The railroad helped build this nation

And St. Paul/Sioux City engineer James Butterfield’s surname became the eponym for the town

According to the Butterfield Advocate Centennial Addition, city residents can 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 in this area of Watonwan County 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 torn down due to lack of business. Eventually, new stores popped along the main street and businesses began to prosper.

In 1875, a flat-house for buying grain, which benefited the local farmers was built, followed by a lumberyard, general store and grocery store.

Butterfield was incorporated April 5, 1885, and Bern Rempel (who was also responsible for the first store) was elected as mayor.

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.

From where, however, came that name – Butterfield?

The popular legend is based mainly on spicy rumor. The story goes that James Butterfield, an engineer on the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad, is the city’s namesake.

The story takes a twist when, as it goes, Butterfield allegedly ran off with the wife of a local resident in 1876 – after his name became synonymous with the growing area. 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.

However, as the story continued to unfold, 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 addition, Butterfield as also adopted as the city’s name following its incorporation.

In celebration of next weekend’s 49th Butterfield Steam & Gas Engine Show – the Butterfield Threshing Bee – or just “The Bee”  (Friday-Saturday, August 14-16) – following is a photo gallery of the way Butterfield – the city and the township – used to be, along with early Butterfield Threshing Bee photographs.

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 below the article.


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HERE WE PLOW. A photograph of Henry Janzen plowing with a 1020 Mogul plow. There is no date on this photo.


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THE ONLY INFORMATION known about this photograph and its story is the name of the man in the photo – Peter Flaming.


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C. A. FRIESEN and J. A. Friesen are threshing with the “Great Minneapolis Moline.”


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NOTHING IS KNOWN about this photograph other than that it was taken of a threshing crew with steam engine powering the threshing rig.


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A CASE “STEAMER” was put to use to move this house at some point early in Butterfield’s history.


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THESE TWO MEN, clad in overalls, are hard at work corn shelling, using the power of an Avery tractor (at right) to do the job.


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ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPH OF an early era “threshing bee.” That is all the information that can be gleaned from the photo.


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THE MEN (ALONG with some older boys) in this photo are involved in a different type of “bee” – a gravelling bee. The year was 1916.


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AS THE WHITE script on the photo states, the date on this photograph is January 2, 1911 at Butterfield, when this train derailed. According to information on the photo, it was 30 below that day when the rails expanded and the train rolled. One man was pinned underneath for hours – and citizens took turns crawling under to keep warming that person.


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THIS IS ANOTHER wintertime in Butterfield photo. A team of horses, wrapped with blankets in order to stay warm, were being used to haul some product packaged and stored in barrels from the railroad depot on a wagon-like cart outfitted with sled runners, headed to Slaalien Livery Barn. Hans Slaalien, a Norwegian pioneer who immigrated to America in 1882 at the age of 20. Slaalien loved horses and he loved his new home – America. His bride came to America from Norway in 1891. They were married the same day she arrived, and the couple settled south of Butterfield. The Slaaliens had 13 children, one of whom died in infancy. There were 10 girls and three boys. Slaalien not only built the Livery Barn, but also a house for his family. Slaalien rented sleighs, cutters and a carriage and he charged 15 cents to bring passengers from the train depot to the center of town. He would also pick up freight at the train station and bring it back to the Livery Barn for customers to pick up. He also cared for teams of horses while the owners conducted business or did some shopping. He did very well until the arrival of the automobile. Little-by-little he sold his horses until he had only two left – Fritz and Sam. He drove a taxi for awhile and also had a cafe where his family served meals to customers. His daughters served the customers while his wife did the cooking. For a time he was the town marshal. Slaalien died during a snowstorm in 1929.


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THE BUTTERFIELD FIRE Department’s 1912 30-piece band. Front, from left, Wilson Whaley, Art Schweitert, Richard Brubacher, “Polly” Stoutenberg, Rex Brubacher and Earl Sorenson. Second row, from left, Herbert Linscheid, ? Hanson, Walter Schweitert, Earl Anderson, Syver Syverson, Victor Brubacher, Herman Deitrich, Nels Halverson, Ralph Skjie, John Hubin, Cornelius Funk and Jake Schwartz. Standing back, from left, Arthur Johnson, Bernie Rempel, Henry Ewy, Oswald Brubacher, Robert Casey, Mike Schultz, Director Hughes, Frank Anderson, Helmer Mellum and Joe Kohler.


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THIS ACTION PHOTO captured a band marching down a Butterfield street – some of the musicians moving so quickly that their images are blurred.


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A GROUP OF young folks industriously decorated this automobile, driving it in a Fourth of July parade.


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A FEBRUARY 1916 photo of the public school in Butterfield.


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A FAMILY OF father, mother and two daughters in their era automobile in front of a store operated by “Jacob Rupp” that offers for sale groceries and dry goods. On the post card it appears this store preceded The Miller Store.


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A GROUP OF musicians ready to perform in concert in front of The Miller Store. Information on this photograph received from Doris Menne: “I am the oldest daughter of Harvey and Victoria Linscheid. My dad, Harvey, was the oldest son of Robert and Erna (Ewy) Linscheid. My parents lived on the Linscheid farm after they were married in April 1950. We lived on that farm until 1957 or ’58 when, we moved to New Ulm. I do know a few people in the photo of the group ready to do a concert in front of the Miller store. The second from the left in the first row looks like my Grandma Erna (Ewy) Linscheid and the third from the left in the first row for sure is my Great Aunt Sadie (Rupp)Linscheid, who was married to Herbert Linscheid – who was a brother to my Grandpa Robert Linscheid. The last person in the front row at the left could be my Great Aunt Alma Linscheid, who was married to my Great Uncle Hank Ewy OR my Great Aunt Bertha (Linscheid), who was married to Ted Linscheid – who was my Grandpa Robert’s brother. In the top row, the musician second from the left is my Grandpa Robert Linscheid – who was of course married to my Grandma Erna. The third from the left in the top row I think is my Great Uncle Hank Ewy, who was married to my Great Aunt Alma Linscheid – who was a sister to my Grandpa Robert Linscheid. My grandpa was also born on the Linscheid farm to my great-grandparents – who were Jacob and Suzanna (Hubin) Linscheid. Glen Linscheid is my dad, Harvey Linscheid’s, cousin. His parents I believe were Ted and Bertha Linscheid. They lived on the farm that was just south of town – to the south of the new Highway #60. It was torn down after the owner Alvin Thiessen passed away.”


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AN APRIL 1917 view of the east side of Butterfield’s Main Street, beginning with the general merchandise of “The Miller Store” and heading south.


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THE “PETE” of Pete’s Saddle Shop – Pete Linscheid – in downtown Butterfield in 1955. Pete was known for his horsemanship and figure skating skills.



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A STREET SCENE in Butterfield, looking east when “old” Highway #60 ran through town, with the D-X station at left marking the corner (now the location of the Triumph State Bank-Butterfield).


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LOOKING NORTH IN downtown Butterfield, with Thompson Yards Inc. at left.


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FROM THIS EARLY photograph, Pioneer Village has certainly grown up – and out – around these first buildings – including the popular depot.


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AS SOME THINGS change – many remain the same. At earlier Threshing Bees, Irene Sandbo, left and Cleone Syverson, right, cooked lefse on the stove under the shade of the Voss Park trees. While the lefse is still prepared (on that same stove) and sold, the faces of the “cooks” have changed over the years.


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WILLIS LINSCHEID’S CLAIM to fame was as “Butterfield’s Butterfly Guy.” Of course, his extensive and eclectic entomology collection also included a variety of moths, such as the two Linscheid is displaying in the above photo. He shared his collection at The Threshing Bee. And, he donated many of his rare and special butterflies to the Minnesota Science Museum.


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JOYCE “MA” PEEK, left and Ann Hoehne, right, greet Bee attendees in the Mennonite House.


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A PHOTO FROM an early Butterfield Threshing Bee – when the stage was a trailer. As the sign states, this was a time for a sing-a-long with the Butterfield Community Choir – directed by Glen Linscheid, in striped shirt at right.
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