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Personal recollections of Pardee Butler by…
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Personal recollections of Pardee Butler

by Pardee Butler

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Pardee Butler (1816-1888) was a longtime preacher in the Disciples of Christ church who is best known for his activities as an abolitionist in Kansas during the “Bleeding Kansas” years 1854-1861. Butler considered himself more of a Free-Stater than an abolitionist of the James Garrison school.

Butler was born March 9, 1816 in New York, but moved to the Western Reserve of Ohio with his family in the fall of 1818, where he lived until the spring of 1850, when he moved to a farm near Long Grove, Iowa. While in Ohio, he became a member of the Disciples of Christ and married.

He served as an evangelist for the Disciples in northeast Iowa and in the Military Tract in west-central Illinois. In May 1854, Butler traveled to the Kansas Territory to buy a tract of land near Atchison. In August 1855, when Butler was on his way to claim his land, he was “arrested” by a pro-slavery mob, put upon a small raft, and sent down the Missouri River. A canvas flag was installed on the raft stating, “Eastern Aid Express” and “Rev. Mr. Butler Agent for the Underground Railroad,” a drawing of which is on p. 72.

Butler spent the winter preaching in Illinois. When he returned to Kansas in April 1856, a pro-slavery mob met him, threatened to shoot or hang him, but decided to “tar and feather” him instead. Since they had no feathers handy, they used cotton balls instead. Subsequently, Butler faced numerous threats on his life until Kansas became a state in 1861.

Butler spent most of his years in Kansas as an evangelist for the Disciples of Christ, starting or reviving many churches in the state. After being denied support by the American Christian Missionary Society (a Disciples of Christ organization), he was supported by the Christian Missionary Society, formed in 1859 by Disciples whose abolitionist views matched those of Butler.

Butler also was a prohibitionist and was successful in seeing Kansas incorporate prohibition into its fundamental law in 1861.

The majority of the book consists of the “personal recollections” of Butler, however, Butler's daughter, Rosetta B. Hastings, the wife of a Disciples preacher, writes four chapters of “reminiscences” that fill-in a number of details that help the reader understand Butler and his situation. For example, Rosetta describes how Butler died in 1888 as a result of injuries related to an accident with a horse.

Elder John Boggs, a founding member of the Christian Missionary Society, provides a chapter, “Pro-Slavery Hindrances,” which includes information very useful to persons interested in learning more of the impact that the slavery issue had on the Disciples of Christ. One example is Boggs' mentioning of a Disciples Antislavery Convention that was held in Indianapolis, on November 1, 1859 (p. 328).

Elder J. B. McCleery provides a chapter on Butler's “Temperance and Church Work.” John A. Martin, Ex-Governor of Kansas and the Rev. D. C. Milner, former Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, at Atchison, each write a chapter of tribute to the life of Butler.

Persons interested in learning more about Disciples who were abolitionists or about the early years of the Disciples of Christ in Kansas should find the book to be of value. I admit to being surprised at the quality of the content. My copy of the book is the Google version, available on the Internet. It is searchable. There is no index. ( )
1 vote SCRH | Oct 12, 2013 |
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