IRA F.M. BUTLER. – The honesty and wholeheartedness of a certain, and indeed, predominating, class of our early settlers is nowhere better exemplified than in Mr. Butler. Seventy-seven years of age, but still vigorous and kindly, adhering firmly to the temperance principles which have prevented the dissipation of his native course, and while well-to-do, indeed wealthy, spending much of his means in benevolent works, he is a striking example of the noble old gentleman.
He was born in Barren county, Kentucky, in 1812, and was the son of Major Peter Butler, distinguished in the war of 1812. In 1829 the family moved to Illinois. Young Butler grew up on a farm in the region since designated as Warren county, remaining with his father until the outbreak of the Black Hawk war. He heard the call raised at that time to save the early settlements, and enlisting served until the Indians were quieted. The experience thus obtained served to open for him the position of deputy sheriff. In 1835 he was married to Miss Mary A. Davidson, who for more than fifty years was his devoted wife, and bore him eight children. Soon afterwards he was elected sheriff, and four years later was appointed by Stephen A. Douglas as clerk of the circuit court, filling that office seven years.
In 1853 he sold his farm and closed out all his business, with the intention of crossing the plains, and became captain of a train bound for Oregon. By August 9th his company had passed all the mountains, and had gained the limits of Polk county. On the lovely plain about Monmouth, Mr. Butler chose his square mile, and has made this his home to the present day, owning also a few acres and a handsome residence in Monmouth, – one of those beautiful towns of the Willamette valley where nearly every house has its large lot and garden and orchard, where the streets are shady, and where there are church spires and school buildings.
Mr. Butler was early sought to occupy public offices, being elected in 1854 and again in1858 to serve in the legislature. He acted as speaker of the latter session, and was returned again in 1860. In 1878 he was elected judge of Polk county, and in 1882 was honored with the position of recorder of the town of Monmouth, which office he holds to the present time. He has performed the duties of justice of the peace almost continuously, except as otherwise officially occupied. As a public officer, and particularly as legislator, he has been the friend of the people, and solicitous to expend their public moneys wisely. Lobbyists, ringsters and corruptionists have found him a hard man to manage.
His wife is now deceased; and, of his children, two died in infancy, a grown daughter passed away in Oregon, and a son in California. Of the four living, N.H. Butler is a druggist of Monmouth; Professor Asa Douglas Butler resides at Napa, California; and the two daughters, Maggie and Alice, live with their father, making his home happy, although it is not without its pathetic memories of times past.
It was but as a boy that Mr. Butler resolved, as he says, that “ardent spirits should never destroy what sense he had;” and bravely has he stuck to his principles. He has also been rigidly scrupulous to pay his just debts. As president of the board of trustees of Monmouth College, and in other ways, he has done much for education, and, besides his own children, has helped four other young people to an education, – seeing one young lady through the entire course.