Elihu Butts

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

ELIHU BUTTS. Judge Elihu Butts was born in Rome, Oneida Co., N. Y., Aug. 26, 1813. His grandfather, Gideon Butts, moved with his family, consisting of his wife, two sons, and a daughter, from Canterbury, Conn., and settled in Rome, in the year 1801. The names of the sons were Daniel and Elihu; of the daughter, Ruby. Elihu, the father of the judge, was by trade a carpenter and joiner. He also followed the occupation of a farmer. He married Sarah Bradford, of Canterbury, Conn., the issue of which marriage were five sons and five daughters, of whom the judge was the third son.

The learned of his father the carpenter and joiner trade, and his early years were passed in that occupation and work upon his father's farm. His early education was received in the common schools of Rome. When about twenty years of age he left that city and took up his residence in Albany, where he opened a drug-store, in partnership with Dr. Young, at the corner of Broadway and Van Tromp Streets. He soon after commenced the study of medicine with Drs. March and Armsby, and, without neglecting his business, managed at the same time to attend three full courses of lectures at the Albany Medical College, from which institution he was graduated in 1848. He had practiced his profession two years in West Troy, two years in Northville, Fulton Co., and five years in Clifton park, Saratoga Co., under a license previous to receiving the degree of doctor of medicine. In 1850 he removed to Schaghticoke, having determined to make that place his permanent residence, and for a number of years continued there in the practice of his profession, and ranked among the first as a skillful physician and surgeon in that locality. Indeed, though in practice the medical has long since yielded to the legal profession, yet the judge has kept read up in medical literature, and has continued his membership in the Rensselaer County Medical Society.

In 1858, having been elected a justice of the peace, his attention was turned to the study of law. About this time his health became somewhat impaired, and he was unable to bear with safety the exposure by night to which a physician is subjected who rides a wide circuit. His taste for legal pursuits increased with his studies in that direction, and at length, having determined to abandon the practice of medicine, he was admitted an attorney and counselor in all the State courts of New York in 1861, and since that time has devoted himself to legal pursuits with a diligence and assiduity which have been rewarded by advancing him to a prominent position in the profession of the law. He was admitted to practice in the United States courts in 1874.

He has served as justice of the peace of the town since his first appointment to that office. He is also police justice and health officer of the village of Hart's Falls, and is interested in all local improvements and education of the young. In discharging the duties of these offices he has always evinced firmness, intelligence, and discretion, and under his administration it has come to be well understood that the law cannot be broken with impunity, and as a result rowdyism, pilfering, and disturbances of every kind have become almost extinct in Schaghticoke and that vicinity.

He was elected justice of sessions in 1878. At the time of his nomination to this office one of the leading Troy papers said of him, "With Justice Butts upon the bench, the presiding justice will have as co-judge with him a man learned in the law, especially versed in medical jurisprudence, and one who, when called on for his opinion on any question that may arise, will be able to give it intelligently and with a legal reason to back it."

Judge Butts furnished one of the rare instances of a man who has attained high standing in two of the learned professions; but whatever, for the time being, has been with him the object of pursuit, whether as a business man, physician, or lawyer, he has never been satisfied to stop short of the highest excellence. From a boy the judge has had a decided fondness for music, both vocal and instrumental, and has found in the cultivation of the art a pleasant relief from the more arduous duties of his professions.

In politics the judge has been identified with the Whig and Republican parties. He cast his first vote for Henry Clay for President.

He was married, Sept. 19, 1833, to Mary Ann Minerva Hartwell, daughter of Dr. John P. Hartwell, a prominent physician of Oneida County. Mrs. Butts was born March 22, 1816. The issue of this marriage were two sons, viz., Julius Elihu and Charles Edwin. The former, a merchant in New York City, married Carrie E. Stratton, daughter of Hon. Charles B. Stratton, of Brooklyn. They have three children, viz., Lillian E., Alfred N. (deceased), and Anna. Lillian E. married J. Azro Gould, a merchant in Rutland, Vt. Charles Edwin by profession is a music-teacher.

Both the judge and Mrs. Butts were converted under the preaching of the late Prof. Charles G. Finney, - the judge at the age of eighteen, - and both united with the Second Presbyterian Church of Rome, and have been members of the First Presbyterian Church at Schaghticoke since their residence in that town.

For many years the judge has been a trustee, treasurer, and clerk of that church, and for the last four years the leader of its choir.

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