John Humphrey Butts, one of the largest and most successful business men of southern Kansas, merchant, banker, lumber dealer, large free-holder and builder and owner of the Butts building of Wichita, was born on a farm in Casey county, Kentucky, Dec. 29, 1853. Mr. Butts has descended from good, old Virginia Revolutionary stock. His father, Archibald Butts, who was a farmer, was born in Virginia, and his paternal ancestors had lived in the Old Dominion since before the Revolutionay war, some of them participating in that historical conflict. His paternal grandfather was Ambrose Butts. The family is of English, Scotch, and Irish descent. The mother of Mr. Butts was Priscilla Humphrey, a native of Kentucky, and a daughter of David Humphrey, whose wife's mother was a Miss Jones, said to be related to a Scotch royal family. Priscilla Humphrey was a second cousin of Hon. Lyman U. Humphrey, ex-governor of Kansas. Both parents of Mr. Butts are dead. They came to Kansas in 1869, and spent the remainder of their lives in Butler and Cowley counties. Both died in Butler county, the father in 1901, at the age of eighty-one, and the mother in 1905, at the age of seventy-nine. Mr. Butts was the fourth in a family of nine children, seven sons and two daughters, of whom six sons and two daughters are living. The eldest child, William Clay Butts, died in Trinidad, Colo., in 1904, aged sixty-two years. The eight living children are: David Green Butts, of Leon, Kan.; Johnson Butts, of El Reno, Okla.; Mrs. Lydia Jane Ward, of Winfield, Kan.; Mrs. Lucinda Snodgrass, of Tulsa, Okla; James. A. Butts, of Muskogee, Okla.; Louis N. and Morris H. Butts, of Tulsa, Okla.
John Humphrey Butts has lived in the State of Kansas since he was sixteen years old, or since 1869. Reared on a farm, he attended the meager country schools of pioneer times and thus procured the rudiments of an education. He learned how to read, write and spell, acquired a little knowledge of history and geography, and became familiar to a limited extent with figures. With these fundamental principles of an education, there was coupled a business capacity that has enabled him to outstrip and go far ahead of scores and thousands of youths who had the advantage of a college education. As for John H. Butts, he never had the privilege of ever viewing the outside of a college, much less of exploring and mastering the mysteries of the inside. In spite of this fact there are undoubtedly many thousands of college bred men who would be glad to swap places with Mr. Butts today, and to occupy his position of influence and prominence in the business world. His case merely substantiates the truth of the time-honored statement that it is not education alone that makes the man. For he, together with countless others, has achieved the grand prize of success without it, and his example should prove to be a source of encouragement to the vast army of young men of today, who are deprived of the advantages of a college education. Mr. Butts was a resident of Butler county, Kansas, for nearly forty years. It was there that he got his "start in life," and it was there that he acquired the bulk of his present fortune, now reputed to be one of the largest and most princely individual estates to be found anywhere in the state. For ten years he lived in Leon, and for eighteen years in Augusta, both towns of Butler county. In Leon he was engaged in the lumber business, while in Augusta he devoted himself to the lumber, hardware and banking business. In 1908 he removed to Wichita, where he became the founder of one of the largest implement houses in the state. This house is still in existence, though in order to have more time for his other large interests, he has lately transferred the ownership and management of this vast implement emporium to his son, J. Arch Butts, who is possessed of a business talent of a high order. The concern, which is conducted in the name of J. Arch Butts, is both wholesale and retail in character, and its business extends over a large portion of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. In order the better to accommodate the growing trade of this business, and for the purpose of establishing a source of permanent income to himself on a broad scale, in the year 1910 John Butts, at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, erected on the corner of First street and North Lawrence avenue in Wichita what is known as the Butts building, in which is combined a business house and an office building, both of large capacity and dimensions. It occupies a space of 100 by 140 feet, having a frontage on North Lawrence avenue of 100 feet and on First street of 140 feet. It is built of concrete, brick and steel, is six stories in height, besides a basement throughout, is equipped with modern elevators and is absolutely fireproof, being equipped not only with the finest automatic sprinkler system to be found in the world, but in addition it is provided with a 20,000-gallon pressure tank on top of the building for protection in case the city water pressure should fail. The sprinkler system consists of automatic sprinkler heads placed at intervals of eight feet throughout the entire building, from the basement to the attic, including the elevator and stairways. With this double protection against fire the building could not be made to burn up under any circumstances, and in this respect it is the best protected office building in Wichita. The entire first floor of the building is devoted entirely to mercantile purposes, and it is here that the immense wholesale and retail business is located, which includes all kinds of farm implements and machinery, wagons, buggies and automobiles. The Butts building is one of the best constructed office and business buildings in the State of Kansas. It serves as one of the most substantial improvements in the new and modern Wichita and will ever prove to be a lasting monument to the name of its broad-minded owner, who in many ways other than this has shown himself to be a man of large ideas and one who does things on a broad scale. It is to the management of the office part of the building that Mr. Butts now gives a large share of his time. Mr. Butts is secretary and treasurer of the Western Furniture Company of Wichita and he owns a controlling interest in its stock. Besides his large business interests in Wichita he owns extensive lumber and timber interests in Oklahoma, Arkansas and at Mitchell, Rice county, Kansas. In the State of Arkansas he owns 5,000 acres of fine, virgin timbered land in a body, the value of which will be apparent to every one in view of the growing scarcity of that class of lands. While a resident of Augusta Mr. Butts was president and had entire control of the First National Bank of that place for seven years, owning about ninety per cent. of its stock, which interests he sold prior to his removal from that place. In politics Mr. Butts is a Republican, but barring service on the Augusta city council and a few other minor political positions, he has never been a candidate for office. Both Mr. Butts and wife are prominent and active members of the Central Christian church of Wichita and he is a member of its board of trustees. Their residence at No. 1215 North Lawrence avenue, which they erected in 1909, is one of the handsomest and most palatial private homes in Wichita and is a delightful and charming improvement to one of the city's most select residence streets.
Mr. Butts was married in Butler county, Kansas, Dec. 18, 1874, to Miss Clara Alma King, who still continues to be his patient and devoted helpmeet. Mrs. Butts was born in Mercer county, Missouri, February 5, 1860, the daughter of Jacob King and his wife, whose maiden name was Lydia Sophia Miller, both of whom were natives of Ohio. Her father's parents came to this country from Germany. Mr. and Mrs. Butts have six living childrenone son and five daughtersas follows: Myrtle, wife of Dr. Harvey A. Hill of Augusta, Kan., whom she married on Aug. 18, 1898, and by whom she has two sons, John Harvey and Jerry King, aged ten and seven respectively; Jacob Archibald Butts, the only son, married May 15, 1902, to Minnie Ellen Chambers, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and by her has one son, John Humphrey Butts, aged two years; Moneta, wife of Milton Bosse of Ellenwood, Kan., whom she married April 19, 1911; the youngest three daughters, Hazel, Berenice, and Madeline, are still under the parental roof completing their college education. While neither Mr. Butts nor his wife had the advantage of a finished education, they are giving to all of their children every possible educational advantage in the way of attendance at college. The two eldest children, Mrs. Hill and J. Arch Butts, finished their education at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa; Moneta is a graduate of the Kansas State University, class of 1910; Hazel and Berenice are both students there now, the former being a member of the class of 1912 and the latter of the class of 1913.
The name of John H. Butts deserves honorable mention in the history of Kansas. Coming to the state in the days of the pioneer, he has tenaciously clung to the Sunflower Ship on both rough seas and calm from 1869 to the present day, and while he was chiefly and personally interested in the building up of his own fortune and the rearing of his family, he has contributed a large part toward the development of the state and her splendid resources. Back in the dark days of grasshoppers, chinch bugs, mortgages, panics, crop failures and almost every other tribulation that has ever beset the pioneers of any state, John H. Butts never took fright and hastily departed as did many others. Instead he bravely stuck to Kansas and to the business he had in hand, and by so doing he not only won out, but he likewise helped to lift the state up to the proud position it occupies today and carved his impress upon her fair name that even time cannot efface. A man of inflexible honesty and of a high order of personal integrity, his life has been a most worthy one, and his career has been such as to stimulate the rising youth to the point of emulation. Having won the much-coveted grand prize, success, the rest of his life should be one continuous session of uninterrupted satisfaction and happiness.Pages 1185-1188 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
J | K | L | Mc | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project