Mary Butler: Years of War and Widowhood
By Steven R. Butler
Although she survived her husband by fifty-seven years, Mary F. Butler never remarried, nor is there evidence to suggest she ever considered it. Instead, it appears she devoted the rest of her days to her children, most of whom remained close to Mary throughout her long life. James Butler, her oldest son, seems to have been especially devoted to his mother.
Unfortunately, during the years immediately following Alfred's death, Mary Butler not only had to cope with running a farm and raising five young children but she was forced to do so under wartime conditions. With the election of Lincoln as President of the United States in November 1860, the South was thrown into turmoil. In Texas and most other Southern states, the name of the former Illinois lawyer hadn't even appeared on the ballot. Convinced that Lincoln and the Northern states were bent on dominating the national government, to the detriment of the South, many Southern leaders threatened secession. In South Carolina, threats turned to reality when on December 20th, the state legislature unanimously adopted an ordinance of secession. "The Union is Dissolved," proclaimed The Charleston Mercury.
By early 1861, feelings ran high in Texas and in other Southern states in favor of following South Carolina's lead. One by one they seceded: Mississippi, on January 9th; Florida, on January 10th; Alabama, on January 11th; Georgia, on January 19th; and Louisiana, on January 26th.
In Texas a special convention was called to meet in Austin during late January to consider secession. Sent to represent Freestone County were Judge John Gregg, the lawyer who had signed Alfred Butler's dying deed of gift to his wife, and William M. Peck, a prominent Fairfield merchant. When a vote of the one-hundred and seventy-four delegates was called on February 1st, both Gregg and Peck voted in favor of secession. Only seven delegates voted against it.
Following the convention, the ordinance of secession was printed and copies widely distributed throughout the state in advance of a general referendum to be held on February 23rd. When that day came, the vote in Freestone County was five-hundred and eighty-five for secession with only three votes in favor of remaining in the Union. Of course, being a woman, Mary Butler could not vote. How her husband might have voted had he still been alive can only be imagined.
On March 2nd, 1861, with over forty-six thousand of its citizens having voted in favor of secession (as opposed to less than fifteen-thousand against), Texas officially seceded from the Union. Almost immediately, it sent delegates to the provisional Congress of the newly-formed Confederate States of America, then assembled in Montgomery, Alabama - where on February 18th, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi had been sworn-in as President. Among the seven representatives from Texas was Judge John Gregg of Freestone County, a figure familiar to most people in Fairfield, including Mary Butler. The brother of her brother-in-law William Reagan, John H. Reagan of Anderson County, was also a delegate. Both John Gregg and John Reagan signed the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, adopted on March 11th, 1861.
In Texas, Governor Sam Houston was forced out of office when he refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. His place was taken by Hardin R. Runnels.
Although the South wished to leave peacefully, President Abraham Lincoln was determined to preserve the Union, refusing to recognize the right of a state to secede. In April, 1861, he sent ships to resupply Fort Sumter, a fortification in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina, whose Union commander refused to give it up to South Carolina authorities. When southern forces fired on the fort on April 12th, the Civil War began.
Exactly how the Civil War affected the Butler family in Fairfield, Texas can only be guessed. None of Mary Butler's sons were old enough to serve in the military. The oldest, James, was only thirteen. His brothers, Will and Andrew, were five and one respectively. But Mary had younger brothers old enough to serve and it's possible that at least two of them did so. Military records reveal that a young man named Daniel Stanley was a Private in Company F of Hubbard's 22nd Texas Infantry. Another young man, L. E. Stanley, served as a Private in Company H, 20th Texas Infantry, a regiment which saw action on January 1, 1863 at the Battle of Galveston. However, although Mary Butler did have two brothers bearing the same names, it's uncertain if they were one and the same men.
The Butler's neighbor, Judge John Gregg, returned from Alabama to Texas during the summer of 1861. There, he helped raise a regiment of Texas volunteers for the war. When he left for Richmond (the new Confederate capital) to attend a session of Congress, the task of enlisting a company of Freestone County men for this regiment fell to William L. Moody, a prominent Fairfield merchant and younger brother of D.J. Moody, the physician who had attended Alfred Butler during his final illness. Moody later served as Captain of the Freestone County company, which became Company G in Gregg's Regiment. In addition, a second company of infantry was raised in Freestone County during 1861 as well as a company of cavalry. During the winter of 1861-`62, two more companies, one under command of William Peck, were enrolled.
Judge Gregg, resigning his post in the Confederate Congress, returned again to Texas in the fall of 1861. Taking charge of his regiment in November, he held the rank of Colonel until August 29th, 1862 when he was promoted to Brigadier General. His brigade initially consisted of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas regiments and 3rd Arkansas Regiment (Hood's Brigade), Longstreet's Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. The brigade was subsequently composed of the 7th Texas, the 3rd, 10th, 30th, 41st, and 50th Tennessee infantry regiments, and Bledsoe's Light (Tennessee) Battery. On October 7th, 1864 Gregg was killed at the Battle of Darbytown in Mississippi and was afterward buried near the battlefield.
Although she was now a widow, Mary Butler was not without family in the area, other than her children. Her younger sister, Laura Wallace, and her family lived nearby in Fairfield and their widowed mother, Elizabeth Stanley, along with a few younger children still at home, resided not far away in the little community of Butler, a few miles southeast of Fairfield. In addition, Mary's older sister, Lucy Ann, had remarried in 1853 after coming to live in Texas. At the beginning of the war, Lucy was living in the town of Plentitude, in neighboring Anderson County, with her new husband Isaac L. Babb and the children of both her first and second marriages.
Aside from a shortage of manufactured goods and items such as coffee, Texans did not suffer as badly during the war as those who lived east of the Mississippi. In Freestone County there was more than adequate rainfall during the war years and food was actually abundant. On the Butler farm, with only young children to help, Mary no doubt let most of the land go fallow, maintaining only a vegetable garden for her family. Like many people she became hard up for money since specie soon became scarce. Very early in the war years, in May 1861, she sold a small part of her property, some four acres, to one William S. Ward for the sum of sixty dollars - although her need for cash at that time may have been the result of the absence of her husband's income rather than the war.
Author T.R. Fehrenbach, writing in his excellent history of Texas, Lone Star, described the war years:
The crops were fortunately good during the war years. No community really suffered from lack of food. Families lived on yams, used pipe ashes for soda, and drank burnt okra for a coffee substitute. No substitute for sugar...was found. But a great pride was taken in this austerity, because it supported the war. A thousand irritations and minor disasters, such as the breakage or loss or irreplaceable items, were borne cheerfully. Clothing wore out, but now there were patriotic songs about "homespun dresses, like the Southern ladies wear"...One horror of the war years was the disappearance of medicines...few things caused more suffering...in the South...The greatest burdens fell on the frontier women, who had to go into the fields with hoe and plow to raise food for their families. Farm work by women was not an American tradition. Women were used to grinding, endless labor, but field work often exceeded their strength and skill. That so much food was grown, and few families actually went hungry, can only be laid to the wartime burst of patriotic cooperation that suffused the majority.
One thing Mary and her children no doubt noticed during this time was a dramatic increase in the county's slave population as "an overwhelming rush of refugee planters...left Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana ahead of the Union armies, in hopes of saving their chattel property." Indeed, on January 1st, 1863 President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in those states "in rebellion", as he put it, against the United States. Thus, Union troops were bound to enforce this policy in any area they controlled. The result was that between 1861 and 1864, the number of slaves in Freestone County nearly doubled. Remarkably, although anticipated by the white population, this state of affairs does not seem to have caused any significant problems, despite the absence of most of the county's white males. Fehrenbach has written:
Thousands of able-bodied (black) men were left in charge of women, old men, and boys...A region that had long been haunted by the specter of slave revolt - it was only months since the hysteria of 1859 - did not record a single incident...The fact that the slaves labored mightily and peaceably through the war has never been adequately explained...certainly more humane treatment helped, and many slaves seem to have been genuinely caught up in a feeling for a plantation, land, and society in which they had no stake. There were innumerable cases where a white mistress directed the efforts of dozens of slaves, in isolated places. No white woman or child was ever molested, and even more remarkably, fewer slaves tried to run away than in previous years.
Eventually, the war came to an end when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9th, 1865. Less than a week later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson became President of the United States. Ironically, the last battle of the Civil War, which Confederate forces won, occurred in Texas in May 1861 at a place called Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville. Communication being slow in those days, neither side knew the war had ended weeks earlier. Finally, on June 19th, as Union troops occupied Texas, the slaves were freed - a date celebrated ever since by African-American Texans as "Juneteenth."
During the late summer of 1865 a chicken-pox epidemic swept across Freestone County, with deadly consequences. If any of Mary Butler's children were taken ill, they recovered. But the children of Mary's sister Lucy Babb did not fare so well. Jane Owen, Lucy's oldest daughter by her first marriage, was struck down at the age of eighteen. She died on September 15th. Another child, one of Jane's young half-brothers, also succumbed. Their mother, pregnant at the time, gave birth to a baby boy on October 31st. He immediately became ill with the pox and for several days the family was convinced he would not live. By some miracle, or because he was possessed of a strong constitution, little Arthur Babb survived and in the end, lived to be eighty-six years old!
1868 brought with it more sadness. Mary's younger sister Elizabeth Reagan, wife of Judge William R. Reagan, died, probably in Falls County - where the town of Reagan was named for her husband. But as if to compensate, the end of the year brought some happiness. Eighteen-year old Mollie Butler, Mary's oldest daughter, was married on Christmas Day. Her husband was a former soldier named Thomas Ransom Fain. Thomas, a native of Tennessee, had enlisted near the beginning of the late war as a private in Company H, 4th Alabama Infantry. He was later promoted to the rank of corporal and in July 1863 fought at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. The following year, in February 1864, he left the army under circumstances which are unclear. It may be he had been wounded and mustered out of service or perhaps he deserted. Regardless, the following February he joined the Union Army and served until June 1865 - an act that in Southern eyes would smack of treason. Whether his new in-laws were aware of the fact he had served both the North as well as the South is unknown or if they did, what they thought of it can only be imagined.
Mollie and her husband lived with Mary and the children on the Butler farm near Fairfield during the first years of their marriage. In time, Mollie became pregnant and on the 18th or 19th of February 1870, Mary became a grandmother when little Thomas Eugene Fain was born. Then, sometime during the following year, the Fains left Fairfield and moved to Walker County where Thomas Fain's widower father Louis lived, along with Thomas' brothers William and David Fain.
A few years earlier, in 1867, the U.S. Congress, dominated by the so-called "Radical Republicans" had instituted in the South what has come to be known as "Radical Reconstruction". Running roughshod over Southern-born President Johnson, who tried to treat the South with the same leniency that Lincoln had planned to do, Congress divided the South into five military districts. As a result, federal troops occupied Texas for a number of years, creating hard feelings among a population who had enough problems already with an economy which had been devastated by war. In Freestone County, no less than anywhere else in the South, there were hard times, especially for a widow with children to raise and a one-hundred acre farm to look after. Eventually, it was more than Mary could handle. No doubt with some reluctance but realizing it might be for the best, since she had more debts than the means to pay them, Mary Butler made the decision to sell her farm.
On February 24th, 1873, Mary F. Butler, signed a deed of sale transferring title to the Butler homestead at Fairfield to Mr. A.G. Anderson, county clerk of Freestone County. In return, Anderson paid her $500 in cash (gold coin) and made good her debts totaling $368.50. Among Mary's creditors were individuals: James Robinson, Dr. Sneed, and John Stanley (it's uncertain if he was a relative, but probably was not); and the firms W.T. Watson & C.L. Watson, DeBorde & Karner, and L.D. Bradley & Company. Although no doubt relieved to rid of these debts, Mary must have been saddened to lose her property for nearly $150 less than she and Alfred had paid for it in 1856. (Three years before it was sold, in the 1870 federal census for Freestone County, the value of the Butlers' farm was given to be $1,500. At the same time, Mary claimed to have personal property worth $750. The census also revealed her son-on-law, Thomas Fain, was possessed of no real estate and personal property worth only $150.)
It may be that Mary and her children remained for a time as tenants on the old homestead, paying Anderson rent. But at some point, they all went to live in Huntsville (Walker County), with the possible exception of Will Butler, Mary's middle son. It appears he may have stayed in Freestone County to live with his Aunt Lucy Babb and her family, then living near Wortham. Perhaps Will helped his Uncle Isaac Babb in his Wortham wheelwright shop. In the meantime, by 1877 or 1878, Mary, along with the rest of her children, had left Huntsville to live in Bryan, Texas - the seat of Brazos County. Probably, it was there that James A. Butler, then aged twenty-five, was married to Miss Emma Anthony (about whom nothing is known except that she was five years younger than James and was a native of South Carolina, as were her parents).
On February 1st, 1878, Will Butler (using his middle name, Oscar, on the marriage license) and Virginia Alice Owen, daughter of his Aunt Lucy Babb (by her first marriage to Madison Owen), were married in Fairfield by the Reverend T.C. Bonner. In that day and age it may not have been odd that the couple were first cousins, but at a time when brides were often many years younger than their husbands, the fact that Virginia, at age twenty-eight, was Will's senior by seven years, must have seemed unusual. Regardless, the age gap doesn't seem to have made much difference to the bride and groom for they remained married until Virginia's untimely death fourteen years later.
In the meantime, Mary Butler became a grandmother again in April 1878 when her daughter-in-law Emma gave birth to a little boy who was named Oliver T. Butler. Perhaps the child's middle name was Thomas, to honor his great-grandfather, Thomas Stanley.
During that summer, Mary Butler corresponded with an uncle, L. E. Stanley of La Grange, Fayette County, Tennessee. Elderly and in ill health, L. E. had never married and had no children. Lonely, he wrote to Mary in July, inviting her to visit him in Tennessee. Writing back that she had no money to make the journey, her uncle generously sent her a postal money order for fifty dollars to buy a train ticket. It was "twice as much as was needed," L. E. later wrote, but "I thought she could fix up a little." Instead, Mary used the additional money to bring her son James with her. L. E. disapproved, thinking it wasn't proper for James to leave his wife alone in Texas. He also began to wonder if Mary and her son had come to visit only in order to get from him what they could, noting later that "both of them came in a very common garb, and hints to me were often dropped that I ought to buy them some shoes and other things." In addition, L. E. found it disturbing that James Butler "did not forget to bring a large six-shooter in an old carpet bag and that was all he had in it." Was L. E. simply a senile, paranoid old man? Or did Mary, thinking her uncle had only a short time to live, really visit him to take advantage of the situation? No one knows - but obviously, by her words and deeds, Mary alienated herself from her uncle. One thing of which L. E. especially disapproved was the way Mary seemed to dote on her son and how James "minds every word of hers, whether right or wrong." The old man also took offense at some of Mary's offhand comments, which also caused him trepidation. "Mrs. Butler often says she is pleased to see me improved, that my health is good," he explained in a letter written after her visit, "but often on the other hand says or intimates that I ought to die, that I am old enough to die. She does this in rather a joking way to me, but whenever she speaks of others and asks their age, she always says they ought to die, they ought to be out of the way of the younger ones, and the young people could take what they had and enjoy it."
Regrettably, there is no known account detailing Mary's version of the visit. Was she really the grasping opportunist her uncle believed her to be? No one knows, but it seems unlikely. Instead, it may be that not knowing her uncle very well, Mary may simply have said and done things to upset him without realizing the distress she was causing him. Perhaps her only sins were a lack of tact and taking advantage of her uncle's generosity. It may be that the whole situation was really nothing more than a regrettable misunderstanding and that L. E.'s own attitude was a contributing factor. An old man who never had any children of his own could hardly understand the bond of affection between parent and child - hence his disapproval of the obviously close relationship between Mary and her son. His niece's flippant remarks about dying are a little more difficult to excuse or explain - if indeed she made them. Certainly, it's not hard to see how an elderly man in ill health would have found such remarks lacking in humor. Nevertheless, even if their intentions weren't sinister, by the time Mary and James left to go back to Texas, L. E. Stanley was thoroughly convinced he wanted nothing more to do with them. "They cost me...between 2 and 3 hundred dollars." he wrote in February 1879, adding that he did not want them "to have one cent of my Estate when I die." Instead, he said, he would "rather Lucy Ann Babb who resides at Wortham, Freestone County, Texas and L.E. Stanley, my namesake, who lives at or near Weatherford, Parker County, to have what I have than any of the rest."
When L. E. Stanley finally passed away and his will was probated in 1883 in Fayette County, Tennessee, it was Lucy Ann Babb who inherited most of his money, which may have been as much as $4,000. The only other known heir was an African-American woman, possibly a former slave, which L.E. referred to as "Aunt Lucy Freeman". To her he left $150 and the right to continue to live in a room in his home for as long as she liked.
On August 11, 1880 the number of Mary's grandchildren grew larger when Herman Hardin Butler, son of Will and Virginia, was born at Fairfield - where Will was then providing a home for his brother Andrew. Will and Virginia afterwards moved to Mexia, in neighboring Limestone County and Andrew went to live with his mother.
In January, 1881, Mable A. Butler, daughter of James and Emma, was born in Bryan. Only a few weeks later, the child's mother died, possibly of complications related to childbirth. On February 22nd, Emma was buried at the Bryan City Cemetery and at the age of twenty-eight, James Butler found himself a widower, with two young children to raise. Fortunately, his mother and sister Dora, both of who lived with him, were there to help.
Three years later, on April 15, 1884, Dora Butler was married at Bryan, Texas to a young man named Osiah D. Newman, a machinist by trade. (There is some evidence suggesting that Dora Butler may have been briefly married at least once before her marriage to Osiah Newman, but the length of that marrige is unknown nor is known what became of her first husband.) Within the next three years, two sons were born to Dora. The oldest, John L. Newman, was born on either November 9, 1884 or in October 1885 (sources differ). Her second son, Ernest L. Newman, was born October 12, 1887.
In the meantime, Will and Virginia Butler had two more children: Lucy Ozelle, born at Mexia on October 26, 1882; and Lillian, also born at Mexia, on March 27, 1885.
The family of Mollie Butler Fain had also increased over the years. In all, she had five more children in addition to Thomas Eugene. The Fains had also lived in Bryan for a while, sometime between 1875 and 1877. By 1880 they had removed to Bell County, where a seventh child was born. Finally, they settled in North Zulch, Madison County, Texas - not far from the town of Iola.
By 1887, Mary F. Butler had fourteen grandchildren, five of whom bore the surname Butler. Seven were Fains and two bore the Newman family name. Andrew Butler, who was mildly retarded, never married. So far as it is known, he never fathered any children.
By December 1887, for reasons unknown, Mary Butler, along with Andrew and James and his children, had moved from Bryan to Corsicana, the seat of Navarro County, Texas. At this time, Mary applied for a federal Mexican War pension based on her late husband's service. (1887 was the first year pensions for Mexican War veterans or their widows were available.) Several forms were filled out, notarized, and sent to Washington, D.C., including supporting affidavits signed by other individuals attesting to the truth of Mary's statements. Among these were her sister, Laura Wallace, and Thomas Williams, Alfred Butler's friend from the time of the Mexican War who had migrated with the Butlers from Union County, Arkansas to Texas.
James Butler, like his father before him, was a carpenter. He probably worked only intermittently. Thus, Mary's pension, even the small sum granted to the widows of Mexican War veterans, was no doubt a welcome addition to the family's income. At least it was an amount which arrived with some regularity. According to statements made on her application, by both Mary and others, her health at that time was poor. One alleged that "her general health is not good, that she is subject to general disability a segual [sic] of chronic malarial poisoning." Mary herself declared, "I am almost blind and I am in general bad health and not able to work." She was then fifty-five years of age.
Mary's pension application was approved on March 19, 1888. From that day forward until the end of her life, she received a federal pension of $8 per month (until 1912, when the amount was increased to $12 per month).
That same year, Mary also made an attempt to find out what had become of the land bounty warrant to which her husband had been entitled as a reward for his service. Either Alfred had never discussed it with her or she had forgotten. No one knows. Regardless, on June 4, 1888 she wrote to her congressman, one John C. Black, asking him to look into the matter on her behalf. It appears that the letter was written and mailed for her, for some reason, by a Corsicana real estate agent named J. M. Douglas. Although nothing seems to have come from the inquiry, Mary was undeterred. In March 1892 she sent in a claim for the warrant to the Pension Office in Washington, D.C. However, there is no evidence she ever received so much as the courtesy of reply - nor that she pressed the matter any further at that time. Several more years would pass before it was finally settled.
In October 1888, Mary's daughter Dora became a widow when her husband Osiah suddenly died. He was only thirty years old. Having nowhere else to go, Dora took her children and went to live with her mother and two brothers in Corsicana.
It appears that Mary and her family remained in Corsicana throughout the 1890's, where she is said to have run a boarding house, although there are no deed records on file in the Navarro County courthouse showing that she or her son James ever purchased any property there.
Throughout the decade of the `90's, Mary must have been periodically distressed by tragedies which struck members of the family living elsewhere. First, Mary lost a daughter-in-law (and niece) when Virginia Alice Butler, Will's wife, died from consumption (tuberculosis) in Denison, Texas in March 1892. Will and Virginia Alice and their children had moved to Grayson County to be near Lucy Ann Babb, Virginia's mother (and Will's aunt). Lucy, Mary' older sister, had left her husband Isaac a few years earlier and had subsequently bought a farm near Denison in 1885, paying $800 for sixty improved acres - using the inheritance her uncle had left her.
Eight years later, in 1893, Lucy Babb lost her farm when the property was seized by the Grayson County sheriff for non-payment of back taxes. After the farm was sold at public auction for a tiny sum totalling less than nine dollars - out of which Lucy was paid nothing, she went to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Ella and Charles Heason, in Denison. Why the Heasons or any of Lucy's other relatives were unable or unwilling to help the old woman keep her farm (the amount she owed in back taxes was less than $4) is a mystery. Surely there is more to the story than is known.
In 1893 Mary Butler appointed Alexander Kenaday (Secretary and founder of the National Association of Veterans of the Mexican War) as her agent, to apply for an increase in her pension, based on disability ("Rheumatism and blindness, the infirmity of age, & feebleness") - but there's no evidence she ever received it.
1896 saw the death of Mary's eldest daughter, Mollie Butler Fain. Only forty-six years old, Mollie died on January 12th that year. She was buried at North Zulch, Madison County, Texas. Her husband, Thomas Fain, was to survive her by many years, dying at the ripe old age of eighty-four.
Although he returned home safely, Mary must have been anxious and worried when her oldest grandson, Oliver T. Butler, whom everybody called "Bee", enlisted in the United States Army when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. Holding the rank of private, he served in Company L of the 2nd Texas Infantry. Whether he participated in any of the military operations in Cuba or the Philippines is unknown. However, the war was short, lasting only about six months. It's possible Oliver Butler never even left the United States.
Finally, as the decade drew to a close and the twentieth century approached, another family member was lost. This time, tragedy struck closer to home. One cold day in February 1899, Dora Butler Newman, then forty-one years old and living with her mother and brothers in Corsicana, was standing by either an open fireplace or a stove, trying to keep warm. She was wearing a long nightgown. Suddenly, it caught fire. In a panic, Dora did the worst possible thing - she ran, causing the flames to spread more quickly and to burn more intensely. Andrew Butler, her retarded brother, was either in the room with her at the time or nearby. Bravely, without thought for his own safety, he rushed to save his sister, beating out with his hands the flames which engulfed her. In doing so, Andrew was badly burned. Unfortunately, Dora's injuries were worse. As a result, she died shortly after this incident occurred, while Andrew recovered - although he may have carried scars to remind him of the tragedy. Dora was buried on February 8th at Bryan, presumably next to her husband, Osiah Newman.
At the turn of the century, in 1900, the federal census-taker for Navarro County recorded that the Butler household consisted of Mary, her son James and his son Oliver and daughter Mable, Andrew, and Dora's two sons, John and Ernest Newman. Mary was then sixty-seven years old. Her youngest child, Andrew, was forty. Their address was 301 North 9th Street in Corsicana, a house which has since been demolished.
Around 1899, Will Butler had moved from Denison to Dallas, bringing his three children with him, who by that time, were nearly grown up. A few years later, in 1904, his brother James joined him for a time, placing an advertisement in the Dallas city directory. It promoted his services as a building contractor. Boarding together at the same address, along with Will's twenty-four year old son Herman, it appears that the three men entered into some kind of partnership, working together as home-builders. Curiously, there's no evidence any of the rest of the family was with James in Dallas, so it can only be assumed he came alone, leaving Mary and the others in Corsicana. (The only possible exception was James' son, Oliver T. Butler. The 1904 Dallas city directory lists a man by that name living at a South Dallas address, working as a carpenter and teamster, but it's uncertain if he was James' son or another young man with the same name. If he was James' son, it seems that he would have worked for his father and resided at the same boarding house - unless the two men were somehow estranged.)
For reasons which are unknown, the arrangement - if there was one, seems not to have worked out. Within a year, James left Dallas and presumably, returned to Corsicana.
Sometime around 1904 or 1905 the entire Butler family - those who were then living in Corsicana, removed to Hardin County. There, in southeast Texas, not far from Houston, they settled in the town of Saratoga - a community located in the heart of that dense woodland called the "Big Thicket." It was in this area, during the early part of the Twentieth century, that oil was discovered. The lure of work in the oil fields for James and the older boys probably prompted the move. Certainly James, with his carpentry skills, must have found employment there, probably helping to build wooden oil derricks. It is certain that his nephew, Ernest L. Newman worked in the oil fields around this time - although the exact nature of the work he did is unknown. As for Mary Butler, by some means she managed to acquire three frame houses in Saratoga (although she did not own the land on which they were built). One of the houses surely served as a residence for herself and James and other family members. The other two houses she rented out to oil field workers and their families.
In the meantime, James Butler's daughter Mable married a man named Alvin Platt. Soon they had a little boy named Alvin Jr. - Mary's great-grandson.
In 1910, Mary Butler wrote a letter to the Pension Office in Washington, D.C. to see if she qualified for a pension increase for Mexican War veterans she had heard about. She was informed that the increase had been voted for veterans only. (Fortunately, a few years later, the increase was also granted to widows - allowing Mary to draw $12 per month, as opposed to the $8 she had been collecting previously.)
Early that same year, Mary asked her grandson Oliver Butler (by this time married and living in Houston - with a son of his own), to write a letter on her behalf. It was yet another attempt to learn what had happened to her late husband's Mexican War bounty land warrant. In March 1910, Oliver received a reply from the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. It finally cleared-up what appears to have been a mystery to Mary all those years. The warrant had been issued, said the letter, in the fall of 1847 and duly sent to New Orleans - in care of William Christy, the notary public who attested the veteran had made his mark on a "purported power of attorney" designating Auguste Commandem "agent and attorney in fact for Alfred Butler." Commandem, in turn, had sold the warrant to a Richard Catlin, who used it to acquire 160 acres of land at Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1849. If Alfred had received any money in return, there was no mention of it.
During the spring of 1910, Mary's son Will Butler came down from Dallas to visit. As a result, he was enumerated twice in the 1910 federal census - once in Dallas County and once in Hardin County. He stayed only a short time, returning to Dallas County by June. There, down on his luck, perhaps suffering from consumption or the effects of too much alcohol, he became an inmate of the county poor farm in Hutchins - a small community a few miles south of Dallas. There, poor and lonely, on June 18, 1910, he died. Two days later, his body claimed by his son Herman and daughter Lillian, he was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery in Dallas. Because of the distance from Saratoga to Dallas, it's unlikely his mother came to his funeral but the news of Will's death must have saddened her, especially since it brought to four the number of her children she had outlived.
Yet another tragedy struck the family in 1912. This time it involved Mary Butler's grandson John L. Newman, who was deaf and had been admitted to the state school for the deaf in Austin, ten years earlier. According to family lore, John, who in 1912 was about twenty-eight years old, became involved in a love affair with a married woman. It is said that for reasons unknown (but possibly because the woman's husband found out about them), that John killed his lover and then committed suicide. Only the latter fact, that John killed himself (although by what means is unknown) has been confirmed, by records on file at the Texas School For the Deaf.
One day five years later, when she was eighty-five years old, Mary Butler was standing on a chair, hanging a window-shade, when she slipped or lost her balance and fell, breaking her hip. The injury led to pneumonia, from which Mary died on Friday, July 27, 1917.
In her will dated February 14, 1914, Mary left both James and Andrew the sum of $1 - yet there is nothing in the probate records of her estate to indicate that James ever received it, suggesting that he too may have died before his mother, leaving Andrew as her only surviving child. The remainder of her property and money, valued at about $1,500 was left to her oldest grandson Thomas Eugene Fain. He was named administrator, requiring him to provide a home for Andrew Butler "as long as the said Andrew Butler shall live."
Initially, probably because of the proviso requiring him to provide a home for his retarded, middle-aged uncle, Thomas Fain was reluctant to be the administrator of Mary's estate. After his cousin Mable Platt petitioned him through the court to do his duty, Thomas relented, carrying out Mary's wishes.
Probate records show that Mary Butler's body was transported to Bryan, Texas for burial. Although cemetery records cannot confirm the identities or dates of interment, there is a plot (Lot 16, Block 3) in the Bryan City Cemetery, purchased by James A. Butler in 1881 (the year his wife died), in which there have been three burials. Presumably, the three people who rest there are James Butler and his wife Emma Butler, and Mary Frances Butler. Unfortunately, none of the graves are marked.
Andrew Butler went to live with his nephew Thomas Fain in Killeen, Bell County, Texas. There, perhaps pining for his mother, he died on April 3rd, 1920 at the age of sixty years.
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