(circa 1824-circa 1866)
By Steven R. Butler, Ph.D.
Levin Butler was born circa 1824-1825 in North Carolina, probably in Bertie County. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was the youngest son of Kennard (or Kinard) Butler and his wife Nancy Ann (Johnson) Butler and therefore also the brother of Alfred Butler and grandson of Isaac Butler and Richard Johnson.
Our first known public record of Levin Butler regards his enlistment in Captain Sydenham Moore's company of Alabama Volunteers, the "Eutaw Rangers," in mid-May 1846 at Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama. Alfred Butler, believed to be Levin's brother, joined the same company at the same time and place. This company was afterward mustered into federal service, on June 4, 1846, at Mobile, Alabama, as Company D, First Alabama Volunteers for twelve months service in the U.S.-Mexican War.
During his year of service Levin Butler was stationed with his regiment in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (at Camp Belknap), at Camargo in Northern Mexico, and at Tampico. On March 9, 1847 he was one of 10,000-man-strong invasion force that was landed near Vera Cruz and afterward invested the city until it capitulated three weeks later. Butler then marched with his regiment as far as Puebla but in April of 1847, after refusing to re-enlist for the war, the Alabama volunteers were sent back to Vera Cruz and transported to New Orleans, where they were mustered out of service in late May and early June 1847.
As a reward for his service in the U.S.-Mexican War, Levin Butler was entitled to receive a bounty land warrant redeemable for 160 acres, which instead of keeping it for himself, he sold through an attorney named Bennett Clement, for an undisclosed amount, to one Andrew White, who redeemed it in 1848 for a quarter section of property located in or near Dixon, Illinois. It is uncertain whether this transaction occurred in New Orleans or elsewhere.
Following his discharge from military service at New Orleans, Butler returned to Greene County, Alabama, where on September 6, 1847 he was married by Justice of the Peace W. Coleman to Miss Cely (or Celia) I. Sanders (or Saunders), a native of Tennessee, and daughter of William and Nancy Sanders (or Saunders). According to one source document Nancy Sanders (or Saunders) "was the daughter of __________ Chadwell [probably George Chadwell], deceased, of Davidson County, Tennessee."
Following his marriage, Levin Butler moved to Giles County, Tennessee, where he and his wife and their one-year-old daughter, Mary F. Butler, who was also born in Tennessee, were enumerated in the 1850 federal census. The household also included an eight-year-old boy, James Husbands, whose relation to this family is unknown.
Apparently, Celia Butler gave birth to a second daughter, Zetilla, about 1851 after which time she and her eldest daughter Mary apparently died, perhaps of the same illness. On or about December 14, 1852, Levin Butler was married again, this time in Giles County, Tennessee to Lucy Gregg, who was five years older than him. There is no record of any children by this marriage.
There are several land transactions on record for Levin Butler in the Giles County courthouse, dating from 1857-1858. According to the 1860 federal census he owned $1,450 worth of real estate and $650 worth of personal property. He was a farmer by occupation. He was not a slave-owner.
Although there is no evidence that Levin Butler performed any military service during the Civil War, he died sometime between 1860 and 1866. In 1866, during "peach time," his widow married James Erwin, also of Giles County. In 1869 Erwin was awarded guardianship of Levin's underage daughter Zetilla, who subsequently married her stepbrother, William C. Erwin, on November 12, 1870 "while still a minor."
After William C. Erwin died intestate on August 20, 1877 (as a result of an illness suffered during the Civil War), Zetilla, being "ignorant of the law" allowed all his property, including the land on which she lived, to be sold by her brother-in-law David Erwin. She afterward "left the premises but without relinquishing her rights and went to the home of William T. Hamlin [and his wife Elizabeth], where she boarded until October 6, 1878 when she married William E. Ray" (correct spelling is "Rhea"). After she returned to live on the property her brother-in-law had sold, James Erwin "commenced claiming title to the land." Precisely how this disagreement was resolved is unknown.
James Erwin and wife Lucy (Levin Butler's second wife and widow) are found listed in the 1870 federal census for Giles County (as is Zetilla, identified as Erwin's stepdaughter), Zetilla (misspelled Letilla) and her husband William E. Rhea can be found the 1880 federal census for Giles County but in no subsequent census records. What became of her after that date is unknown.
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