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Submitted by: Lucy Funk, and Arlene Goodwin,


History of Butler, DeKalb County, Indiana

Double Diamond Jubilee Celebrate the City--1841-1991


An Historical Overview:

It was in the late 1830’s when pioneers first began to establish homesteads on the land that was to become Butler. When the township of Wilmington was organized in 1837, families by the names of Gunsenhouser, Kester, Blair, Tomlison, and Handy began to turn the wilderness into a community of friends and neighbors.

Among these early settlers was Charles Norris, who built a log cabin in the area and took ownership of eight-acre Colgrave tract where he operated a general store. He later divided this original tract of land into lots and sold them so others could go into business.

As the township of Wilmington grew, the towns became known as Norristown after Charles Norris. It was when the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad was completed about 1856, that Norristown began to experience tremendous growth. Log cabins were replaced with frame buildings. The original postal service called Oak Hill station was moved to Norristown. The name of the town was Jarvis from 1859 to 1868. The first church building, the Methodist Episcopal Church, was erected in the late 1850’s.

Over the next twenty years, numerous businesses were established in the vicinity of Broadway and Main Streets. There were John Shull’s Tavern, David Blaker’s Blacksmith Shop. Henry Lindorfer’s Brickyard, and the Otis Brothers’ Furniture Store.

By 1866, Norristown had been incorporated as a town and was served by trustees: Elihu Ocker, W. P. Carpenter, J. A. Campbell.

The first newspaper went to press and called itself the "Butler Herald." Doctors, such as J. Sheldon Lewis and Joseph D. Kennestrick (both born in Butler) and Frank Fanning, were practicing medicine, and a three-story brick schoolhouse was built to serve the children’s educational needs. Butler was now a recognized town with an operating government. It was soon to experience another surge of expansion.

Around 1880, Butler became the division point for the Wabash Railroad when the railroad was extended to Detroit. This extension connected Butler with many other vital parts of the country. Business continued to prosper. There were Knisely Brothers’ Dry Goods Clothing, and Bankers, the Mutzfeld Harness Shop. S. G. Stone Drug Store, W. H. Oberlin Pool and Billiards, and the L. J. Diehl Jewelry.

Because the horse and buggy was the main source of transportation at this time, many of the businesses were feed and grain stores and harness and blacksmith shops. A. J. Mason went into the lumber business to provide materials for many of the new homes. Mason himself built a large home, which still stands at the northwest corner of Deport and Eastern Streets.

Butler was a young and growing community with entertainment to be enjoyed by all ages. There were opera houses operated by Adolph May and Mr. Thompson. Public meetings and dances were held at Ballinger Hall (located where the Butler Carnegie Library now stands). Street fairs, livestock exhibits, and carnival attractions added to the fun.

Horse racing became a popular source of entertainment. A race track was located east of the Butler Company and L. J. Diehl maintained stables on East Main Street. One of Diehl’s horses, Colonel Strathmore, became famous. Many horse owners kept their horses and rigs at W. S. Maxwell’s Feed, Seed, and Grain Store.

Streets were mostly dirt roads in the late 1880’s, and all the buggy traffic "kicked up" a lot of dust. To Keep the dust from irritating their customers, merchants would pay to have a sprinkling wagon drive through towns to wet down the streets with water. One of these sprinkling wagons was operated by Henry Zeigler, whom everyone knew as "Hen."

A large crowd turned out when the "drummer" came to town. The "drummer" was a man who came to Butler to present a medicine show. He would perform magic tricks from the back of his horse drawn wagon, and then would sell snake oils and spring tonics guaranteed to cure whatever ailed you.

By the1890’s, it was decided to build a town hall. A town hall was erected in 1892 in the same location as the current city hall. It stood for seventy years. Town trustees at the time were George Geddes, Thomas Rudd and Frank Stewart.

Passenger trains arrived and departed frequently from Butler. To accommodate the travelers, there were many hotels and boarding houses. There were the Hotel. Aldrich, the Wilcox Boarding House (located at the present site of the American Legion), and the Clifton House which stood across for the Butler Company.

Everyone knew when a train was approaching town as one could hear the steam whistle of the locomotive. The drive wheels of these engines were as tall as the engineers themselves, and they were fueled by huge furnaces that burned coal and wood.

Fire control up to this time in Butler had been basically a system of good solid ladders and plenty of buckets. As more housing additions were developed (Lingenfelter’s, Mason’s, Hubble’s, and Sawyer’s additions) the Butler Hose Company was founded. C. B. Mason served as the first fire chief of this group of men who responded to fires with a horse drawn reel of hoses.

Streets were lighted with kerosene lamps, which gave the town of Butler a soft glow at night. Miles Wilsey was one of the lamplighters who used a long pole to light the lamps at sundown and then extinguish them at sunrise.

By the close of the nineteenth century, Butler had experienced continuous growth. Modern electric, sewage, water, and road systems were needed to serve the population of over two thousand citizens. To meet these new demands, Butler became a city in 1903 and elected its first mayor, Sam G. Stone.

The twentieth century saw the new-fangled motor car replace the trusty old horse and buggy. This change forced many established businesses to produce or sell a different line of products. Mutzfeld’s Harness Shop went into the hardware business and the Butler Company began to produce windmills instead of buggies.

A variety of services were now available to the community. These services included the reliable visit of the milkman. Homemakers relied on the milkman to deliver bottles of milk right to their doors. John Kiplinger was a milkman who lived on a farm called "Bird Flowerdale." Kiplinger would sell flowers from his farm as he traveled along his milk deliver route.

Modern times brought new demands to the city of Butler, In 1910, under the administration of W. J. Mondhank, many streets were paved. City mail deliver was started with Luther Bryan and Charles Oberlin working as mail carriers. It was also during this time that the Butler Carnegie Library was built after a library board including Mrs. Brunsetter, L. H. Higley, and Dr. Schumaker received a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.

In the early 1900’s, the school was an integral part of the community. Mrs. Lida Stage taught music for many years and served as the leader for an all girl’s band. The band played at special events and held concerts in the old bandstand at the northwest corner of Broadway and Oak Streets. Members of the all girl’s band included Bessie Oberlin, Lucile Hamman, and Bernice Griffin. Mrs. Stage also led the Butler boy’s band, which was known as "a big band of little fellows."
Among the members of the Butler boy’s band were Harold Seltenright, Earl Riser, Blaine Rex, Roy Hanke, Carl Bercaw, and Walter Smith.

There was always a party to attend as Butler enjoyed an active social life. It was considered an honor to receive a formal invitation to a party given by the T. J. Knisely’s, whose large home was located where the post office now stands. The Hardings, whose home still stands at the southwest corner of Liberty and Broadway, also hosted many social events. These were beautiful large homes with formal living and dining areas, a library, sitting room and parlor. Men wore black ties and women wore their best gowns, and long white gloves. Progressive parties were always fun when couples walked from house to house around town.

In the days before talking movies, Butler had a silent movie house. It cost a nickel to see one’s favorite screen idol of the day. Pauline Capp (Lake), Lucille Smurr, and Bertha Bevington would take turns playing the piano to provide mood music for the film. When "talkies" were developed, the movie house moved to the present site of the Knisely bank parking lot on South Broadway.

Butler was a close community of family and friends during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Everyone enjoyed getting together on Saturday night to hear the weekly band concert. Some of the churches would have ice cream socials and merchants kept their shops open for business. Sunday was a day to take a stroll through town and stop into Trumbull’s Soda Shoppe for a dish of ice cream.

Folks out in the country could not get to town as often as they needed, so the grocery stores sent out huckster wagons to sell their wares. These wagons were complete with shelves and cupboards that displayed calico cloth, food staples, and more. Many times the hucksters would receive fresh eggs and chickens in return for their products. Harold Nichols, who owned and operated Harold’s Grocery Store for many years, once drove a huckster wagon. Townsfolk during this time could shop at the Preston Grocery Store and Stone’s Drug Store where Burt Kissinger and Wallace Knepper worked as clerks.

No one could say the women of Butler did not dress in the height of fashion. "Hobbie" skirts (long tight skirts with a slit up the side) and a variety of hats were the style of the day. Fancy hats decorated with plumes, feathers, flowers, net, and ribbons could be purchased at Cora Ame’s or Mrs. Elden’s Dry Goods and Millinery Shops.

Because refrigeration was poor, townspeople had to shop daily for their food. Fresh meat was available at Lake’s Meat Market. Pauline Capp (Lake) took orders over the telephone and Joe McDonald delivered them on his bicycle. When the ice box became popular, the ice man would deliver ice. One of the ice man, Clifford Janke, would go out to the old gravel pit to cut ice every winter. Children liked to follow him on his delivery route in hopes of getting a sliver of ice to enjoy on a hot day.

The 1920s saw the opening of Maxton Motors and the consolidation of two newspapers, "The Record" and "The DeKalb County Herald," by A.S. Powers who then published "The Record-Herald." L.F. Tombow, J. A. Kester, Roscoe Capp, and C.W. Mutzfeld served on the city council at the time.

There were two funeral homes and two banks in Butler: Phelp’s Funeral Home and Johnson’s Funeral Home, and Knisley Brother’s and Company State Bank and the First National Bank. Other businesses included the Sunshine Bakery, Tyson’s Meat Market, and Gedde’s Drug Store, where children bought their school books for many years.

It was fun just to go to the train depot to watch the people traveling through town on the New York Central. Or, one could take the train to Toledo and be back in town that night.

In the early 1930s, Butler went back to a town government due to a change in Indiana Law. For the next twenty years, it was again governed by trustees.

During this time, going to the barbershop was a time to "catch-up" on what was happening around town. Mark Harrigan, Bill Holtzberg , Joe (Toad) Latson, and Frank and John Sutton were all popular barbers. Hair cuts cost 15 cents and customers had their own shaving mugs personalized with their names hung on a special rack on the wall.

It was always a great day when the "Ginnivans" came to town. The Norma Ginnivan Dramatic Company would pitch a tent and give dramatic performances over the course of several days. Many of the "Ginnivans" would stay overnight with families in town. This was also a time where hobos, who were "riding the rails," would come to the back doors of many of the homes in town where they would be given food to eat. Peddlers were also common, and one of the most popular was the peddler that came to sharpen knives and scissors.

Sports were popular in the 1930s, and almost every night one could watch a ball game played by the Butler baseball team. An athletic field was located at the present site of Butler Elementary School. Members of this popular team were Harvey Phelps, Otis Fisher, George Olds, Kenneth Oberlin, and Leroy Campbell.

Butler celebrated its Gold n’ Diamond Jubilee in 1966, representing 125 years of growth and progress.

The names of town and its postmasters are as follows:

Name of

Post Office



Date Closed or

Name Change

Name of


Date of Appt.

Oak Hill





6-11, 1853




William H.






George L. Noble





William Harding





Joseph R.






William K.






Thomas J.






Edward W.






Solomon Rogers





John J.


6-19-1868 or


Butler Station?














Ida Carpenter





Cyrus S. Stoy





Adolphus G.






John J. Oberlin





Ellsworth A.






Rumsin C.






T. M. Long





Clyde B.






Walter M. Smith





Richard Dielman





Oleta E. Hudson



How did Butler get its name?

The name of the town we know as Butler has been changed several times. It was first called Norristown, obviously after Charles Norris who had plotted a few lots on the southwest corner of Main and Broadway Streets. On March 8, 1855, Amasa Smith plotted twenty-five lots lying west of Norris plot. He called these lots "West Butler." This is the first use of the name of "Butler" encountered in DeKalb County records.

On July 31, 1856, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad joined with the Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad and file the plot of the "Village of Butler." A mechanics lien dated November 24, 1857, uses the wording "…town of Norristown." Another mechanics lien dated July 15, 1858, refers to a lot in "…the Village of Butler." Thus, during this period, the town was referred to as both Norristown and Butler.

The first post office in the area was established in 1851 and was located south of Butler at Oak Hill. In 1853 the post office was moved to Norristown and became known by that name. In 1859 the name of the post office was changed to Jarvis, probably after John Jervis, who was chief engineer and a director of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad. The same Jervis was instrumental in plotting Corunna and Waterloo. The names Jarvis and Jervis were used interchangeably.

The railroad apparently began calling the stop "Butler Station" at some point. A certificate of election recorded September 6, 1866, uses the name "Butler Station." A deed recorded March 17, 1866, uses the name Jervis, suggesting that these two names were used simultaneously for a while.

On July 6, 1868, the name of the post office was officially changed to Butler. There had been a post office known as "Butler" in Butler Township from February 7, 1840. On January 14, 1868, the name of that post office was changed to New Era, thus freeing the name Butler for the use by the town. The origin of the name Butler remains a puzzle.

Butler native Richard Leslie Brown has extensively researched the origin of the name and concludes that Butler was named after Charles Butler, who was a director of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana railroad at the time it was built through the town. Charles Butler was a lawyer and businessman. He was the founder of Hobart College at Geneva, New York, and the Union Theological Seminary at New York City. He was an early proponent of the village of Chicago, and his brother-in-law served as its first mayor. Indeed, the name could have originated with the railroad and the site could have been named in honor of Charles Butler, although its use as early as 1855 tends to refute this theory.

Another strong possibility is that the name originated for the Butler family, early settlers in the southeast corner of DeKalb County, It is likely that Butler Township was named after this family. Contrary to this theory are the fact that the Butler family was probably the second family to settle in DeKalb County, although there is no place named, "Houlton" (except for a school), and the area where they settled in the northeast part of the county was much closer to the town of Butler.

There appears to be no conclusive answer to this question without additional evidence coming to light. The town may have also been called Junction for a while, due to the junction of the original two railroads, and perhaps Mudd Junction, probably in derision.

Railroad History of Butler: Railroads have played a large role in the founding and growth of Butler. Indeed, it is likely that Butler could have been another ghost town, which never grew, had it not been for the railroads.

Three major railroads intersected at Butler, making it a major railroad center from the 1860’s through the 1930’s. There were major railroad yards, including a roundhouse and several buildings. Many trains originated at Butler an their crews live here.

During the golden era of the railroads at Butler, as many as sixty trains per day passed through Butler on three railroads.

Here follows a brief history of each of these three railroads: Eel River and Vandalia Railroads:

The first attempt to build a railroad through DeKalb County was the Auburn and Eel River Valley Railroad which was to be built from Logansport to Auburn.

As the horizons broadened, the name of the railroad was changed to Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad Company.

The surveyors for the Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad placed stakes through the county to delineate the center line of the proposed railroad. Right-of-way agents then contacted the owners of the lands and attempted to contract for the purchase of the right-of-way.

The Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad terminated at Butler, but it was intended to extend the railroad on to Detroit sometime in the futures. The railroad proceeded to purchase right-of-way, ninety-nine feet in width, east of Butler to the state line.

In the meantime, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana was proposed in an east-west direction through northern Indiana. It was important to both railroads that this new road make connection with the Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad at Butler. The right-of-way was more then sufficient for two sets of tracks, so the Logansport and Northern Indiana leased and interest in the right of way for a period of 999 years for the one time payment of $2,065. The right to cross the tracks of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana railroad was reserved, so that the Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad could be extended to Detroit.

The railroad was not to be built for some time, however. The Articles of Association of the Detroit, Eel River & Illinois Railroad were filed with the Indiana Secretary of State on November 4, 1868. This company apparently acquired the right-of-way that belonged to the Logansport and Northern Indiana Railroad. Construction was not stated, though, until 1872 when the segment from Denver, Indiana, to Auburn was completed. Shortly thereafter the rails reached Logansport. The Auburn to Butler segment was completed October 18, 1873, resulting in 93.1 miles of railroad.

The Detroit, Eel River & Illinois Railroad was not financially successful, and on April 3, 1877, the Cass Circuit Court rendered a decree of foreclosure. On July 6, 1877, the railroad assets were sold to James F. Joy and Elijah Smith, and they in turn organized the Eel River Railroad Company to operate the line.

Their operation lasted only two years. On August 26, 1879, the Eel River was leased to Jay Gould’s expanding Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific and became part of the through route from St. Louis to Detroit. This segment connected the main line of the Wabash at Logansport and later Clymers with the line from St. Louis to Toledo.

At Butler, connections were made with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. The Butler Company, at Butler used the Eel River to ship its windmills and related products to the south.

For a time, the Eel River provided a link in the Wabash’s Chicago to Detroit Line. The Wabash had trackage rights over the Chicago & Atlantic (later Erie) from the Illinois-Indiana state line to Laketon Junction (Newton), hence over the Eel River to Butler and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern to Detroit. When the Wabash completed its line from Clarke Junction to Montpelier, Ohio, in 1895, this use was terminated. Later the Wabash interests constructed a railroad from Detroit to Butler. This further diminished the usefulness of the Eel River. The Wabash then constructed its line from New Haven 25.6 miles to Butler. Thereafter, the Wabash had no further use for the Eel River.

In the meantime, the assets of the Eel River were again foreclosed upon and were conveyed to Elijah Smith, William Crapo, and Daniel Querk on June 10, 1901. On September 12, 1901, they conveyed the assets to the newly formed Logansport and Toledo Railroad Company, which was consolidated on December 29, 1904, to form the Vandalia Railroad Company. The Vandalia was operated until 1916 when, as a result of a merger, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company was formed and continued to operate the old Eel River line.

In 1926 fourteen trains passed through Butler each day on the Eel River. Butler was the terminal for the Detroit and Toledo runs and the Chicago and Logansport runs. The railroad employed seventy trainmen, the majority of who lived in Butler. The years were enlarged in 1926 with additional sidetracks.

On September 28, 1855, the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad was merged into the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad. From the formation of the Logansport & Toledo Railroad in 1904, all of the subsequent owners were proprietary companies of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Harry Funston of Butler was one of the last conductors on this line and had served as a brakeman in earlier years. Locally the railroad was known as the Eel River, The Vandalia, or the Pennsylvania. The freight station in Butler was one of the line’s last remaining structures. It was torn down for lumber by Paul Gloy in the late 1950’s.

The Eel River was gradually relegated to purely local service. Business declined along the route. The first segment to be abandoned was the 10.29 mile section from Auburn to Butler. Both towns had adequate service from their other railroads, and there was not much rail traffic between the two towns. Furthermore, they had not been maintained, and an embargo was placed on it on June 12, 1953.

It was formally abandoned on June 27, 1954. The track was taken up in July 1956.

With the demise of the Auburn-Butler segment, the line from Auburn to Churubusco was served from Fort Wayne via the Grand Rapids and Indiana Branch, which crossed at LaOtto. The segment from Churubusco to Columbia City was abandoned in 1961. The section from Auburn, to Columbia City was abandoned in 1970s and the track removed.

The Indiana and Michigan Electric Company acquired easement rights over the Butler to Auburn line and has a high voltage line along the route from its substation in Auburn to Butler. State Road 205 was built along the right-of-way from Old State Road 327 to Columbia City.

The railroad right-of-way has been bulldozed level and is now under cultivation in many areas of the county. The route of the old Eel River may still be traced through the county by the observant. There are still a number of wood trestles extant and an I-69 bridge over the old right-of-way provides a clue as to it location.

Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and New York Central: The first railroad actually constructed through DeKalb County was the east-west line through Butler, Waterloo, and Corunna which is today usually called the New York Central. It was very important to the development of the county.

Its history is a tangled maze of mergers and consolidations. The story starts with the formation of the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad, which was incorporated in 1833 and built in 33 miles of track from Toledo to Adrain, Michigan. The first cars on this early line were drawn by horses. In 1837 its first engine, called the Adrain, was acquired. by 1840 the line reached Hillsdale, Michigan, and in the same year name was changed to the Michigan Southern.

In 1852 the line was extended west and met the Northern Indiana railroad which established through service from Toledo to Chicago. The line was crooked and meandering which resulted in very slow speeds. A faster and more direct route was more desirable.

The possibilities of a more direct route intrigued the Northern Indiana Railroad civil engineers. They were already building a line from Elkhart to Ligonier and started to study the possibility of going on east to Toledo. The Black Swamp area of northwestern Ohio was a formidable obstacle, but settlement in the area was resulting in its drainage. Surveys into DeKalb County were made as early as 1852 and 1853. Interest was sparked by the proposed railroad to be built from Logansport to Butler (then Norristown) by the Logansport and Indiana Railroad Company 1855.

The Northern Indiana Railroad Company of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio was consolidated with the Michigan Southern Railroad Company of Michigan on April 25, 1855, to form the Michigan and Northern Indiana Railroad Company. It was this company that proceeded to build the line which would stretch from Toledo to Chicago.

John H. Sargent and his assistant E. L. Barber were the principal civil engineers charged with planning the road. They told the railroad management that they could transverse northwestern Ohio in a straight line. Sargent said, "We can draw a line through the air and follow it without deviation." Thus, the railroad came to be known as the Air Line.

Construction reached Delta, Ohio, in early 1854, and Archbold and Bryan were reached in early 1855. It took almost two years to bridge the swamps of northwestern Ohio, and Butler was not reached until May 27, 1856, when the firs train arrived from the east.

In the meantime crews from the former Northern Indiana Railroad were constructing the railroad from Elkhart. This was completed in 1858 when the two segments were joined at Butler. There were then 20.5 miles of main track and 5.37 miles of side track in DeKalb County.

When it was built, the segment from Toledo to Butler, a distance of 68.5 miles, was the longest stretch of straight track in the country. A few years later a longer section of 78.8 miles was built by the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railway between Hamlet and Wilmington, North Carolina. This line is now operated by the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, a subsidiary of CSX Corporation. These two line were still the longest and second longest segments in the country.

On April 6, 1869, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad Company were consolidated with the Lake Shore Railway Company of Ohio an Pennsylvania to form the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company with trackage in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Then on June 22, 1869, a further consolidation brought in the Buffalo and Erie Railroad Company of New York and Pennsylvania. This extended trackage into New York. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern system extended for Buffalo to Chicago with many branches into southern Michigan to cities such as Grand Rapids, Lansing, Jackson, and Detroit. It has massive depots in Chicago, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, and Buffalo. On September 1, 1882, the Fort Wayne, Jackson and Saginaw line was leased to the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, resulting in two lines being operated by this company through DeKalb County.

The New York Central Railroad Company was incorporated on April 29, 1914, as a consolidation of eleven other railroads including the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and Fort Wayne, Jackson and Saginaw lines through DeKalb County.

Wabash: The early years of the Wabash Railroad are confusing and not relevant to Butler. The railroad started in the St. Louis area and at first went west, It gradually expanded to eastern points.

The first entry into Indiana began in 1853 when the Toledo Associates formed the Toledo & Illinois railroad to build a line from Toledo to the Indiana state line, and the Lake Erie, Wabash, and St. Louis Railroad to build the line across the State of Indiana. This line was to follow the same general path as the Wabash and Erie Canal, which was being abandoned. This was how the Wabash Railroad eventually got its name.

Construction began at Toledo in 1854, and by 1855 the track was finished to New Haven, Indiana. From there the track generally followed the Wabash River to Attica, Indiana, where it crossed the Wabash River for the last time and went straight west and connected with the Great Western Railroad in Illinois. This line did not enter DeKalb County but is important to the line which eventually did enter DeKalb County.

In accordance with the plans of The Toledo Associates, the Toledo & Illinois and the Lake Erie, Wabash and St. Louis Railroads were merged in 1856 to form the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad. This railroad went through a corporate reorganization in 1858 and changed its name to the Toledo & Wabash Railway. This later became the Wabash Railway.

Jay Gould was one of the most notorious railroad barons in history. He acquired the Wabash Railway and the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad which was merged into one continuous line 715 miles long linking Toledo and Kansas City. This railroad a was called the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad Company in 1879 and formed the central link in the Gould plan, which envisioned a transcontinental railroad.

At this time the Detroit-Windsor area was developing into an important center of commerce. The Grand Trunk Railway channeled and enormous volume of freight from eastern Canada to Detroit. This was also an important Great Lakes Port.

The Detroit, Butler & St. Louis Railroad was formed on February 11, 1880, to build a railroad from Detroit to Butler, which would connect with the Eel River Division which had been acquired by the Gould interests.

By the end of 1881 track was completed from Delray, Michigan, which was near Detroit, to Butler. The connection was then made with the Eel River line which went southwest through DeKalb County and then to Logansport.

Cars bound for Detroit were separated at Logansport and sent to Butler on the Eel River and then to Detroit over the Detroit, Butler & St. Louis line. Butler became an important division point. The Eel River operated extensive yards including a round house and extensive freight and passenger facilities. These were located west of Broadway and south of the New York Central tracks, in the area now occupied by The Eagles Lodge and Hendrickson Tandem, Inc.

In 1881 the Detroit, Butler & St. Louis was merged into the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific.

During the period from 1880 until 1902, Butler was an important rail center where the New York Central, Wabash and Eel River connected. The town grew rapidly with the employment provided by railroads.

At its peak in 1884 the Gould system had 3, 549 miles of track and connections ranged for Omaha to Detroit. The company operated a double line through northeastern Indiana until 1902. One line went from New Haven to Toledo and the other from Butler to Detroit. In 1902 a line was constructed form Butler to New Haven which connected the main line directly with Detroit. As Detroit became more important, the New Haven to Toledo line became a branch operation, and the New Haven, Butler to Detroit line became the main line. With this connection, the yards at Butler became less important, and the Eel River line was sold to the Pennsylvania railroad in 1928.

The Wabash was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1928. The Wabash was the first class one railroad to go into bankruptcy during the Depression. The company was under a receiver until 1941.

In 1926 the Wabash had eight passenger and forty freight trains passing through DeKalb County daily. An additional side track was surveyed west of Butler in 1926 and was built shortly thereafter. This enabled more trains to pass at Butler.

The railroad owned two houses on South Broadway which were used for crew housing. They also owned 42 acres of land lying between their tracks and the New York Central tracks. Part of the Butler Company and the condensery were located on this tract, and each was served by two side tracks.

Mudd Junction: (About 1852) a railroad was located called the Eel River Railroad, running from Logansport, Indiana, in a north east direction to Norristown, now Butler. The company saw that they had no outlet to the eastern markets. About this time the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana Railroad Company had under consideration the building of an Air Line road running from Air Line Junction, Toledo, Ohio, to Elkhart, Indiana. They had nearly established the line. It went 12 miles north of Butler, near Metz Corners. The Eel River Company, seeing that they were cut out of an outlet east, proposed to the MS & NI company to form a junction at Norristown, and on the 17th day of June, 1854, the directors of each company met at Norristown and perfected arrangements where by the MS & NI changed their route and made it an Air Line from Toledo Junction to Norristown. This formed a junction with the Eel River and the town was called Mudd Junction for awhile. Then it was changed to Jarvis.

The Railroad Company had named the station Butler. The town was Jarvis and the post office Norristown. This caused considerable annoyance in the postal service. We finally got it straightened out and abandoned Jarvis, Norristown Junction and Mudd Junction, for it was called most everything in our early struggles. But we weathered it through and consolidated on the name of Butler.

I have now explained how we happened to have a city in this vicinity; otherwise Butler would have been twelve miles north of us and we would have been without a town on a railroad in this part of the country. As it is we are blessed with three railroads and the liveliest city in northern Indiana. (Written by W. L. Blair, who came to Butler in 1856. Special Edition of DeKalb County Herald published in 1896.)

Section Gangs: The unsung heroes of the railroad history of DeKalb County are those many men who labored as section hands. They worked hard and were paid little. All of the work was done by hand in all kinds of weather. When a tie needed to be replaced, the blast stone was raked out with a large iron rake. The spikes in the old ties were pulled by hand with a steel lever. The old tie was pounded out with a sledge. The new tie was then pounded in, again by hand. New spikes were then driven in with pointed sledges weighing twelve or more pounds. It too a good man to do this.

Section crews were located at every town on the railroad. These crews responsible for certain segment of track consisting of from four to six miles. The crews took great pride in their segments and worked hard to maintain them in good condition. They patrolled their track and moved their materials and tools on hand cars which were at first propelled by muscle power and then by gasoline engines. The powered handcars were called putt-putts due to the noise their engines made. They had little garages along the tracks near the depots where these were kept. The handcars had long handles extending from both ends with which the men could pick them up and turn them around and place them on or remove them from the track. They also had four-wheel trailers to haul tools and materials.

Major maintenance was done by crews brought in each year. Many of these men were black. They lived on old passenger cars which were placed on sidings in Waterloo or Butler. They provided the first personal contact with the Negro race for many DeKalb County people.

These crews had some powered equipment such as cranes, but much of the work was done by hand. They were set off along side the tracks by a crane. The crew pulled the spikes from the old rail and then picked it up with large tongs handled by two men, one on each side. From thirty to forty men with from 15 to 20 pairs of tongs could pick up a length of rail. The old ties were removed and replaced, and then the process was repeated to move the new length into place, The sight of these muscular men driving spikes with there hammers swinging far over their heads was indeed spectacular.

City Government and Services: Butler was incorporated as a town in 1866 with W. P. Carpenter, J. A. Campbell, and Elihu Ocker as the first trustees, with A. A. Howard as Clerk and R. H. Weamer as Marshall.

Butler first became a city in 1903 and remained such until 1934 when the Indiana General Assembly enacted legislation which raised the population requirement for cities to a minimum of 3,000 residents. Butler did not meet this qualification and reverted to a town status.

In 1956 a special act of the Indiana General Assembly again permitted Butler to become a city, a status which it has held since. Those who have served as mayor are:

Years Served


Years Served



Sam G. Stone


Dr. A. J. Kramer

1906- ??

John Hiazelet


George L. Stone


Wallace Webster


Leighton F. Tombow


Walter J. Mondhank



Butler’s utility and service departments provide a broad range of functions from police and fire protection to supplying water to citizens and industries.

The Butler Department of water works was created in January of 1936, when it purchased the Indiana Waterworks Corporation, which had served the city until that time.

The city’s street department was established in 1800s with the basic responsibility of maintaining Butler’s streets.

The Butler Fire Department was officially formed in 1896, but the city had a fire protection plan as early as 1870.

Butler Fire Chiefs:


Dates served as Fire Chief

Mort Brown

Chief from unknown year to 1925

Earl Greenwalt

Chief from 1926 to 1927

Seth Aldrich

Chief form 1928 to 1936

Any individual who served as fire chief before Mort Brown is unknown.

Reading Plus: The Butler Carnegie Library was built in 1915 with the help of a $10,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation, private donations, and support from surrounding township. The building which houses the library has not grown in size since it was erected, but that has not kept the library from growing in other ways. The Library has increased circulation, with a larger number of volumes available to the public and more services offered to patrons.

Twenty-five years ago, it was reported that the Library had 10,862 volumes which included children and adult books, reference books, and encyclopedias. Since that time, the inventory has increased to over 23, 000 volumes which now includes the addition of magazines, records, and paperback books. The increase in the number of volumes has had a direct effect on circulation as the library today boast of circulating approximately 54, 000 volumes a year. The creation of a separate children’s department has been a major factor in boosting circulation to such an impressive number. At one time the children’s department consisted of a few shelves on one corner of the library.

Hoops, Mats, Diamonds, and Gridirons: Butler and now Eastside athletes have excelled in a wide variety of sports through the years. Activities such as cross country, track, basketball, football, and soft ball have produced outstanding teams and individual players who rate with the best in the areas.

Baseball had been strong team sport throughout Butler’s history. As early as the 1920’s, the city was home to Wabash Park, located between South Broadway and the Norfolk Southern (formerly Wabash) Railroad. This facility was complete with a fenced-in field and grandstand.

Manufacturers: Abros, Inc., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Art Iron, Inc., which was founded in 1905 by Godfrey Schlatter. Bohn Aluminum Corp. was purchased from the Wickes Manufacturing Company. Charles B. Bohn formed the Company in the early 1920’s. The Butler Company, Inc., was established in 1888 in the office of E. W. Foswick as The Butler Manufacturing Company by 36 men. In 1894, the company was incorporated and renamed The Butler Company.

At different times, the company manufactured bicycle, windmills, pumps, buggies, and watering containers. Hendrickson Suspension, A Boler Company, was founded by Magnus Hendrickson in 1913.

Clubs and Lodges: The Stafford Township Home Demonstration club was founded in 1926 by Ida Miller, Alma Diehl, Atlanta Cather, and Mildred Coll. Miller served as president of the 42 member club. The club donates funds to WOWO Penny Pitch, supports mental health and cancer organizations, and sponsors a "friend-to-friend" patient at the Fort Wayne Developmental Center.

The club currently has 13 members, and meets the third Wednesday of each month at 1:30 p.m.

The Wilmington Township Extension Homemakers was organized in February 1926, under County Agent E. E. Stimson’s direction in Mary Imhoff’s home. The club gives a college scholarship to a graduating student, promotes leader lessons, and participates in "Pennies For Friendship." The 15 current members meet once a month.

The Forest Chapter No. 44, Order of the Eastern Star was founded in March 1880. Charter members were Alice Stoy, Priscilla Johns, E. J. Otis, Rachel Olds, J. W. Boyle, _____Carpenter, Alice Rank, Emma Crane, Annie T. Bolan, _____Bennett, Ella Eley, Susan Moore, Eliza Blaker, C. S. Stoy, S. W. Otis, Jennie Wolf, Mary Rank, ______Mason, C. W. Crane, and C. W. Eley.

The chapter sent fruit baskets to members, hosted holiday parties for children, and sent canned fruit to the Masonic Home. The club once paid the medical bills for a traveler who became ill while staying at the Butler Hotel. Other contributions went to the Red Cross for children in war-torn Europe, to Russiaville for tornado assistance, and to the living memorial for deceased members located at the Indian Masonic Home.

The Forest Chapter is one of the oldest in the state, and has instituted new chapters in Ashley, Garrett, Waterloo, North Manchester, and Columbia City.

Carrie fanning of the Forest Chapter was appointed Worthy Grand Matron, Grand Secretary, and Grand Treasurer on the state level in 1887-1888. Other Grand Chapter appointments have been Fred Fanning, Associate Grand and Worthy Patron; Jennie Wolf, Grand Marshall.

The Forest Lodge No. 239 of Free and Accepted Mason was organized in Butler on April 23, 1858 by Hiram S. Madden. Members meet the first and third Thursdays each month.

A Community of Faith: The Jerusalem Community Church is located at County Road 12, and State Road 1. It was founded in 1883 with Jacob Rowe, Andrew Haynes, and James Myers as the first trustee. The Revs. Charles Krebel and C. M. Eberly served as the first pastors.

The church met in a school for three years until land was purchased in 1885, and the deed recorded Oct. 10, 1885. The structure was built in 1886. The church was organized as a United Brethren Sabbath School in 1887.

In 1914 the church was rebuilt and the basement dug, and the Ladies Aid was organized in 1929.

The Butler Zion United Methodist Church at County Roads 4-A and 79 was founded in 1847. Charter members were Daniel McClelland and his wife, and Marriah and Martha Thompson.

A log church was built in 1850, with Zion United Brethren Church as its first name. A frame church was built in 1874, and the present church building was remodeled in 1912.

The Butler Church of Christ. John Aylsworth founded the Butler Church of Christ on March 1, 1870, and the church is presently located at 173 W. Oak St.

Eighteen charter members began meeting in the Butler Lutheran Church in 1870. The current site was purchased 1873-1874 during the ministry of Thomas P. Sutton, and the building was dedicated Feb. 7, 1875. The Sunday School installed electric lights and water in 1895, and later added a basement, baptistry, new windows and an east wing.

Charles Reign Scoville gave his parents’ former home on East Main Street to the church for use as a parsonage about Dec. 1, 1919.

St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church , 217 W. Main St., was founded in 1864 by J. W. Henderson. Henderson served as the first pastor until 1868.

The cornerstone of the first building was laid in 1864. In 1901, this building was razed to construct the present building.

The Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church at County Roads 40 and 59 was founded in 1854. The Rev. Benton and his wife were both ministers, and services were held at Abraham Eakright’s property until 1861, when the congregation moved into a log schoolhouse. The Rev. James Martin served as the first pastor.

Jacob Ginder donated the property for the present site, and a frame structure was built in 1870. A new church building was constructed in Butler in 1883, but the rural building was remodeled in 1889 and reopened. In 1917, the church was veneered in brick, classrooms added, and the structure raised to put a basement. A new furnace and new seats were installed, and the church was dedicated for the third time on Dec. 23, 1917.

The Butler United Methodist Church was preceded by a congregation known as the Methodist Episcopal organized by Edward Praul in 1839, and the Evangelical United Brethren supported by A. J. Mason in 1882.

Edward Praul first led a Methodist class in his home in 1839. The Methodist Episcopal Church at Pearl and Washington streets was built in 1860. In 1881, the United Brethren built a church at 127 W. Main St. with the financial support of A. J. Mason.

Brief History of Butler Newspapers: The establishment and continued existence of a newspaper is often a good measurement of the economic health and progress of a town. Butler has had a newspaper from 1866 until the present. Numerous other publications originated at Butler from Higley Press.

Several newspapers were published under the name of Herald. The first began publication on June 16, 1866. After about a year of publication, the paper was moved to Ligonier.

In 1868 Emory Higley established The Banner of Liberty. It was soon moved to Auburn and changed to The Auburn Times.

In 1870, A. B. Knight established another paper under the Herald masthead but it was also short-lived.

Harry Weamer established the News in 1874 as a Republican newspaper. It was also moved to Auburn after a short time.

The Record was founded by W. M. Kist, in March 1877. After a series of owners and editors the name was changed to The Weekly Record. It remained under the publication of Luther H. Higley until it was merged with The Herald on January 1, 1929.

A paper called The Review, first issued in 1876, survived less than a year, but the name Review was revived by Harry Weamer in 1881. In 1891 the name was changed to DeKalb County Herald.

The Times, also called The Lively Times, was probably published in Butler in 1875.

Zion’s Watchman (later The Herald of Light and Zion’s Watchman) was published by Luther H. Higley beginning in 1878. It was terminated in the 1930’s. Numerous religious publications were published by the Higley Press, including the widely used Higley Sunday School Class Book Series.

The Record and The Herald were acquired by Arthur S. Powers and the two papers merged on January 1, 1929, under the name Record-Herald. They were published by Mr. Powers, his son Burdett, his son-in-law Forest Oiler, and his grand son John Powers.