Cities of
Pendleton County


Butler was 'called' Fourth Lock, was 'called' a part of Boston Station, was 'called' Clayton, but actually wasn't named 'Butler ' until the 1860s, after the US Civil War. "The city was named for William O. Butler, U.S. congressman from the area (1839-43), when it was incorporated on February 1, 1868." 1, 2, 3
Located about a mile west of US 27 on KY 177, past Eastside Park, 4 Butler is…the second-largest city in Pendleton County. 5 In the latest census, women outnumber men nearly 2-to-1. 6 "A railroad was laid out about 1852, known as the [Kentucky] Central Railroad and later a second track was laid. Butler, at that time was considered [a] railroad center, known as the K. C. Division Kentucky control, a branch of the L&N Railroad. The passenger and freight depot built about this time was very helpful to the people. On baggage coaches, mail was sorted as the train progressed and thrown off at various stations. Farmers brought their five and ten gallon cans of milk and cream, which the local train would carry, as well as other commodities. A train stationed at Butler each night, known as “the Dinkey,” accommodated working people, leaving early mornings and returning in the evenings." 7
Located on the banks of the Licking River, Butler became a key place for merchants transporting goods by water. Rail traffic further boosted its importance.
Between 1857 and 1860, Butler grew rapidly and was organized as a city. It was called 'Clayton' until the Butler post office was opened in 1860. It's only 'official' name was/is Butler [since 1868]. "Mr. Pope Williams owned a large amount of land in and around what is now known as Butler. His son, Elmon Williams, inherited the farm and sold a part of it to Mr. Charlie Peoples who developed it into lots, now the town of Butler. Among the very early settlers were the Williams family (Pope and Elmon), Lidge Yelton, Will Barton, C. C. Hagemeyer, Peoples family, Duckers, Bonars, Cowles, Holmes, Ryders and Howes." 8
There was a Lock No. 4 post office briefly in 1847; then the Clayton post office was open from 1857 to 1860 9 then the Butler post office opened in 1860. 10 The years from 1848 to 1856, when there was no listed post office, the area was serviced by the Flour (Flower) Creek post office. The years 1836, 1852, 1853 and the name of Joel Ham, a contractor for the L&N Railroad have been bandied about by several writers concerning Lock No. 4/ Clayton/Butler's history.
Unfortunately, none of them provide sources. If any records or documents actually existed at some point, they were likely as not destroyed in one of the floods prior to 1965. What's the honest-to-gosh answer? Nobody really knows. There's that murky about a decade and a half, then the 1868 incorporation.
Not to worry; there was still plenty going on in and around Butler prior to 1868. Unfortunately, "town records seem to have been lost in the flood of 1964". 11
During the US Civil War, the state's governor, Beriah Magoffin, a Harrodsburg resident, was a Southern sympathizer, pro-slavery and pro-states' rights 12 but the Kentucky legislature was majority pro-Union and they increased their majority in the mid-term elections, so Kentucky never seceded from the Union . 13 Both the USA's and CSA's chief executives, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, were born in Kentucky and, not surprisingly, Kentucky's resident's allegiances were mixed. During the war, Company A's Special Order No. 36 " …guarded the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in … Pendleton County; sentry posts were established at the Bank Lick Bridge, Grant Tunnels, Cruiser Creek Bridge and Licking River Bridge." 14 "During the Civil War, many from here…[Butler]…served. Some who were taken prisoners and sent to Camp Chase were: Pope Williams, Peter Howe, Lidge Yelton, Will Barton, and Tom Yelton. While there was no fighting here, a branch of Morgan’s Cavalry men were sent through here to some unknown destination. " 15
A ferry boat was used to cross the river before the old wooden bridge was built. In 1871 the Butler Bridge was built at an 'immense cost' -- $18,450 (in the 1870s, that was a whole lotta bucks). 16 And a myth was born. The Butler Bridge was the longest in the world. (It wasn't) The Butler Bridge was the longest ever built. (It wasn't) The Butler Bridge was the longest in the good ol' U S of A. (It wasn't) The Butler Bridge was the longest in Kentucky. (There ya go! It was) 17 All by itself, the Feng Yu Covered Bridge (303 meters [over 900 feet]), in Chongqing, China (built in 1591, it was constructed entirely of wood without any nails) pops the notion-balloon as to 'the longest'. It was built centuries before the Butler Bridge was constructed and survived into the 21st century. 18
Before the dawn of the 20th century, Perry Ducker operated the "Old Dexter Distilling Co." The distillery was officially identified as (RD #22, 6th District) by the IRS and the 'home office' in Covington. They were distillers and whiskey wholesalers. Known as The Old Dexter Distillery from 1890-1898 then reborn as Old Dexter Distilling Company from 1900 to 1916. In 1897, The Old Dexter Distillery was bought by Myers & Company and 'Old Dexter' was in operation until 1916. 19, 20 (From the Butler Enterprise of June 1, 1889) Butler had "…a green grocery, a drug store, four general stores, two meat shops, three blacksmith and wagon shops, no saloons, one Odd Fellow's hall or police court, one masonic hall, three churches, one brick-kiln, two attorneys' offices, three cooper shops, one barber shop, one photograph gallery, one stirrup factory, two millinery, and dry goods houses, three doctors' offices, four hotels and boarding houses, two shoe shops, two carpenter shops, one flour and grist mill, one saw mill, one newspaper one public school building, two schools in session, and many residences of modern architecture." 21 As Butler approached the 20th century, it certainly was a busy little river town.
"On November 29, 1907 a telephone exchange was established on the second floor of the Butler Deposit Bank Building. It had a one position board; later a second was added. In case of electric failure a mechanical device, called a calculagraph that ran on batteries, served the operator to ring numbers by hand, much as people did to get parties on their own lines. Before electricity they probably used the same system, as electricity came around 1915." 22 "The Butler Deposit Bank has had several cashiers. Some of them were: Mr. Ben Wiggington, Mr. George McLanghlin, Mr. Ira Yelton, and C. C. Flairty. A new building was erected in 1922. It was planned by Mr. Ira Yelton. The bank was forced to close in the depression years, July 31, 1931. A new bank was formed, knows as the Farmers State Bank. Mr. C. C. Flairty was cashier until he retired October 1, 1968. Mr. Ralph Bowling became cashier." 23, 2 4
"By the late 1800s, prohibition movements had sprung up across the United States, driven by religious groups who considered alcohol, specifically drunkenness, a threat to the nation. The movement reached its apex in 1920 when Congress ratified the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors. Prohibition proved difficult to enforce and failed to have the intended effect of eliminating crime and other social problems–to the contrary, it led to a rise in organized crime, as the bootlegging of alcohol became an ever-more lucrative operation. In 1933, widespread public disillusionment led Congress to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition." 25 If you think Butler's residents were teetotalers for 13 years—if it makes you happy—you can go right on; believe it. Reality, though, won't agree.
"Prohibition was often referred to as the ‘noble experiment’. Lasting more than a decade, its eventual failure proved that good intentions would not over turn popular demand. Depriving people of something they craved without effectively policing the ban would simply lead to criminality, not a reformed society." 26
When the stock market crashed in 1929, Butler, although certainly feeling the 'pinch' of the country-wide financial mess, didn't feel it as much. Butler was a rural and agrarian place where the family farm wasn't viewed as a big-time moneymaker. The farm wasn't geared to make money; it was meant to sustain life. That's what it did, through some very tough years. There rarely was 'extra money' but folks never went hungry. In the Fall, there was a boatload of canning going on. If you didn't can it, dry it or salt it in the Fall it was gonna be a mighty lean Winter. Even after the meager years of The Great Depression and World War II, mothers and grandmothers, perhaps not as intensely, continued that mindset. Even in the 21st century, it's a given that you'll be canning at the end of Summer. Because Butler was a main stop for the railroad, a lot of men were employed by them. It wasn't a great job but you had one which was more than about a quarter of the country could boast.
What about places outside Butler and Pendleton County?
"As population increased and automobiles became plentiful, people stopped riding the trains and trucks began taking the freight handled by the railroads, so the depot was closed to both passengers and freight. Another old landmark, the old wooden covered bridge, was torn down October 7, 1977 [sic] (typo: should read "1937") by Barton Burlew and helpers. " 27
For generations, over a whole lot o' years, something used to happen that, sadly, has ended. When one wintry morning, the radio DJ announced the list of school closings and Pendleton County was on it, most of the town's kids made a bee-line for the Methodist Church. Everything from the traditional sled to cardboard boxes to toboggans to one those plastic circles that Pepsi used as soft drink bottle lids on billboards. Six or seven kids could fit in one of those things; those suckers would go a long way fast; make it from the top of the hill all the way to Mill Street. Kids always knew the best places to get stuff. In Summer, the best place to pick blackberries was in Grant's Woods, at the end of the road that went past Miss Amy's house by the old railroad trestle. Like the blackberry mother lode. Grant's Woods, Miss Amy, the Methodist Church and the old railroad trestle are all gone now. Times change.
Not long after the 1997 flood, Butler looked forward to better days and the Butler City Park opened on Mill Street (right after you cross the bridge turn right and it is on the corner. It is across from the old Methodist Church at the bottom of the hill).
The federal highway, US 27, built in 1926, bypasses Butler, the town being about a mile west of the highway. You need to take HWY 177 west from US 27 to go to Butler.

1] Kentucky Encyclopedia ' Pendleton County' by Warren J. Shonert

2 ] City of

3] Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer

4] Google Maps, City of Butler, KY

5] Wikipedia—Butler, KY

6] City Data—Butler, KY

7] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

8] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

9] Alan H. Patera, and John S. Gallagher. A Checklist of Kentucky Post Offices, Lake Grove, Oregon: The Depot, 1989.

10] Butler Kentucky, Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer

11] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

12] Civil War Dispatch - Beriah Magoffni

13] Wikipedia—Beriah Magoffin

14] Military History of Kentucky, Frankfort, 1939, pages 328-331

15] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

16]' A Few Facts About the Bridge'

17] ]'Butler Bridge Was NEVER the Longest'; site created by Robert Walter MacGregor Laughlin; database/list compiled by Bill Caswell of


19] The Old Dexter Distillery RD #22, 6 th District Pendleton County, KY (Est. 1817)

20] Myers & Co (Henry R Myers)

21] Historical Review of Butler, Kentucky from the Butler Enterprise, June 1, 1889

22] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

32] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

24] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

25] Wikipedia- Prohibition in the United States; 'Bootlegging and hoarding old supplies'

26] The Volstead Act – 'Formalising the Noble Experiment'

27] 'Butler' by Mabel Howe for the Butler Women’s Club

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