Saturday, June 21, 2014

J.J. Butts, Pioneer Hardware Merchant

According to his death record, Joseph Jeremiah Butts was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on October 20, 1843, to Charles Butts and Anna (Long) Butts.  Most often known by his initials, J.J., the name Joseph Jeremiah Butts has many variations, in a variety of vital and military records. Oakland Cemetery records list his name as J.J. Butts. In the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census, his name appears at Jerry Butts. In the U.S. Civil War Pension index, his name is listed as Joseph J. Butz. These inconsistencies in names and spellings can make genealogy research quite challenging. By comparing other information, such as his wife’s name and parents’ names, and double-checking addresses provided on the records, it is possible to sort out the facts, in spite of the conflicting information given in the records. In the 1860s, J.J. Butts moved from his birthplace of Pennsylvania, to the state of Illinois. During the Civil War, J.J. Butts served in Company B of the 105th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. After the Civil War, J.J. Butts moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where he was a clerk in the hardware store of Barney & Ferris for several years.  By 1881, he became a partner with Thomas Whitworth in the hardware business of Butts & Whitworth. In 1892, J.J. Butts opened his own hardware store, with his son as his partner. The store J.J. Butts & Son Hardware Store was located in the Sloane Block on Columbus Avenue in downtown Sandusky.  Below is a postcard of Columbus Avenue from 1913, in which the Sloane House and Sloane block can be seen on the west side of Columbus Avenue.

 A closer view of the postcard shows the sign of the J.J. Butts and Son Hardware store, which sold iron and nails, and other hardware items.

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center has transcripts of Civil War letters written by J. J. Butts to his parents during his time in the Civil War. In the letters, J.J. Butts tells about marching to Atlanta, skirmishes against enemy troops, foraging for food, building bridges, and writing letters by the light of the campfire. He often comments on his well being, in order to comfort his family members back home.  While we do not own the original letters, we are grateful to Butts descendant Douglas Butts, who loaned the letters to the Sandusky Library. Helen Hansen, former Follett House curator, transcribed the Civil War letters written by J.J. Butts. 

On September 15, 1927, J.J. Butts died, following a lengthy illness. Funeral services were held at the Masonic Temple, and burial was at Oakland Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary, son Theodore, and daughters, Mrs. Chauncey F. Lake and Mrs. Edna Buck. An obituary for J.J. Butts appeared in the September 16, 1927 issue of the Sandusky Register.  Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center if you would like to read the transcripts of the Civil War letters written by J. J. Butts.

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