One of the most noted of the local politicians of Sangamon county, if not of the State, was WILLIAM BUTLER, who was born December 15, 1797, in Adair county, Kentucky. During the war of 1812, he was selected to carry important dispatches from the Governor of Kentucky to General Harrison, in the field. He traveled on horseback, and made the trip successfully, although he was but fifteen years of age. When a young man, he was employed in the iron works of Tennessee, and after that was deputy of the Circuit Clerk for Adair county, Kentucky. While thus engaged, he made the acquaintance of a young lawyer, afterward the venerable Judge Stephen T. Logan, of this city. The friendship thus formed continued through life. Mr. Butler spent a portion of his time as clerk on a steamboat. In 1828, he came to Sangamon county, and purchased a farm in Island Grove. On that farm his father, Elkanah Butler, lived and died. William Butler came to Springfield, and was soon after appointed Clerk of the Circuit Court, by his early friend, Judge Logan, March 19, 1836, and resigned March 22, 1841. He was appointed, by Governor Bissell, State Treasurer, August 29, 1859, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of State Treasurer Miller. He was elected to the same office in 1860, for two years. William Butler and Elizabeth Rickard were married December 18, 1832. They had three children - Salmone E., Speed, and Henry Wirt.
As stated Mr. Butler was a noted local politician, and it is said of him that he could come nearer predicting the result of an election, in either county, State, or Nation, than any man residing here.
Mr. Butler was in his personal appearance: but rather more than average height; not heavy, but compactly built; light and wary in his step; active in his movements; and of great strength and power of endurance for one of his weight. He had a high and ample forehead, a thoughtful and serene brow, a bright searching eye, a mouth of inflexible decision, a serious face, and general aspect of features which marked him as a man of purpose and resolution. His fine presence and his whole manner in business and social intercourse showed the individuality of his character, which, with his habitual self-respect and self-possession at all times, whether in the ordinary walk of life or in great emergencies, made him a noted man. He was endowed with great mental and physical courage; prompt in forming and resolute in carrying out any purpose or plan of action on which he had decided. He never south to be conspicuous - hated shams and despised hypocracy. He never pretended to be what he was not; not at all credulous, but rather inclined to be distrustful of human nature, yet when anyone had once gained his respect and confidence, he was to them a true, faithful and steadfast friend - to be ever relied on in the hour of peril or adversity.
From 1840 to 1870, during a period of thirty years, the most exciting and perilous years of the Nation, William Butler was one of the most active and influential men in the State of Illinois; a Whig up to the dissolution of that party, and then a Republican during the rest of his life. His advice was always sought and usually acted on by the leading public men of the State. Mr. Butler never sought office; the public positions which he held were tendered him without solicitation on his part. He much preferred to use his influence to decide who should and who should not be placed in office, and his potent aid was usually decisive of the result.
A more honest custodian of the public funds never held the position of State Treasurer. During the rebellion his official position gave him grand opportunities for serving his State and Nation. he, in connection with the Hon. Jesse K. Dubois and O. M. Hatch, formed the cabinet of Governor Richard Yates, who was pre-eminently the great War Governor of the Republic.
Mr. Butler, at a very early day, discerned the great possibilities which belonged to the character and abilities of Abraham Lincoln. When he was a poor and comparatively friendless young man, Mr. Butler gave him a home in his family, when he moved to Springfield to commence the practice of law. He remained a member of the household until the day of his marriage.
Mr. Butler, in conjunction with David Davis, O. H. Browning and Stephen T. Logan, was largely instrumental in placing Lincoln in nomination for the Presidency, at Chicago, in 1860.
Mr. Butler was so mixed up in the excitement and difficulties connected with the Shields and Lincoln challenge for a duel, that he received a challenge from General James Shields which challenge was promptly accepted. The time, distance and weapons promised a fatal result to one or both parties. The affair was settled, and both men lived to render great service to their country.
William Butler died January 11, 1876, in Springfield, and his remains lie interred in Oak Ridge Cemetery.