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D EAR to the heart of every loyal Clevelander is the recollection of those noble men and
women who cast their lot with the city in its pioneer days, and by their wisdom. helped
to guide the little municipality to its
present honored position as the sixth city of the entire nation. Surely the historian is right who declares that no true
patriot can read with untouched heart the details of individual histories intimately connected with his own locality.
Each citizen in Cleveland's early times contributed not only his individual industry and his wisdom in helping to further the settlement's. affairs, but gave the best gift of all—himself. Cleveland's early history is a kaleidoscopic mirror of individual characters, each in its relations to every other helping to work out the intricate, marvelous pattern of society.
Thus a whole city mourned, when, in July, 1904, news came of the death of one of Cleveland's old pioneers, Boliver Butts, at Saratoga Springs, New York, whither he had gone in failing health and advanced in years. Mourning the loss of his life's companion of fifty-seven years, and accompanied by his faithful daughter, Josephine, Mr. Butts had sought the famous springs for recuperation. Tenderly the beloved remains were brought back to the city to which he had come sixty-four years before, an eager stripling of fourteen years, when his father came from Shenango County, New York, to cast his lot with the enterprising Forest City, then a town of six thousand. Reverently the city of half a million acknowledged its debt of gratitude to one who shouldered her burdens of public welfare and shared in so many splendid public works.
The personal history of Boliver Butts--business man, churchman, philanthropist, councilman, and public servant—is truly the property of local history. He was born in Shenango County, New York, in 1826, whither his parents, Caleb S. and Sarah Ann (Ross) Butts, natives of Dover, New York, had removed from the east side of the Hudson. Of good old English stock, Caleb S. Butts and his wife were fine old types of " mine host and hostess" of the old, hospitable days; and it was with the idea of continuing in hotel. life that they made the great journey by stage to Syracuse, thence by packet over the Erie Canal and the lake to Cleveland. Boliver was sent to school at Twinsburg Institute, the famous old academy of Samuel Bissell, which has its unforgetable place in Ohio history. He made good progress at his books, but at an early age undertook to relieve his father of some of the burdens of active management of the latter's "New England Hotel" on the Cuyahoga River, and later became proprietor of the Weddell House, a famous old hostelry and still existing to modern Cleveland.
In 1851, Mr. Butts became interested in the line of wholesale hats, and conducted a flourishing business on Water Street, under the firm name of Butts, Bassett, and Smith. This firm shared with others in Cleveland the tremendous prosperity of the sixties, and was making a substantial fortune for its owners when the
panic of 1873 struck the country
, , and the crash of Jay Cooke of Philadelphia carried with it thousands of flourishing enterprises all over the country. The firm of Butts, Bassett, and Smith never fully recovered from this disastrous experience.
Mr. Butts was thus a conspicuous man in Cleveland's business for a period extending over thirty years. But his activities were by no means confined to his private interests. He felt it the duty of citizenship to be equally industrious for the welfare of the public. From earliest young manhood, when but nineteen years, for ten years we find him a member of the Volunteer Fire Department. In the year 1854, Mr. Butts was elected City Councilman, and shared in the credit for the uniting of Cleveland with its rival city on the west bank of the river, which marked a new epoch in the history of Cleveland. He was a member of the Police, Fire, and Water commissions, appointed by the first union mayor, William B. Castle. To him much credit is due for the success of the first great enterprise after the union, in supplying the city with water pumped from the lake shore to a reservoir and thence distributed to all parts of the city of forty-four thousand population. He served the city in many ways, was ever tireless in energy, and ever reliable in judgment. He was one of the committee which selected grounds for beautiful Woodland Cemetery. He was a man indispensable to his church. In 1861 he was made. vestryman of the Trinity Cathedral, and later senior warden, serving in this capacity until 1894. In 1882, he was director of the city infirmary, a post he continued in for eight years. Our present city hospital is a lasting evidence of his service while in this office. He was also on the executive committee of the Huron Road Hospital.
In the 80's, Mr. Butts was asked to serve with R. P. Spaulding and Dudley Baldwin on a committee appointed by Harvey Rice of the Early Settlers' Association, to memorialize the founding of the city by a substantial monument to the landing of Moses Cleveland and his party at the Cuyahoga, July 22, 1796. The earnest efforts of this committee bore fruit in the beautiful bronze statute which was unveiled on the Public Square with suitable exercises, July 23, 1888 the precise anniversary, July 22, falling on Sunday.
Such, in brief record, is the outline of the life of the late Bolivar Butts of Cleveland, part and parcel of the records of Cleveland itself. However noble as is this public view of one of the city's most honored names, it represents only one phase of his worthiness of our veneration.
It has been said that true nobility of any nature is tested by the intimacy of private home life. Here, indeed, was Bolivar Butts' ideal—as son, as husband, as father. His own father and mother he tenderly revered all the days of their long
He tenderly early relieved his father of all business cares, and the old couple made their home with their beloved son, Caleb S. reaching ninety-four years, the mother dying at ninety. Bolivar Butts exemplified the very truth of the Scripture—"Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land that
the Lord, thy God, giveth thee." He himself was seventy-eight years old when he died, in 1904, and death would hardly have come to him even at that ripe age, had not his heart suffered shock at the death of his beloved wife in April of this same year. The romance of they life of Boliver and Martha (Cather) Butts for they seemed to live one life—was a tender one, dating from their boy and girlhood in the early forties in Cleveland, where Martha Thompson Cather was born. Her parents were Robert and Lucy A. (Norton) Cather, her mother being the daughter of Cleveland's first postmaster, Elisha Norton. She was born in Cleveland in 1829, when it was a village of scarcely a thousand souls. Later her parents removed to Racine, Wisconsin, and here the young
were quietly married, August 18, 1847. It is related that the youthful benedict came home, leaving his bride with her parents until he should prepare a home for her. His kind father soon learned the truth of the situation and easily forgave the ardent youth
easily bade hire the new daughter to the family home. This
couple lived to celebrate their golden wedding, and six years beyond that anniversary, but in April of the following year, 1904, Mrs. Butts died. She had been a patient, though a suffering invalid for the greater part of her long life, and never was the faithful husband anything but kindness and tenderness toward her. They adopted and loved as their own, a daughter, Josephine, and found in her tender ministry, the sweet comfort of old age that is the crowning blessing of life. This daughter still resides in Cleveland, and while the public life of the late Boliver Butts is incorporated in the records of the city he helped to establish as a great municipality, it is given to Miss Josephine Butts to keep ever burning on the altar of filial piety the recollection of his perfect character in all the blessed relations of private life.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds