1845, Montgomery delivered an address in Mansfield, entitled “Woe to the Lawyers,” taking for his text Luke xi-46, and in the discourse arraigned the lawyers who had been connected with the case, both for and against him—an arraignment seething and terrible-calling each by name, and at the conclusion, told his principal attorney (nearly all the members of the bar were present- to stand up and receive his sentence.  He said: “Lawyer, stand up!  Thou art arraigned, and found guilty.  Thy sun is sunken in the west; it is now half below the horizon; sunken in an eternal set.  I hurl forth upon thee the curse of the unborn babe.  I cry against thee the curse of the helpless infant.  This day the curse of the widow and the fatherless is rolled up against thy door.  Thou hast wronged them all, and the avenger is behind thee.”

He then turned his attention from the lawyer he called the “great fish’ to the “small fry,” who then received an arraignment no less terrible.  After getting into the toils of the law, Montgomery’s course was downward.  His means became impaired and is reputation suffered more and more as charge after charge was made against him.  But through them all he claimed to be innocent and that the accusations against him were but trumped-up charges.  At the September term of court, 1855, Montgomery was indicted for forgery.  The note that it was alleged had been forged, purported to have been given by Henry Foulks, then a merchant t Lafayette, to Robert Montgomery for $1,500.  Foulks pronounced the note a forgery.  Montgomery gave bond in the sum of $800 for his appearance and succeeded in putting off the trial for two years.  The total costs of the case amounted to $1,787.46.  This trial lasted eleven days, and was one of the most stubbornly-fought cases that was ever tried in Richland county, and resulted in the conviction of Montgomery, who was later sentenced to three years in the penitentiary.  But a motion for a stay of execution of sentence was granted and a bond was given for Montgomery’s appearance, and this enabled him to leave the country.  It was the opinion of many that Montgomery was insane—that his great intellect was not properly balanced, that this condition became more pronounced as he advanced in years, and that condemnation of his acts should be mingled with pity.

There are two streams—Clear creek and Whetstone.  The former has several sources—two from the west and one from near the center of the township, and all uniting near to the Butler church on the Savannah road, and then flowing east into Ashland county. The Whetstone rises near the center of the township, runs south and empties into the Blackfork in Weller township.

The first school in the township was taught by Joseph Ward.  The first religious society at Lafayette (now called Adario) was organized in 1842.  The Christian, Methodist, Church of God and perhaps other denominations have organizations and church buildings I the townships.  The Butlerites are a church-going people.

In ausucceeding {sis] chapter mention will be made not only of those who are prominent in public and business affairs, but of that other class, men in less notable but no less laudable pursuits, the men who eat their bread in the sweat of their face, shall also have recognition, for working men make the wealth of a nation.

In contrasting the morals of the past and present, speakers and writers frequently refer to the fact that there were distilleries in the early days, trying thereby to create the impression that the pioneers were a dissipated people.  But such was not the case, for the early settlers were at least as moral and temperate as are the people of today.  The conditions of the country were different then.  There was no market for grain, except for local consumption.  Distilleries were erected, whiskey made, hauled to the lake and shipped to Detroit and other markets, and money was then obtained to pay taxes, etc.  Corn was converted into whiskey, because that product was a more marketable commodity, and sold for cash.  A certain quaintity [sic] of whiskey was drank by the pioneers, perhaps, but whiskey was their only beverage, beer being a later production.  The “still-house” of the past was an important factor in commercial circles, in the early years of our county history, as whiskey, maple sugar, ginseng, beeswax and potash.were the only exportable commodities of that period.  Then, too, the whiskey of those days was not adulterated and could be drank by the hard-working pioneers with apparent immunity from deleterious results.

The pioneers were a people of heroic virtues.  The situation forbade much devotion to literature.  The actual life of the men who made civilization possible had no time for the literary pursuits.  They made history, but did not write it.  The flourishing condition of our county today is the result of the labors of the pioneers—the men who toiled for our betterment, not knowing whether succeeding generations would even be informed of the names of those who had hewn down the forests and cultivated the land.  But the organized efforts of the Richland County Historical society will rescue from the past, preserve and record on the pages of history not only their names, but a true and living picture of the life they led, its good results, adventures and daring exploits, ere the light fades into darkness.

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