AHGP Transcription Project

Butler County

Butler County, in the south-eastern part of the State, is bounded north by Wayne County, east by the St. Francis River, which separates it from Stoddard and Dunklin, south by the Arkansas State Line, and west by Ripley and Carter Counties, and contains 437,935 acres.

Population in 1850, 1,616; in 1860, 2,891; in 1870, 4,298, of whom 4,275 were white, and 21 colored; 2,167 male, and 2,131 female; 4,265 native (1,780 born in Missouri) and 33 foreign.

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, Huskey, Epps, Hudspeth, Caren, Bollinger, Lewis, Stephenson, McMurry, Brannum, Sandlin, Vandover and others.

Having no easy communication with the outer world, the growth of the county was necessarily slow, and the privations of the settlers many. For years their supplies were hauled from the Mississippi, a distance of from 70 to 90 miles. They seem to have lived in harmony with the neighboring Indians, who, for many years after it was settled, continued to visit the county for game, for not a single story of bloodshed or depredation of any sort has come down to us. The county was organized from a part of Wayne, Feb. 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.

During the late Civil War the county was not permanently held by either army, but was a skirmishing or scouting ground for both. A few valuable lives were taken, and good citizens were carried off, on false or trivial charges, by each party. Lawless bands prowled about, running off stock, plundering citizens, burning houses, and occasionally taking life. On the whole, Butler was as unsafe and unpleasant as any county of southeastern Missouri, and at the close of the war there were only 4 families residing in Poplar Bluff, and but few in the whole county. The county was slowly rallying from this prostration, when the building of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road gave the needed impetus to immigration and improvement, and now Butler compares favorably with the other counties of that section.

Physical Features
A little more than one-third of the area of this county lies east of the Big Black River, a beautiful, clear stream which runs south through the entire county; a large portion of the land east of this river, and of the southern third of the county, is one vast expanse of heavily timbered bottom, much of which is dry and needs only to be cleared for cultivation.

The Legislature in 1853 granted 250,000 acres of these swamp lands to the county for reclamation, with the provision, however, that a certain portion of their proceeds should be reserved for a school fund.

West of the Big Black are Cane and Copeland Creeks, and Little Black running in a southerly direction and furnishing many fine mill-sites. The central and northern parts of the county are diversified with broad fertile valleys, poor "ridges" and fair uplands. The high lands are timbered with oak and pine, the latter in large quantities, in the north and north-western parts of the county. The bottoms are covered with oak, walnut, poplar, maple, elm, ash, gum, etc. Large groves of cypress are found in the southern part of the county, and everywhere the different varieties of wild fruit grow in wonderful perfection. In the north-western part of the county are two caves of interest; they have not yet been fully explored.

Agricultural Resources
The soil is peculiarly adapted to small grains, and also to tobacco. Cotton is a paying crop and is cultivated to some extent. Wheat, corn and vegetables are successfully cultivated. Stock is raised with but little trouble and expense, as the wild grasses flourish in great luxuriance. The Government lands are valuable only for timber and minerals. The St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road have about 3,500 acres, the Cairo, Arkansas & Texas Rail Road, about 100,000 acres, and Hon. Thomas Allen about 100,000 acres of land in this county, for sale on liberal terms.*

Mineral Resources
Some prospecting has been done, especially near Hendrickson, with encouraging indications of iron, but the want of capital has prevented conclusive developements. There is a tradition that the Indians found silver here, and carried it to an early settler, a Mr. Howard, who smelted it for them.

The Manufacturing Interests are only such as are common to a new country, a few saw and grist-mills, blacksmith shops, and one stave factory. The fine forests of timber and the numerous excellent mill-sites indicate that the manufacture of lumber will ultimately be a great source of wealth to Butler.

Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $1,100,000.†

The Arkansas Branch of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad passes through the county from north to south, a distance of 36 miles. The Cairo, Arkansas & Texas Railroad has about 12 miles of track; it enters the county about midway on the eastern boundary, and at Poplar Bluff forms a junction with the Arkansas Branch of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad. The Illinois, Missouri & Texas (Cape Girardeau & State Line) Rail Road, is located through this county to Poplar Bluff.

The Exports are stock, lumber, tobacco, corn, wheat, peanuts, etc.

The Educational Interests are greatly neglected. Some of the districts have neither public nor private schools, and of the 2,000 children of school age not more than 500 attended school any portion of 1873. There are signs, however, of an awakening interest of the people on this subject.

Butler County Places in 1875

Ash Hills, a station on the Cairo, Arkansas & Texas Rail Road, 10 miles east of Poplar Bluff.

Fredie, a post-office 12 miles south west of Poplar Bluff.

Gillis Bluff, situated on Black River, 27 miles south east of Poplar Bluff, and 2 miles north of the State Line, has 1 store, and is remarkable as being the traditional place where the Indians discovered silver ore.

Hendrickson.-See Reeves Station.

Neelyville, on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 16 miles south of Poplar Bluff, has 1 store, 1 cotton gin and 1 saw-mill, and is surrounded by a fine farming country.

POPLAR BLUFF, the county seat, at the junction of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain with the Cairo, Arkansas & Texas Railroad, 165 miles south of St. Louis and 179 miles north east from Little Rock, was laid out in 1850. It is beautifully located on the west bank of Black River, on an elevation 25 or 30 feet above the adjacent valley, and has a population of about 1,000. This town is surrounded by valuable timber lands, and is an important shipping point for a large region of country.

It has one newspaper, The Black River News, published by Andrew Gibbony and Geo. H. Kelly; 2 drug stores and 4 general retail stores, 1 grist-mill, 1 public school-house and 1 seminary; the latter, worth about $2,000, is occupied by a good private school.

Reeves Station (Hendrickson), on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Rail Road, 12½ miles north of Poplar Bluff, was laid off in 1873, and has 1 store. There are indications of immense deposits of iron in this vicinity, which has given importance to the place.

Shiloh, a post-office 18 miles north west of Poplar Bluff.

*For full particulars, see Appendix, page-.
†Assessed valuation in 1873 $1,178,935. Taxation, $1.60 per $100. Bonded debt of the county, $45,000; floating debt, $5,000.

Source: Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, Revised Edition, by R. A. Campbell, Published by R. A. Campbell,
St. Louis, Missouri, 1875

Be sure to add us to your favorites list and check back often.

This page was last updated Saturday, 13-Jun-2015 12:51:30 EDT.

Webspace for this site is generously provided by

Information contained on this website may be used for personal genealogical research only and not to be given to pay to view sites or used on any other web site without the express consent of the contributor.

Copyright © 2014~2023 by Paula Franklin & Judy White