DR. WILLIAM EDWARD BUTLER 1790-1882


DOCTOR WILLIAM EDWARD BUTLER; FOUNDER OF CITY OF JACKSON

There were so many questions concerning Dr. Butler so I chose to let you see what has been written about him through the years.

A biographical sketch of WILLIAM EDWARD BUTLER, 1790-1882 written by Seale Johnson (1893-1977) of Jackson, Tennessee; appearing in THE JACKSON SUN.

         William Edward Butler, son of Major Thomas Butler, was born in the barracks at Carlyle, Pa., January 8, 1789. His mother was Mary Semple of Philadelphia. Thomas Butler had been a distinguished soldier in the Revolution. Shortly after the war, he had been made a Colonel and sent to Tennessee to expel settlers from Indian lands. Here he made the friendship of Andrew Jackson. The courtesy and courage which the old soldier displayed in the discharge of his unpopular duties won “Old Hickory,” and this friendship was passed on to Butler’s sons, who later came to Tennessee to live.

            William Edward Butler graduated as Doctor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and migrated to Murfreesboro to make his home. There in 1813, he married Mrs. Jackson’s niece, (Patsy) Martha Thompson Hays. To complete the alliance, William’s two brothers also married nieces of Mrs. Jackson, and the Butler sister, Lydia, married Stockley D. Hayes, a nephew of Mrs. Jackson. William Edward Butler was a resolute fellow and was useful to Jackson in many ways, though on one occasion he seemed to have been a thorn in Jackson’s flesh, as we shall see. The course of true love with one’s wife’s kinfolks doesn’t always run smooth.

Dr. Butler moved to West Tennessee to the town of Jackson.

   (Dr. Butler did not long continue in the practice of medicine after coming to Jackson in 1821*)

      Settling here (1821) , he entered 640 acres of land, that portion of the present City of Jackson lying east of Shannon and South of Main Street. The entirety of the present City of Jackson was largely wooded

The following was written about his home on Royal 

            The big brick residence, once the pride of the town, left behind, stood as a monument to the man. The wall paper in the hall had been brought from Paris and pictured the gay French capital. The darkened parlor had been the scene of the funeral and from its walls looked down the famous oil portraits of the deceased and the bride of his youth. On the floor was an imported carpet, for William Edward Butler had loved carpets and fine things. The commonality had named the street in front of his house Royal street in derision, because there were carpets on these floors and the floors of his wealthy neighbors.

            Across the street had once been the doctor’s private race track, where Andrew Jackson had visited, and on it then was a Methodist school, symbol of Dr. Butler’s many gifts for the advancement of the community. Little did the dead man realize as he was being carried to his grave that his procession was passing the spot where’ the grateful citizens of Jackson would, one day after 60 years, plant a little tree as a memorial to him. But Dr. Butler was not a great believer in memorials. In the early days in the naming of the streets, many of the town’s families had streets named after them, but Dr. Butler declined the honor.

Facts about Dr Butler

 Dr. Butler was early an enthusiastic booster for railroads to come to Jackson and donated the land for the old Mobile and Ohio Railroad shops on Chester Street.

            Doctor Butler was devoutly religious and a member of the Presbyterian Church, as were most well-to-do settlers who came to Jackson. The early rolls of the First Presbyterian list as members the Campbells, Chesters, McClanahans, the Greers and many others

            According to Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee (1887 Edition)

 Dr. Butler planted his first crop of cotton in the county in 1821, and that during the same year, he-erected a cotton gin which had been brought all the way from Davidson County.

            This gin presumably was unprofitable as little staple cotton was raised during the first decade of the county’s history for the reason that the cotton did not mature well. The virgin soil kept the plant growing too late to force maturity, This may have contributed to Dr. Butler having to draw on Andrew Jackson for the $3,000 aforementioned.

Written about Dr. Butler at his death in 1882

            The old man who had outlived his era by 25 years was in his coffin. They lifted him tenderly and placed him in the black plumed hearse and started him on his last trek to Riverside Cemetery. There his daughter Jane is said to have been the first to be buried.

            The old man, long deservedly called the founder of Jackson, “had been failing rapidly” for months and “only the strain of a slight cold was necessary to snap the thread of life,” says the Jackson Tribune and Sun issue of July 1882. “Indeed he, seemed to flicker out like a candle that had burned in the socket, and so gradually. that his loved ones had to bend over his still lips to listen to be sure that life was spent.” Thus came to an end the man who had once been the wealthiest and most influential man in West Tennessee. He had fought under Andrew Jackson in three wars. He had given most of the ground for the town of Jackson. He had contributed that schools, churches and railroads might make Jackson a great and good city. For over 60 years he was the town’s No. 1 Citizen.

*MAGISTERIAL RESOLUTIONS OF RESPECT AND OTHER RECORDS
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE

By Jonathan K. T. Smith

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