Butler Town

Wayne County, New York

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Butler Town Hall is located at 26 Church Street, Lyons, NY 14489.
Phone: 315‑946‑5480.

Beginnings [1, 2]

Settlement of Butler commenced as early as 1803. Captain Peter Mills, who located in the town about that year, is regarded as the first actual settler. He was a Revolutionary War soldier and drew a bounty here of 500 acres of land for military services. A part of that land became the L. H. Viele farm north of South Butler. Among the very first settlers were John Grandy and Henry Bummell. Many of the early settlers were New Englanders. Slowly but steadily they converted the wilderness into productive fields and pleasant homes.

Before 1800, Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy lived in the Butler area. General John Sullivan's expedition of 1779 broke the power of the confederacy and opened the land to settlers.

Among the first permanent white settlers were Peter Mills, who was given a land grant of 500 acres in the Butler Center area for his service as a Revolutionary War Captain, and Major William Moulton. Other early settlers were members of the Crane, Merrell, Viehle, Moore, Palmer, Wheeler, Roe and Hall families. Many of the early settlers came from New England. The town of Butler was formed from the town of Wolcott on February 26, 1826.

The Butler Center Pond (Mill Pond) was constructed to provide water power to a sawmill owned by Jacob Viele. The establishment of sawmills in Butler Center and South Butler marked the end of log cabin construction for homes. Sawmills continue to operate today in the same locations. Farming has been the main industry in Butler since the 1800s. In the 1800s and early 1900s, there were many prosperous dairy, fruit and tobacco farms. In the early 1900s, muckland was cultivated for crops of potatoes, cabbages, celery and onions. The Merrell family introduced beekeeping to Butler in the mid-1900s and rented bee hives to the Butler fruit growers for pollination of trees in the spring. South Butler had a large pea viner in use during the first half of the 1900s, until pea farming ceased to be profitable for area farmers.

At one time known as Harrington's Corners, South Butler was a bustling community in the late 1800's. In 1839, the first sawmill was built. Soon after came a shingle mill and cooperage and post office, as well as a tannery, gristmill and hotel. In 1867, the Hibbard Basket Works was established, and at one time employed over 100 workers. In 1877, a bluing manufacturing company and a company that manufactured cash registers were also in operation. By the 1890's, South Butler also boasted two general stores, a drugstore, a candy store, two blacksmith shops, a hardware store, three milliners, two wagon shops, a district school, four churches and several physicians.

The hamlet of South Butler is also historically significant as the site of the ordination of the first woman minister in the United States — Antoinette Brown Blackwell. The thought of a woman being ordained a minister was unheard of in those days. Although deserted by family and friends, Antoinette Brown persisted in the effort to accomplish her goals. She graduated from Oberlin Seminary in 1850 but was refused a license to preach. So, she then turned to social reform and speaking tours to further the cause of women's rights. On July 4, 1853, she was the first woman ever to give an Independence Day address at South Butler, in Wayne County.

The Congregational church there called her to be their pastor, and on September 15, 1853, she became the first woman in the United States to be ordained a minister. At the age of thirty, she married Samuel Blackwell, a brother of Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman to graduate from a medical school (in Geneva, New York). She preached her last sermon when she was ninety and died in her ninety-seventh year.

The Butler Center Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Butler Center Road, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1836, this church is the oldest known Methodist Church in Wayne County. It is near the oldest sawmill in Wayne County to still be in operation, which is believed to have provided the lumber used to construct the church.

  1. George W. Cowles and H. P Smith, editors, Landmarks of Wayne County New York, D.Mason & Company, Publishers, Syracuse, 1895.
  2. Town of Butler Agricultural and Comprehensive Plan, draft, 2009, www.co.wayne.ny.us, accessed June, 2011.

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