Benjamin Franklin Butler
originally published in the Bicentennial Book
Benjamin Franklin Butler was born in Deerfield November 5, 1818 at about four o'clock in the afternoon. His father was the youngest son of Zephaniah and Abigail, daughter of General Joseph Gilley. John Butler, Ben's father, was married to Sarah Batchelder of Deerfield, June 5, 1803. They had three girls, Polly True, horn June 8. 1804; Sally, born March 11, 1806 and Betsey Morrill, born January 9, 1808. Mrs. Sarah Butler died Feb. 23, 1809.- On July 21, 1811, John Butler married Charlotte Ellison. She bore him three children. The eldest, Charlotte, born May 13, 1812 died in August 1839. The second child, Andrew Jackson Butler was horn Feb. 13, 1815, and died Feb. 11, 1864. The third child, Benjamin Franklin Butler was born Nov. 5, 1818. Ben's father served his country under Bolivar. When Bolivar crossed the Cordilleras, his father returned to the West India Islands and, in order to refit, landed the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) one of the British Islands. While there he died of yellow fever. So did some of his crew and one of his officers.
After Benjamin's father's death, his mothers and younger sister lived with his uncle Benjamin who had a small farm in Nottingham, NH. Young Ben was not very strong at the age of four which gave them great concern. As soon as he was old enough and physically able he was sent to school at Nottingham Square. He tells of living two miles from school and the last half of the distance was up a steep hill. (We call that the “Square Hill.”) The following winter, his uncle and mother provided a home for him in Deerfield with his Aunt Polly Dame; she was not really his aunt, but everyone called her aunt. His next school was at Deerfield Parade. Then in Ben's sixth year he went back to the Nottingham Square school carrying his dinner in a little package. Eventually, he came back to Deerfield Parade and attended the Academy which was between his home at Deerfield Parade and the Cemetery. His teacher was Mr. James Hersey, afterwards postmaster at Manchester, N.H.
Ben received the best of all his educational training is his preparation for college at Lowell High School. He was a great reader and the subject of law was his specialty. His mother's earnest desire was for him to get an appointment at West Point of which Ben was very desirous. On account of his religious beliefs, it was decided that a Baptist College at Waterville, Maine would fulfill his mother's long cherished expectations of his becoming a clergyman. He was very fond of his mother. His maternal grandfather was Richard Ellison who had fought the battle of Boyne Water for King William, and had received some reward which enabled him and his wife to come to America. They were Scotch Presbyterians. They moved to Londonderry, later took up a farm at Northfield, on the Pemigewassett. It was here that he had several children, the youngest of whom was Ben Butler's mother. His grandfather and grandmother moved to Canada about the time his mother was married to John Butler. He tells us that they were respectable and honorable people, and were certainly long lived, for his mother's sister lived to exceed the age of one hundred and four years.
Before Ben's first year at college was over, he decided to change his course to chemistry. During the winter, when college was closed for eight weeks, Ben would teach in other schools to help with his expenditures. After his graduation, he studied law in the office of William Smith Esq. a New Hampshire lawyer of considerable learning. Ben's brother gave him a small gray saddle horse, and nearly every night of the week he got his relaxation by riding. The rest of his time was spent in study of law. In 1839 a vacancy occurred in a small Academy in the town of Dracut not far from Lowell. The trustees asked Ben to take charge of the school. He taught there for a specified time and then not being able to forget his study of law he went back to Lowell to practice in the Police Courts, visiting Superior Court as often as possible. It was during Ben's legal career that he met Sarah Hildreth. In 1843 they became engaged and were married on the 16th of May in 1844 in St. Anne's Church in Lowell, Mass. by the Rector Rev. Dr. Edson. They had four children; Paul the eldest who died in April 1850 at the age of four years and ten months; a daughter, Blanche, born in 1847, a son Paul born in 1852, and a son Ben Israel, born in 1854 who departed this life on the first day of Sept. 1881, the day he was to have gone into partnership with his father, Benjamin F. Butler, in the practice of law in Boston, Mass.
Ben's wife accompanied him in every expedition of the war of the Rebellion and made for him a home wherever he was stationed in command. She joined him at Annapolis, Fortress Monroe, and Ship Island for the attack on New Orleans; and in 1864 she went with him to the field, and was present with him during most of the campaign of that year. After the war was over he had a great interest in the mills at Lowell and the laboring people who had gathered from the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He states there were no purer, no better body of citizens ever come together. To the credit of the owners of those mills, it is just to say that humane, philanthropic and far-sighted economic business regulations were made, and that provisions were established that education should be furnished for the children and the advantages of religious instruction given to all. The great men of Lowell knew that good morals were the prime qualifications of good working people. Ben Butler lived in favor of the laboring class such as shortening the number of hours of work and developing a strong feeling for American citizenship. He had a deep concern for their health, a keen desire to increase their comfort, and so it was that Massachusetts set the example for many changes in the mills of our country and the bread of life was produced for the working class. We honor Benjamin F. Butler for his part in promoting better conditions in the mills of our United States.
In 1882 Ben Butler was elected Governor of Massachusetts by the Democrats. In 1884 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency. He died at Washington, D.C. January 11, 1893.