Located in west-central Custer County, Butler is situated approximately thirteen miles northwest of Arapaho, the county seat, and at the intersection of State Highways 33 and 44. A post office was established there on June 2, 1898, six years after the Cheyenne-Arapaho land opening. George H. Shirk asserts that the town was named for Maj. Gen. Matthew C. Butler (1836-1909), who served as a U.S. senator from South Carolina. Between 1909 and 1910 the Clinton and Oklahoma Western Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built a line connecting Butler to Clinton to the east. Two years later the line was extended westward from Butler to Strong City.
Butler served as a support center for the local farmers who grew cotton, broomcorn, and wheat. In 1909 residents operated four general stores, two blacksmith shops, a cotton gin, a livery, and a bank. The town offered a hotel and two restaurants for travelers. E. A. Olmstead served as the postmaster as well as the publisher of the weekly newspaper, the Butler Herald. By 1919 Baptist, Christian, and Methodist churches had been organized. Diversified agriculture created a need for two grain elevators and a flour mill. In the 1930s the Butler Gin and the Farmers Cooperative Gin each employed five individuals.
According to Polk's 1909 Oklahoma State Gazetteer and Business Directory, Butler had an estimated 150 inhabitants. The first federal census indicated 332 residents in 1920. The number peaked at 473 in 1930 and hit its lowest point at 315 in 1970. The 1940 census reported 428, and the population remained steady at 351 in 1950 and 1960. In 1980 and 1990 Butler had 388 and 341 citizens, respectively, and at the turn of the twenty-first century, 345. It served as a "bedroom" community, as 94.7 percent of its employed residents commuted to work in Arapaho, Clinton, or Weatherford. Citizens supported the Butler Elementary and the Butler High schools, which offered grades prekindergarten through twelve. Songwriters and musicians John "Johnny" and Frank "Frankie" Marvin, brothers born in Butler, were associated with Gene Autry in the 1930s.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Butler," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. History of Custer and Washita Counties, Oklahoma, 1883-1937([Clinton, Okla.]: Clinton Daily News, 1937). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).
Linda D. Wilson
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