Mercer County PAGenWeb

Joseph Green Butler, Jr.

JOSEPH GREEN BUTLER, JR.—The state of Ohio has enrolled upon her banner of fame the names of men who have become noted in the world of politics and business, whose influence has been felt throughout the nation, and who will go down in the history of our country as those who have been largely responsible for its progress and prosperity. The subject of this review, although not a native of the state, has been a resident in it for nearly half a century, during which time his influence has been felt far and wide.

Joseph G. Butler, Jr., was born at Temperance Furnace, Mercer county, Pennsylvania, December 21, 1840, and is the son of Joseph Green Butler and Temperance (Orwig) Butler. The traits of character which are manifest in the Scotch-Irish race, such as industry, perseverance and honesty, predominate in the men­tal and physical make-up of Mr. Butler, and to these only can be attributed his success in life. His father, a man of limited means, early instilled in him the fundamental principles of an upright life. He was an original Washingtonian and an uncompromising temperance advocate. In early life he came to Trumbull county, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits and also served as sheriff of the county. The educational opportunities of the son were limited and consisted principally of a few short months in the common or public school at Niles, Ohio, which he attended at the same time with Major William McKinley, and between the boys matured a friendship which time has only strengthened. Mr. Butler was early compelled to enter business life and when he was thirteen years old we find him working in the old rolling-mill store belonging to the firm of James Ward & Company, of which Mr. Butler, Sr., was manager. At sixteen he was transferred to the shipping department of the rolling-mill, where he served two years, and at eighteen was made bookkeeper of the concern, which position he filled until twenty-one, when the entire supervision of the office of James Ward & Company, which at that time was looked upon as a very large concern was given in his charge.

In 1863 Mr. Butler entered the employ of Hale & Ayer, of Chicago, with the expectation of being trans­ferred thither. However, this firm owned an interest in the Brown-Bonnell Iron Company, of Youngstown, and there Mr. Butler was sent to represent his new employers. For three years he continued with Hale & Ayer, and in 1866 formed a partnership with Governor David Tod, William Ward and William Rich­ards, for the purpose of building a blast furnace at Girard, under the name of the Girard Iron Company, with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars, divided into four equal parts. Mr. Butler had charge of the financial part of the enterprise, and when Governor Tod died in 1868 the estate disposed of his share, which was acquired by A. M. Byers, of Pittsburg, to whom, in 1878, Mr. Butler also sold his interest. At this time, at the invitation of the sons of Governor Tod and John Stambaugh, Mr. Butler bought an interest in the Brier Hill Iron Company, of which he became manager. The corporation has been very successful, and to-day is, if not the most important, certainly one of the principal industries of Youngstown. In addition to the foregoing Mr. Butler is interested in the Ohio Steel Company, which has a capital of $1,250,000, and of which he is vice-president and one of the founders. He is also president of the Bessemer Limestone Company, which he, with others, organized in 1887. All of these enterprises have been successful and prosperous. Mr. Butler is a director of the Pittsburg, Youngstown & Ashtabula Railway Company and of the Cleveland & Mahoning Valley Railway Company, and is interested in the Aragon Mining Company, at Norway, Michigan.

Notwithstanding Mr. Butler’s prosperity and in­dustry, he is by no means a man of large wealth. His generous nature and open-handed hospitality has in a measure prevented the accumulation of great wealth. When any one is in need his assistance is greatly sought for, and all who are acquainted with him know his weakness in that respect toward humanity. Socially, he is exceedingly popular and his geniality has won for him the friendship of all who come in contact with him. He is a member of the Ohio Society of New York, the American Geographical Society, also of New York, the Union Club, of Cleveland, the Duquesne Club, of Pittsburg, and the Rayen Club, of Youngstown.

It is, however, as a supporter of the Republican party that Mr. Butler merits the gratitude of the people of the eighteenth congressional district of Ohio. No man has given more disinterested attention to the party at all times or has been more willing to spend his time and money in its behalf, and during all of these years he has never sought office for himself but proves a steadfast friend to those who have filled official positions, and has helped, to his utmost, their success. In 1868 he was a member of the first city council at Youngstown and has served in a similar capacity twice since then, in addition to giving his services to the board of health.

Mr. Butler’s ancestors on the paternal side were among those who have been instrumental in building up the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They aided the formation of the infant republic and incidentally took part in the different political complications that have arisen since the war of the Revolution. Thomas Butler, Sr., Joseph Green and James Miles, great-grandfathers of the subject of this review, were among the pioneer iron manufacturers of Pennsylvania, a business that seems to be an inheritance of the Butlers and Greens, General Nathaniel Greene’s father being one of the first iron-makers of New Jersey; and most of the Butlers, from Thomas, Sr., down to the present day, have been interested in the business. Always loyal, the Butlers have been found to be affiliated with the political parties which history has shown to have been the most beneficial to our country’s progress, first as Federalists, then as Whigs, and afterward as Free-soilers and Republicans.

In 1791 Colonel Patton and Colonel Samuel Miles, of Revolutionary fame, the latter a brother-in-law of Joseph Green, Sr., built near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, a blast furnace and called it Center Furnace. The Milesburg Iron Works, in the Bald Eagle Valley, was already in operation, having been built by Joseph Green, Sr., and John and Joseph Miles. Among those interested in the early operation of the above mentioned works was Joseph Butler, a son of Thomas Butler, Sr., who married Miss Esther Green, a daughter of Joseph Green, his business partner. He abandoned the iron business for a time to serve in the war of 1812, and in 1821 was elected sheriff of Center county on the Whig ticket. The high tariff times of 1824 to 1828 was very beneficial to the iron trade, and Center county, especially about Bellefonte and Milesburg, was quite prosperous. Thomas Butler’s son, Joseph G. Butler, Sr., while yet a young man, had become associated with his grandfather, Joseph Green, as manager of the Center Furnace. The tinkering with the tariff (commenced in 1832 and culminating in the financial crisis of 1837) suspended operations in the iron business until the Whigs got into power in 1841, when a protective tariff was instituted that encouraged the industries of the country and brought a reign of prosperity until 1846. About 1838 Joseph G. Butler, Sr., came to western Pennsylvania and built a furnace near Mercer, to which he gave the name of Temperance Furnace, in honor of his wife, Temperance Orwig, whose grandfather was the founder of Orwigsburg, in Schuylkill county. Losing his property by fire in 1842, Mr. Butler moved to Niles, Ohio, and took the management of James Ward & Company’s mills and furnace. This firm eventually became one of the most prosperous in the west.

Mr. J. G. Butler, Sr., identified himself with the Republican party and was elected on that ticket to the office of sheriff of Trumbull county in 1860, and again in 1862. While a young man Mr. Butler was a schoolmate of the late Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, who was always one of his stanchest friends.

Mr. Butler certainly has cause for indulging in family pride, as he has among his list of ancestors many prominent names. Coming from the ancient house of Ormond through the Butlers, he is also connected with Colonel Samuel Miles, of Revolutionary fame and the mayor of Philadelphia in 1790, and one of his kinsmen, John Miles, being the founder of the Baptist church in America. The Greens were of Quaker stock, and on the Griffith side he is a descend­ant of Llewellyn Griffith, marquis of Cardigan.

Joseph G. Butler was married January 10, 1866, to Miss Harriet V. Ingersoll, a daughter of Lieutenant Jonathan Ingersoll, of the United States navy, and three children have been born to them: Blanche, now Mrs. E. L. Ford, whose husband is the manager of the Youngstown Steel Company; they have two children, John Willard and Josephine; Grace is the wife of Mr. Arthur McGraw, of Detroit, who is a member of the firm of Parke, Davis & Company, chemists, and they have one child, Arthur Butler McGraw; and Henry A., a '97 student in Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Source: History of the Republican Party in Ohio, Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1898, pages 568-570

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