HISTORY OF

SARATOGA COUNTY, NEW YORK.

by NATHANIEL BARTLETT SYLVESTER

1878

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CAPTAIN JAMES P. BUTLER.

 

Portrait of Captain J.P. Butler

 

James Prentice Butler was born at Moriah, Essex Co., N.Y., Sept, 20, 1816. His paternal ancestors were Scotch-Irish, and settled originally at Martha's Vineyard, whence they removed to Woodbury, Conn. His great-great grandfather, Jonathan Butler, was a sea captain. His great grandfather, Malachi Butler, settled at Woodbury, Conn., early in the seventeenth century, whence the various branches of the family emigrated. He had sons, Zephaniah, Benjamin, Silas, and Solomon, the latter being the grandfather of the subject of this sketch.

Captain Zephaniah Butler was the grandfather of Major-General Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, and was a soldier under General Wolfe at the taking of Quebec. He settled at Nottingham, N.H., in 1759. Solomon Butler, grandfather of Captain James P. Butler, settled at Addison, Vt., soon after the termination of the Revolutionary war, in which he served as lieutenant, and fought at the battle of White Plains. He received his pay in Continental money so depreciated that, on his way home, he paid sixty dollars for a single meal. Captain Butler has now several bills, a remnant of the currency, which he values above par as a souvenir of the gallant services of his ancestor in the War of the Revolution.

Captain Butler has in his possession a volume of Homer's Odyssey, of date 1772. with the family name bearing date at Woodbury, Conn., 1782; so that his branch of the family left about that period for the valley of Lake Champlain.

Captain Butler inherited from his ancestors great vigor of constitution and strong mental endowments. Although at an early age his opportunities for education were limited, he possessed an ardent thirst for knowledge and was an incessant reader of books. He studied law in the office of the late Zebulon R. Shepherd, formerly an eminent criminal lawyer of Washington county, and was admitted to practice in the old common pleas court in 1840, in the supreme court in 1843, as solicitor in the court of chancery in 1846, and as counselor in the supreme court in 1847.

At an early age he took an active interest in political affairs, being first identified with the Whig party, and subsequently a Republican. He represented hie native town in the board of supervisors of Essex county for several years in succession. At the age of sixteen he enlisted in an independent company of artillery, and was promoted through all the various grades till he attained the rank of major in the Seventeenth Regiment of Artillery, when in 1845 the militia system was abolished, leaving him with supernumerary rank. He was appointed district attorney of Essex county by Governor Hunt, in 1852, to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Edward S. Shumway. He was nominated by the Whig party to the same office in the fall of 1853, and was elected by a very large majority. At the end of his term, in 1857, he removed to Saratoga County, and opened a law-office, where he has remained in practice ever since.

At the commencement of the late civil war he took an active part in the defense of the Union. In April, 1862, he went through Baltimore the day after the riotous assault upon the sixth Massachusetts Regiment. On reaching Washington he was enlisted in Cassius M. Clay's battalion, and served fourteen days, being stationed at the White House.

In April, 1863, he was appointed by the President of the United States, under the enrolment act, provost marshal of the Eighteenth District of New York, and established his headquarters in the city of Schenectady. He executed and enforced the first draft ordered in the State during the riots of that year, and enlisted the first squad of colored men for the army which entered the service. He served as provost marshal, with the rank of captain, from April, 1863, to October, 1865, when he was honorably discharged. In all the offices of responsibility and trust which he has filled, Captain Butler has attained a high reputation for efficiency and integrity, and in his professional and private life has well earned the confidence and esteem so universally accorded him.

His devotion to the government in the time of its need is evinced by the fact that in 1864 he put into the service a representative recruit for his infant son, Walter P. Butler, for whom he paid thc sum of nine hundred dollars. He has a certificate of thc enlistment from the records at Washington, and a photograph of the soldier, who was killed in the service.

He has been a trustee of the village of Saratoga Springs for four years, and was a member of the board of supervisors in 1870 and 1871.

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Transcribed from the original text and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 2/7/00.

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