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In the beginning...

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became a state. Five years later, in 1851, Butler County was organized and Clarksville was chosen as the county seat. IN 1853, Andrew Mullarky of Sturgis Falls and Col. James B. Thomas entered the land for Butler Center at the land office in Dubuque. In the spring of 1855, Mullarky and Thomas drew up a plat for the village of Butler Center.

Pioneers and Progress...

1856 was a progressive and prosperous year. It began with Henry Trotter owning the only farm between Butler Center and Shell Rock. The settlement of a dozen more farms in the area followed by the end of the year. Those new farmers were: P.E. Duncan, M.B. Speedy, S.M Baldwin, John Giblin, Nathan Linn, William VanVlack, R.W. Hunter, Frederick Berlin, Albert Cook, John Braden, Noble A. Thompson, and N.C. Thompson.

On May 5, Charles Stuart finished building a steam propelled saw mill for Andrew Mullarky so that the building of a town could begin. Stuart ran the saw mill for 4 to 5 years. That same day, Nathan Olmstead preached his first sermon at the saw mill.

On May 24, the Butler Center plat was surveyed and recorded at Clarksville’s newly constructed Butler county courthouse. Even before the courthouse had been finished, the jealousy of other towns was so visible that the excitement was "brought up to a high pitch!"

On the 4th of July, Owen S. Levis opened the first general store. The first school was held in his store and was taught by Alzina Water. Martha Niece later taught school in Enoch George’s home and she "boarded round."

Specific dates of other "firsts" in 1856 are not available, but records show that Joe helped build the very first log home in Butler Center; Dr. H.H. Marsh, dentist, built the third residence; and H. H. Margretz drove stakes to build the first hotel.

Butler Center’s first Post Office was established allowing the settlement to receive “once a week” mail by way of a Cedar Falls carrier. The first postmaster’s position was filled by H.H. Margretz, followed by Hugh Mullarky, W.A. Lathrop, J.H. Plater, and H.N. Walker.

Unfortunately, the summer of `56 brought with it the need for a township cemetery. Located one-half mile east of what is now C45, four young children now had a final resting place. The first recorded deaths that summer were Freddie Santee (August 27), Elizabeth Jane Stuart (August 28), John Stuart (September 3), and Mary Ellen Conn (September 5).

1857 brought Ohioans C.H. Chamberlain, Dr. H.H. Shaw, and Enoch P. George to town together to plant their roots in Iowa soil. Chamberlain started a store and built a new house. Shaw was the first practicing physician in town and he also built a house. George was a carpenter by trade and he too built himself a house in town. All three men stayed only a few years before returning to Ohio.

Butler County Politics...

Two more businessmen took part in the progress of Butler Center that year. Thomas Bird built and stocked a general store with merchandise. Records show that the store was still there in 1883. Franz Digman bought the Santee building and opened a shoe shop to which he added a general assortment of dry goods and groceries.

The law profession found its way to Butler Center, too. George A. Richmond, the first lawyer in town, bought up 1/2 interest in the town. He built a large residence that was later used as a hotel. After the removal of the town, it was once again used as a residence. After the construction of the courthouse in Butler Center, Orson Rice housed his law practice there. Other businesses were also housed in the court house.

1858 was the year of completion for the Clarksville courthouse. The final cost of construction for the two story, 40’ X 80’ brick building, was $20,000.

By 1860, it appears that there was a strong desire to locate the county courthouse in the actual center of the county. A petition was circulated to move it to Butler Center. After several elections, some of which were considered less than ethical, a vote with a majority of 80 caused the courthouse to be relocated in Butler Center.

Andrew and Ellen Mullarky donated two acres of land to Butler Center that was located in the NW Quarter of Section 18 in Jefferson Township, right in the middle of Butler County.

At the cost of $2000, he built the 26’ x 36’, two-story courthouse. The upper story, reached only by an outside stairway, was by courtesy called the courtroom. The lower story was divided into “three apartments of the most inferior character for such uses,” and were occupied as the new county offices. A wooden sidewalk from the courthouse to one of the stores was known to exist even into the 1900’s.

Newspapers and War...

Reporting all the activity between 1860 and 1861was William Haddock in Butler Center’s first newspaper, the Butler County Jeffersonian. An article later that summer in the August 26 issue reported the following: “Notice is hereby given that Rev. Richard Merrill, Presbyterian, will preach at the courthouse in Butler Center on Sunday morning September 1 at 11:00am.” But after 36 issues, Haddock sold the newspaper so he could serve in the Civil War, which had already begun on April 2.

In October, Martin Bailey bought the paper and renamed it the Stars and Stripes. After printing the weekly news for two years, he too left and joined the Union Forces.

In 1855, the Civil War ended.

But there was no end to the many ownership changes of the newspaper. This year it was purchased by Mr. McCormick and Mr. Frances and the name was then The Butler County Argus. McCormick and Frances were publishers for only six months.

In February of 1866, the paper was sold to Judge John Palmer and renamed the Stiletto. That spring, the judge’s son, W.L. Palmer, moved it to Shell Rock where he consolidated it with the Clarksville Gazette.


U.S. Stamps issued in 1869.

1871 brought forth the beginning of a daily mail on the Waverly route by way of Shell Rock. A weekly mail was also received from Parkersburg for two or three years, then tri-weekly and afterward, daily.

In 1873, the Presbyterian church was organized at Butler Center by the Rev. William Smith.

The Post Office sold its first money order to George M. Craig in July of 1875.

The Final Years...

By 1878, the railroad ties were laid for the new Dubuque & Dakota railroad about 5 miles to the north of Butler Center.

In June 1879, the trains were running! Butler Center was running out of time. The decision to by pass the town lead to its disappearance.

Soon, the 1880 town presented an appearance of a “place on wheels” as house after house made it’s disappearance and traveled toward Allison; pulled by Ike Neal’s steam engines. About 40 house and stores were moved out of the village. In 1881, Mrs Franz Digman moved her hotel to Allison where it became the Allison House. that fall, the Butler County Courthouse was removed to the new town of Allison.

By the year 1883, Butler Center had only one store owner left, Horatio N. Walker. He also acted as the town postmaster. The only blacksmith shop was owned and operated by John McCarty. Sadly, 1890 brought the close of the Butler Center post office.

One of the oldest houses in Allison was moved by the George Martin family from Butler Center in September of 1879. It is located at 322 Third Street today. Another house that has moved is located on a farm several miles west of the Butler Center site.

The only building remaining today from the original town is the one that at one time was the Walker Store. The house belongs to the family of the Late Casjen Wildeboer. Mr. Wildeboer remembered hearing his parents and grandparents telling about the little village of Butler Center. He told of a drain tile dug up by two of his uncles on both sides of “old Highway 14” from Vilmar through Butler Center (Monroe Street) south to the West Fork on the Red Cedar River. Casjen Knew it was there because he dug down to it by the road that goes by the house where he lived and connected his house drain to it! He even found pieces of iron in the field across from his farmyard where the blacksmith once had his shop.

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Last updated August 3, 2002 by the Webmaster.