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More WataugaLakeMagazine articles:

The Butler Museum

Learn how and why Watauga Lake was formed and how the citizens of "Old Butler" Tennessee were changed forever. . . .

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Jonesborough TN

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Rat Branch Boat Ramp

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Watauga Point

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The Carter Mansion

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Doe River Gorge

See the beautiful gorge and ride the rails where the Tweetsie Train traveled ...

Gray Fossil Site

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Colonel Roderick Butler

Learn about the man for whom the town of Butler was named ...

Sugar Hollow Retreat

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Fish Springs Marina

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Butler Tennessee:

Colonel Roderick Random Butler's Namesake: Part 1

Colonel Roderick Random Butler of Mountain City near Watauga Lake Tennessee Email this page to someone
All photos and illustrations by Pat Johns ©2007 - present
All Rights Reserved
See links to article references at the end of the article.

September, 2007

Note: Thanks to Joan & Bill Trathen, owners of the former home of Col. Butler in Mountain City, TN for allowing us to include photos from their home. While the residence was formerly a Bed & Breakfast (and still appears as one on some internet sites) it is currently a private residence and not open to the public.

The town we now know as Old Butler Tennessee was known for many decades as Smith's Mill (after Ezekial Smith.) After the Civil War, the town was renamed in honor of Colonel Roderick R. Butler, who had been a commander in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry.

The Colonel Roderick Butler House in Mountain City near Watauga Lake Tennessee

Roderick Random Butler was born in Wytheville, Virginia in 1827. His father died before Roderick's first birthday. His mother remarried in 1832 and Roderick and his brother George were "bound out" for apprenticeships. Roderick was apprenticed as a tailor and moved to Taylorsville (now Mountain City) Tennessee.

In Taylorsville, Butler met and married Emeline Jane Donnelly, the daughter of a wealthy local farmer Richard Donnelly. Roderick and Emeline had 11 children.

The porch at The Colonel Roderick Butler House in Mountain City near Watauga Lake Tennessee

Butler began to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1853. He also was at times justice of the peace, postmaster and county judge.

He was elected to the Tennessee State House in 1859 and in 1861 voted against seccession from the Union. For this and his loyalties he was arrested by the Confederate Army several times.

He joined the 13th Tennessee Voluntary Cavalry as a lieutenant colonel in 1863. In 1865 he was appointed circuit judge fo the 1st Judicial Circuit of Tennessee. In 1867 he was elected a member of the United States House of Representatives.

In th 1880s, Butler returned to Tennessee. His wife Emeline died in 1899 and he died in 1902. They are both buried along with other family members in Mountain View Cemetery in Mountain City. It is said that Colonel Butler was instrumental in re-naming Taylorsville to its present-day name of Mountain City.

The town of Butler is now located a short distance from Mountain City, after being relocated in 1948 when the Watauga Dam / Watauga Lake project was completed.

The Butler Museum in Butler Tennessee near Watauga Lake Tennessee

"April 3, 1947 Rev. M.H. Carder, pastor of the Cobb's Creek Baptist Church, called a meeting of local citizens. The schoolhouse was filled. Preacher Carder had been thinking about a new town for some time, and at the schoolhouse meeting he and the trustees of his church announced that they had acquired options on the I.W. McQueen farm."

~ "Old Butler and Watauga Academy" by Dan Crowe 1983
available at the Butler Museum Store in Butler, Tennessee (423-768-2911)

The town was named Carderview in his honor. The project to purchase the farm and quickly lay out lots for homes worked well. The land was well placed in a beautiful location that would overlook the new lake. The project moved forward quickly and the initial 130 lots were sold quickly. House-moving contractors came to the area and houses, barns, stores and other buildings were moved to the new location with great speed.

Staircase at the Roderick Random Butler House in Mountain City near Watauga Lake Tennessee

An additional 200 acre tract of land was developed next to Carderview and named "New Butler". In 1953, Congressman B. Carroll Reece helped to have the new Post Office for the area changed back to Butler. The name of Colonel Roderick R. Butler now dead for half a century was preserved.

Inevitably, when there is a "New Butler", the old town now under water and a part of the history and memories of the people of the area for centuries became "Old Butler".

Throughout this article are present-day photos of the home of Colonel Roderick R Butler, his wife Emeline and their children. The house and grounds been beautifully restored and serves as a private home.

Go to Part 2 of this article

Flowers at the Roderick Random Butler House in Mountain City near Watauga Lake Tennessee Links to references in this article and to sites related Colonel Roderick R. Butler::

Go to Part 2 of this article