When the railroad built the nation and James Butterfield’s last name became the town
According to the Butterfield Advocate Centennial Addition, thank the railroad for the founding of Butterfield. The Federal Government, in efforts to open up the west, granted huge tracts of land to the railroads to spark development. The railroads, in turn, platted town sites at various intervals to entice homesteaders and merchants to settle them. The railroads were the lifeline of commerce, and what was good for the railroad was good for the prairie.
The first homesteaders settled around 1870, giving the hamlet a population of 17 (10 men and 7 women). The railroad was laid in 1871 and the population grew. Butterfield Township was organized on July 2, 1872. The first store was built in 1872, but it was torn down due to lack of business. New stores popped along the main street and businesses began to prosper. In 1875, a flat-house for buying grain, which benefited the farmers was built followed by a lumber yard, general store and grocery store. By 1895 Butterfield had a thriving community of stores, elevators and tradesmen and the township population was over 400. It also had a school and several churches.
Butterfield was incorporated April 5, 1885, and Bern Rempel (who was also responsible for the first store) was elected as mayor.
From where, however, from where came the name of the city? The popular story is based mainly on spicy rumor. The story goes that James Butterfield, an engineer on the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad, was its namesake. The story takes a twist when, as it goes, Butterfield allegedly ran off with the wife of a local resident in 1876. Township residents were so incensed that they renamed the township Nichols Landing. Why was the decision made to change the name to the one they did? Did the romance even happen? The answers to those questions are lost to history.
The story attached to the rumor continues that James Butterfield restored his good name when he became a prominent railroad machinist – and was credited with inventing the locomotive ash pan. After two years, the name Butterfield was restored to what was then a township – and Nichols Landing disappeared as fast and mysteriously as it appeared.
In celebration of the upcoming 48th Butterfield Steam & Gas Engine Show – the Butterfield Threshing Bee – or just the Bee – following are some photographs I found in a folder that come from Butterfield’s past – the way it used to be.
The idea is to have this post be an interactive Discussion Board using the “Comments” area below the article. There is information available connected to a number of the photographs, a selection of others have incomplete info, others have none – and any could have incorrect data. In order to recover, restore – and remain – as “keepers” of Butterfield history for future generations, if anyone has the “skinny” on any of the photographs, please post what is known in the Comments section.