C. W. BUTTERFIELD


From History of Dane County, Wisconsin, publ. by Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1880, page 962-963

C. W. BUTTERFIELD was born near the village of Colosse, Oswego Co, N.Y., July 28, 1824; his parents were from Brattleboro, Vt. In 1834, the family removed to Melmore, Seneca Co., Ohio. The son's early advantages for education were limited, his studies beyond the rudiments having been pursued wholly without instruction. At the age of 18, he commenced teaching a district school in Hamlet, Chautauqua Co., N.Y. He afterward attended the State Normal school in Albany, for two terms; but, his health failing, he left the institution for a voyage to Europe, returning to Ohio in the autumn of 1846.

In 1847, he wrote a history of Seneca Co., Ohio, which was published the year following. It was really the first strictly county history ever issued in separate book from west of the Allegheny Mountains. In 1847, the author was elected Superintendent of the schools of his county, and was re-elected in 1848. Early in 1849, he resigned to take an overland journey to California. The next year, 1850, he was an independent candidate in the "Golden State" for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but was defeated by a few votes. He returned to Ohio in 1851; studied law; and, in 1855, entered upon the practice of his profession in Bucyrus, Crawford Co. During the previous year, he served as Secretary of the Ohio & Indiana Railroad Company.

While engaged in his professional duties, he found time to write a treatise on punctuation, which was published in 1858, and highly commended for the accuracy of its definitions, the clearness of its arrangement, and the perspicuity of its language. In 1878, an abridgement of the book was published, especially adapted to the wants of common schools. Quitting the practice of the law in 1872, he has since devoted his time to literary pursuits.

In 1873 was issued from the press of Robert CLARKE & Co., Cincinnati, Mr. BUTTERFIELD's well-known monograph "An Historical Account of the Expedition Against Sandusky Under Col William Crawford, in 1782." The work proved a great success. No book of its class (Parkman's "Pontiac" alone excepted) has ever been received with more general interest and favor. It reveals to the reader, in picturesque language, one of the most absorbing as well as the most startling chapters in American annals. "The history," to quote the words of the Atlantic Monthly, "has a general value as a study of pioneer life and warfare, which we should be sorry to leave unmentioned; and the sketches of adventure in which it abounds add greatly to the interest of the main narrative." "Aside from the exciting recital," says the New York Genealogical and Geographical Record, "of the almost fabulous and romantic adventures and escapes of many of the officers and privates, and the painful relation of the hardships of the disastrous retreat, not the least interesting are the biographical and genealogical sketches of the most prominent actors in the expedition."

The book just mentioned is, in many ways, so remarkable that we cannot refrain from giving a few more extracts from leading periodicals to show the general estimation of the work. Says the New York Observer: "The terrible death of Col. Crawford by torture, is depicted with so much vividness and power that one, in reading it, almost feels that he is a personal witness of the terrible transaction." The New York Times: "The author has taken a world of pains to gather authentic documents, reports, narratives and biographies, having reference to the men and things of ninety or a hundred years ago." Of the author and his history, the Louisville Courier-Journal says: "Mr. BUTTERFIELD possesses many of the best qualities of an historian, as also unusual ability as a writer. The sketches of Col Crawford, with whose tragic death by burning at the stake the book closes with dramatic fitness, and of his various officers, are interesting in the extreme. The work conveys an impression of those early days of the frontier, and its people living in their humble cabins, and of their mode of warfare, in a style and diction surpassed only by Macaulay upon a broader field." "Next to its historical value," says the Literary World,"the chief merit of the work is its abundance of chronicles of personal achievement under circumstances of thrilling interest - circumstances that can never be renewed, and belonging to a life that Americans must ever look back upon with emotions of pride and pity." We make these quotations because they, besides showing the marked popular favor with which the work has been received by the press, also convey our personal opinion in regard to it.

In 1875 Mr. BUTTERFIELD moved to Madison, Wis., drawn there by the beauty of the city and her extensive libraries. In 1876 he wrote, with Dr. Lyman C. DRAPER, a work made up of romantic passages in our country's history. It is entitled "The Heroic Age of America," and is replete with accounts of border forays, conflicts and incidents. The book will soon be issued from the press. In the spring of 1877, he published "The Washington-Crawford Letters" (Robert Clarke & Co.), a valuable contribution to the earl history of the trans-Allegheny country. This volume was also received with marked favor by the press, in the East as well as in the West. Dr. Herbert B. ADAMS, Fellow in History in Johns Hopkins University, in a paper of profound research, entitled "Maryland's Influence in Founding a National Commonwealth," read before the Maryland Historical Society April 9, 1877, and since published, highly commends the work, declaring it to be "edited in a most thorough and pains-taking manner." The valuable appendix to Dr. ADAMS' paper was occasioned "in toto" by the publication of these letters.

In the fall of 1877, Mr. BUTTERFIELD completed, for an illustrated atlas of Wisconsin, a brief history of the State - the leading article in the work. He has since edited the "Washington-Irving Letters," another addition to the Revolutionary annals of our country, of special value. His annotations are drawn from a great variety of sources in the United States, and from the State Paper office in London, England. The work has not yet been published. Mr. BUTTERFIELD has also written "The History and Biographical Annals of the University of Wisconsin," a small and unpretending volume, but characterized by the author's usual research and accuracy. He is now at work upon a "History of the Discovery of Wisconsin," considerable material for which he has already gathered.

Finally, it cannot fail to interest our readers that Father Hyacinth, the world-renowned orator, is married to Mr. BUTTERFIELD's sister. Her earliest years were passed in a comparatively new country, where she was deprived of facilities for an education in schools. Her reliance, it is said, was largely upon her brother, who taught her the common English branches at their home. From him, it may therefore reasonably be presumed, she received such incentives as afterward resulted in those scholarly attainments so well known both in Europe and in America. Mr. BUTTERFIELD is a man of marked intellectual and physical vigor, and will doubtless make many more contributions to the historical literature of America.


Transcribed and contributed to this site by Carol

 

 

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