A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Butler County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser

Butler County


What is now Butler County was a favorite hunting ground of the Indians, and at a very early period in the history of Louisiana, a few white men resorted there for the same purpose. They would build a log hut, spend a season, perhaps, and then depart. In 1800, cabins of a more permanent character were built and hunters lengthened their visits, and, in 1805, some land was cleared and cultivated. Among the earliest settlers were Messrs. Howard, Asher, Winn, Husky, Epps, Hudspeth, Kittrell, Bollinger, Lewis, Stephenson, McMurry, Brannum, Sandlin, Vandover and others.

The county was organized from a part of Wayne, February 27th, 1849, when almost all the land belonged to the government. For several years the taxes were chiefly paid in furs and peltries, there being little money in circulation.

At the close of the Civil War there were only 4 families residing in Poplar Bluff, and but few in the whole county. (--Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, 1874, p. 82.)

When organized the county was divided into two townships, Black River and Otter Creek. In 1850 the county court made an order dividing the county into four townships: Beaver Dam, in the southwest; Epps, in the northwest; Butler, in the southeast, and Mud Creek, in the northeast. A few months later the name of Mud Creek was changed to Black River, and at the same time Polk Township was formed from the southeast portion of the county. In 1856 the Township of Ash Hills was established, and in 1860 Thomas Township was added. In 1866 the townships were relocated and established under the following names: St. Francois, Black River, Cave Creek, Epps, Beaver Dam, Thomas, Gillis, Ash Hills and Poplar Bluff. In 1871 Thomas Township was divided, and Neely Township was formed. In 1866 Harviell Township was formed from a part of Beaver Dam. (--Hist. of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 374, 375.)

Butler County is a county in the southeastern part of the State, bounded on the north by Wayne Co., east by Stoddard and Dunklin, from which it is divided by the St. Francis River, south by the State of Arkansas, and west by Ripley and Carter Counties...According to all available authorities, the first white man to become a permanent settler in the section now comprising Butler County was Solomon Kittrell, a Kentuckian who located near Cane Creek and opened up a trading-post. He was the first store-keeper in the county, and hauled his goods from Cape Giradeau by ox-team...Later he opened a distillery and tan yard and made money. He died in 1872. He was one of the first county judges...


The county was organized from a part of Wayne by Act of the Legislature approved February 27, 1849, and named in honor of William O. Butler. At that time nearly all the land belonged to the government. The majority of the settlers had no title to the tracts upon which they lived, other than that acquired by settlement. The act creating the county appointed John Stevens, of Cape Girardeau County, William Henley, of Stoddard, and Martin Sandlin, of Ripley County, commissioners to select a seat of justice. Sandlin died before any action was taken, and his place was filled by John F. Martin of Ripley County. (--Encyclopedia of the Hist. of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 1, p. 455.)

Butler County is a south border division, organized February 27, 1849, from a part of Wayne County. Later that part west of Cave Creek was added from Ripley County. It is bounded on the east by St. Francois River, on the west by Ripley Co., and on the north by Wayne. Authorities do not agree as to its name father. Williams' History states that it was named for Benjamin F. Butler (1795-1858), attorney general during Jackson's second term (1835-1837). Others say the name is for William Orlando Butler (1791-1880). The record of the acts of the General Assembly states, "to be called Butler County, in honor of William O. Butler, of Kentucky." Even if we did not have the report of the Legislature, W. O. Butler would be more likely the one honored because he was a famous son of Kentucky, the state from which many of the earliest settlers of Butler County had come, while B. F. Butler was of New York, far away at that time to the Southeast Missourians.

William O. Butler, a staunch Democrat, experienced much hardship in the War of 1812-14, when he was made Captain and served under Andrew Jackson, who praised him very highly. He resigned from the army in 1817 to finish his study of law. Upon the declaration of war against Mexico in 1846, he was appointed by President Polk Major-General of the volunteers under General Taylor's command. Butler represented his home county in the legislature in 1817 and 1818 and in 1839 he was sent to Congress where he served two terms. In 1848, he was the Democratic nominee for Vice-President. (--Place Names.)

Butler County Table of Contents

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