The Butler Family


My parents were Levy D. & Clemmie Rogers Friend of Ivydale, Clay County, West Virginia. My father's parents were William Willis and Rosanna Butler Friend. This presentation will focus on the Butler family genealogy as it pertains to my paternal grandmother Rosanna.

The progenitor of my grandmother's line of the Butler family was Joseph Butler, Sr.,and his wife Elizabeth who came from Ireland and settled in New York State sometime before 1795. Joseph was born in County Carlow, Ireland, about 1760 and Elizabeth was born about 1771. Joseph and Elizabeth's children were Jeremiah, Joseph Jr., Margaret K., and Benjamin. The family left New York, came down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers by flatboat and stopped off in Ohio, where Margaret married. Her family traveled on to what is now West Virginia.

The Butler children were all born in New York State, as early census records prove; and, Margaret was married in Ohio to Moses Martindale in Gallia County, March 4, 1822. She died about a year later - childless. The three brothers settled in what is now Clay County, West Virginia, no later than 1825. They are listed in the 1830 Census of Nicholas County. The fate of Joseph, Sr. and Elizabeth is not known, but a male, born between 1751 and 1760 and a female, born between 1771 and 1780, are listed in Benjamin's family in the 1830 Nicholas County Census and they could well be Joseph Sr. and his wife.

Benjamin married first a woman named Delila and then a woman named Alice. Their last names are not known. He settled at Two Run (originally called "Butler's Two Runs") by 1830, and sold out to his brother, Jeremiah and moved to Roane County and later Calhoun County. His children were: Thomas S., Dorothy, Elizabeth, Joseph, Anna, Samuel, William, Benjamin F., John B., and Rebecca J.

Joseph Jr. married Elizabeth Murphy, had at least two children, John and Margaret E., and lived out his life in Buffalo District of what is now Clay County.

Jeremiah married Margaret J. Chapman ,daughter of William O. and Frances F. Wilson Chapman, who lived at Red House Run on the Elk River. Jeremiah and Benjamin settled on the north side of the Elk above the aforementioned Lower Two Run at Butler's Bend. The land eventually was sold to David Stephenson in 1841 or 1842 by which time Jeremiah apparently had already moved to the Butler Fork (or Moore Fork) of Big Otter Creek in what is now Clay County.

Jeremiah and Margaret Butler's homeplace was on the Moore Fork (or Butler Fork) of Big Otter. Their farm was large with acreage at the time of Jeremiah's death estimated to be some 2,111 acres. According to Mary Butler Anderson, Jeremiah and Margaret's home stood until about 1918 when William Francis Butler (Jeremiah and Margaret's son and Mary's father) built a new house beside it and tore the old house down. Jeremiah and Margaret's children (with their spouses) were: William Francis (Ellander Rogers); Oliver Marion (Mary Jane Brock); Louisa J. (Washington M. Wilson); George W. (unmarried); and Martha (Thomas Cadle, then Amos Nelson).

When the Civil War broke out, one report has it that Jeremiah and his son Oliver (see below) both enlisted in the Confederate Army and that both were captured and sent to the Yankee prison at Camp Chase, Ohio. Oliver was exchanged and survived, but Jeremiah never came home again. This report goes on to state that the family supposed that Jeremiah died at Camp Chase, but probably it was at the Johnson's Island Prison in Ohio where a tombstone is marked "J R B".

The report is true concerning Oliver but is questionable concerning Jeremiah. In the first place, Johnson's Island Prison was reserved for officers and it is highly unlikely that Jeremiah, even if he were in military service, would have been other than an enlisted man. In the second place, Clayburn Pierson, a contemporary of Jeremiah Butler, writes in his article "Early History of Clay County" that "Mr. Butler was accused ( and from all the circumstances which I have been able to obtain, the charge was just) of giving aid and comfort to Confederate soldiers. He was sent to and confined in Camp Chase where he died".

It is interesting to note that Roger Vaughan in an article entitled "Clay County's Home Guard" in the "History of Clay County, W.Va., Vol II" shows Jeremiah Butler as being a member of an organization called the 126th Militia or more commonly known as the Clay County Scouts. This group was formed as part of a Union Home Guard. Although Jeremiah's name on the roster of that organization would tend to dispute Clayburn Pierson's position that Jeremiah Butler was a Southern sympathizer, Vaughan writes that " I am inclined to believe that this organization, in large part, existed only on paper. I know it contains the names of people, many Confederate sympathizers, whose descendants have no knowledge of their participation in such unit. It almost seems to be a list of able-bodied men who were not serving in either regular army at the time." Jeremiah Butler's situation seems to affirm the truth of Vaughan's position.

About that time (August, 1863) his new son-in-law, Thomas Cadle, hit on the idea of wiping out the family to get hold of Jeremiah's very considerable property. He brutally murdered his brother-in-law, William Francis Butler. After the War (1867) he was tried twice for the murder (the first verdict thrown out on a technicality) and sentenced to be hanged. Just before his execution he broke jail and came after his brother-in-law, Oliver, who shot him in self-defense. He died from his wound, and Oliver was later acquitted of a trumped-up murder charge.

Of this murder incident, the above mentioned Clayburn Pierson in his article writes "About the time of his death (Jeremiah's) a terrible scene was enacted at his home on Big Otter Creek. Thomas Cadle, a son-in-law of Butler, in cold blood and without provocation murdered Francis Butler, his borther-in-law, (of which I wrote heretofore) while standing in the door at the old man's house by the side of Francis Butler. Cadle put his left arm around Francis and shot him, breaking his neck. The revolver was one of large caliber. The supposed motive was that Cadle intended to murder all the family so that he could inherit the estate of Jeremiah Butler. An account of the trial and conviction and subsequent escape and death of Cadle is given in another part of this narrative. Oliver Butler who gave the death wound to Cadle still lives on part of the original farm of his father."

Later on in his article Pierson does comment further on the murder of Francis Butler by Thomas Cadle. He writes of Clay County and the murder and states "Soon after the cessation of hostilities, the present court house was put under contract. There was yet no jail; and persons charged with crime were transferred to prisons in other counties, some to Nicholas County and some to Roane County.

During the war Francis Butler was killed on Big Otter by his brother-in-law, Thomas Cadle. The murderer was indicted and tried in Clay Circuit Court and found guilty. For some technicality the verdict was set aside and a new trial was had, and the prisoner was again convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hanged. He was confined in the Roane County jail, but before the day of his execution he broke jail and escaped. He had threatened to take the life of Oliver M. Butler, another brother-in-law, and while Cadle was sneaking about the premises of Butler in the night time, Butler shot him. The shot inflicted a severe wound in the knee of which Cadle died some days after. Butler was indicted and acquitted."

Oliver Butler married Mary Jane, daughter of Robert and Martha (Coulter) Brock and lived a long and honorable life. Their children were: Margaret, who died at age twelve, Robert Allen who married Florence Cunningham, Rosanna who married William Willis Friend, Phebe Levisa who was married to an unidentified first husband and then to Elliott G. MacNemar, Mary Louisa who married Andrew Mitchell Elswick, Jr., William Edward who married Nora E. Cart and then Rosa Eagle, and Sarah Frances who married Samuel Milton Bragg.

Mention was made above of the fact that Oliver Marion Butler served during the Civil War on the side of the South. While little is known about the involvement of Oliver's father Jeremiah in the Civil War, considerably more is known about Oliver's experience. As much as is known at this time about his War record follows.

Not much is known of an organization during the Civil War called the Virginia State Rangers. However, Randall Osborne and Jeffrey C. Weaver have written a book called "The Virginia State Rangers and State Line" and they do provide insight into this group. According to Osborne and Weaver, this organization was authorized by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 27, 1862. The act authorized ten or more companies , but less than twenty. A total of nine companies were raised and commissioned by Governor Letcher on March 18, 1862. Actually, some companies were already in operation, and Governor Letcher forwarded blank commissions to their leaders, which were completed by the guerrillas in case they were captured. The rangers primarily operated in what is now the state of West Virginia. Their fundamental mission was to operate in small detachments behind Federal lines to counter Federal scouting parties and foragers. Their area of operation was on the northern, western and northwestern frontier of the Old Dominion. When the Rangers were in proximity to regular Confederate units they were to subject themselves to the commanding officers of those units.

Company A of the Virginia State Rangers came to be known as the Moccasin Rangers. Peregrin Hays and George W. Silcott, of Arnoldsburg, W.Va. organized the Moccasin Rangers as a Confederate home guard unit. When Captain Perry Connally took command of the Calhoun County Home Guards, he began calling them "The Guerrillas", but the men disliked the name, and changed it to "The Moccasin Rangers."

Late in 1861, Connolly moved his base of operations from Calhoun County To Braxton, Nicholas, and Summers counties. This move caused a division in the company. A portion of the men remained in the Little Kanawha Valley, under the command of Captain George Downs.

The United States forces considered the Moccasin Rangers outlaws. Peregrin Hays informed his friend, Governor John Letcher of Virginia, of this fact and Letcher directed General Henry A. Wise to send a supply of blank commissions to the Rangers for Downs to use. The Union authorities refused to honor them.

Confederate General Henry Heth characterized Downs' company of the Moccasin Rangers as "an outlaw band that robbed and plundered" and said that he would revoke Downs' commission but he did not have the authority to do so. Downs' company became Company A, 3rd Virginia State Line, and in April 1863 it became Company A, 19th Virginia Cavalry in the regular Confederate Army.

Oliver Marion Butler lived as a farmer in the Big Otter section of Clay County, Va. (now W.Va.). The Big Otter section of Clay County is located in the northwest quadrant of the county, and the Butler farm was probably located some 10 to 15 miles from Arnoldsburg in Calhoun County where the Moccasin Rangers were formed. It is quite likely that Oliver joined this particular organization. And although there are now no known records to confirm this fact, it is quite possible that when Captain Perry Connolly moved his base of operations late in 1861, Oliver possibly stayed in the group of men who remained in the Little Kanawha Valley under the command of Captain George Downs. This base of operations would have been much closer to home for him. Evidence shows, however, that Oliver was actually captured in Nicholas County and the above supposition may be erroneous. However, since records show also that he was captured on October 15, 1861, he may have already been in prison when the division was actually made.

Downs' company of Rangers did become part of the 3rd Virginia State Line. Oliver is listed as being in Company G of the 3rd Virginia State Line. He is also shown as having enlisted in Company H of the 19th Virginia Cavalry in Frankfort, W.Va., on March 19, 1863. But the statement is also made that the record does not show whether he was present or absent at roll call in March of 1863. In the discussion below it will be seen that it is not known whether Oliver ever physically enlisted in the 19th Virginia Cavalry but that he was shown to have enlisted because he was on the roster of the 3rd Virginia State Line.

The May 2, 1862, edition of the Wheeling Intelligencer, Wheeling, W.Va., has an article with the headline "Prisoners sent to Columbus". The article states that "The following rebel prisoners who have been confined in the Atheneum here for some time were yesterday sent to Camp Chase. Any person knowing anything of the guilt of any of these parties will confer a favor by communicating with the Provost Marshal General, Major Joseph Darr, Jr., at this city". Listed among the prisoners was Oliver Butler of Clay County, Virginia.

The article goes on to state that "The above prisoners are variously charged with being bushwhackers, horse thieves, robbing Union men, pressing Union men into the service etc. As soon as the County Courts are organized, and the evidence collected, they well be dealt with according to law, and they are now held for that purpose. Those who have information which will tend to fix the guilt upon any of the parties, will do their country and the cause a service by forwarding the same as above indicated".

As can be seen in the above article, the Federal Government intended to hold these men as law breakers and not as Confederate prisoners of war. Oliver was charged with being a thief and a badman. Further, in Series II - Volume 11 of "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies", Oliver is listed on page 267 as being among a group of suspected and disloyal persons. This list was a compilation of citizen prisoners in custody as of March 15, 1862, in the Department of Western Virginia. Here again, Oliver was charged with being a thief and a bad man.

However, Rev. Albert Elswick of Staunton, Va., has provided this writer data that sheds a little more light on Oliver Butler's Civil War experience. Rev. Elswick is the great grandson of Louisa Butler Elswick, a daughter of Oliver Marion and Mary Brock Butler. Oliver was captured in Nicholas County, Va., (now W.Va.) on October 15, 1861 shortly after the War started. Just what action Oliver was involved in is not yet known. And it is still not known whether the Union treated him as an outlaw or a prisoner of war. What is known is that he was among a group of 770 Confederate Prisoners of War that were sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, on November 22, 1862 for exchange. It is stated that Oliver Butler appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War sent from Depot Prisoners of War, near Sandusky, Ohio, to Vicksburg, Miss., for exchange. The endorsement on the Roll reads: Received near Vicksburg, Decr. 8, 1862 of Capt. E. A. Scovill, Agent for Exchange of Prisoners, the foregoing list of Confederate Prisoners of War, Seven Hundred and Seventy in number (770). On board 'Str Charm.' N. G. Watts, Major C.S.A. & Agent of Exchange of Pris."

No record of any further service in the War by Oliver has ever been found - only the fact that his outfit was incorporated into the 19th Va. Cavalry. As mentioned before it is not known whether or not Oliver was present when his outfit was transferred. However, as stated above Oliver's father Jeremiah was probably arrested and confined at Camp Chase for his Southern sympathies and that Thomas Cadle murdered Oliver's brother in 1863. These incidents alone may have been enough for Oliver to remain home after his release. Further his youngest son, William Edward, was born on August 15, 1865. This would have meant that Oliver was home in December of 1864. By that time, West Virginia had withdrawn from Virginia and was a member of the Union. Any Confederate venturing back to Central West Virginia would have been placing himself in great danger. All of this indicates strongly that Oliver Marion Butler remained a civilian after his exchange in December of 1862.

After the War and after his problems with Thomas Cadle, Oliver Marion Butler pretty much disappears from the pages of history except for inclusion in various census and tax records. He was born on May 15, 1828, and died on August 11, 1911, at the age of 83. He is buried in the Chapman Cemetery on Moore's Fork of the Big Otter Creek. His wife, Mary Brock Butler was born July 23, 1832, and died on April 17, 1924, at the age of 91. She also is buried in the Chapman Cemetery.

My grandmother, Rosanna Butler Friend, used to tell about the Yankees coming through and how they would scatter the cattle and chickens. The women and children would hide the valuables and then hide themselves. Apparently the Union forces in the area knew about Jeremiah's Southern sympathies and Oliver's actual service, and they wanted the family to be constantly reminded of it. The farm on Moore Fork of Big Otter Creek where Jeremiah Butler settled in 1834 and where Rosanna Butler Friend was born and raised is still owned by a member of the Butler Family.

Rosanna Butler Friend was born in 1855 and died in 1946. She is buried in the Friend Cemetery in Ivydale, West Virginia. Art Friend


The above article was written by Arthur R. Friend in October, 1997. Sources drawn on included:

1. "Butler Family Sketch" by Mary Butler Anderson

2. "Early History of Clay County" by Clayburn Pierson

3. "Clay County's Home Guard" by Roger Vaughan

4. Data Provided by Rev. Albert Elswick of Staunton, Va.

5. "History of Clay Co., W.V. 1989"

6. "History of Clay Co., W.V. Volume II

7. "The Virginia State Rangers and State Line" by Randall Osborne & Jeffery C. Weaver

8. "The 19th and 20th Virginia Cavalry" by Richard L. Armstrong

9. Don Norman, Web Site,

10. "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies"