In our work, we will be focused largely on lands and stories which involve the first Pioneers who came to the Tualatin Valley. Before the Oregon Trail opened the Mountain Men and trappers came. Following those rugged souls were a handful of entrepreneurs. Isaac Butler and his family were among those tough enough to make it on the Tualatin Plains. Read their incredible story as told here my local historian, author, and good friend Ginny Mapes!
1845 -St Joseph, Missouri - The Jumping Off Point- Love Is In the Air.
Isaac Butler’s Early Life
”When Mr. Butler was eight years old his mother died, and later the family
removed to Illinois, and from there to Missouri. During this time the father
and one sister perished in a blizzard. After this, he was left to depend on
himself. Having to look out for his own support as he did, of course, he
never enjoyed any of the advantages of education.” An Illustrated History
of the State of Oregon by Hines p. 630-1 and History of the Willamette
Valley by Herbert Lang p.633
Americans have often been stereotyped as restless, always having the itch
to move, searching for a better place to live. Attracted by the tales of a rich
unsettled land where it was always summer, many dreamed of gaining new
health and/or wealth traveling to a true paradise — Oregon Country.
Problems of the past could be forgotten, left behind as they pushed on
towards a new, exiting land of plenty during that spring of 1845.
Marriage in Mind
Some were hoping to marry, indifferent to the uncertainty ahead. This had
been the case with Isaac Butler. “He had purchased a sturdy oxen team, a
stout wagon, ample provisions and hoped he could persuade a particular
young lady to become his traveling companion. He had pursued the hand
of Tabitha Tucker, of St. Joseph for some time but her parents had
forbidden their marriage. Rather than chance a rather long and possible
permanent separation, Tabitha excitedly accepted a last proposal from
Isaac. The afternoon of March 14, they made their way to the St. Joseph
ferry which left within minutes of their arrival. During the trip, the couple
engaged the services of Rev. William Harrison and when landing on the
opposite shore were ready for their honeymoon trip.” Isaac was 22 and
Oregon Trail to Fort Hall
In 1845 most recollections are of a very pleasant journey west. The
company the Butler’s are in was being led by Stephen Meek who tried to
follow an old Hudson’s Bay Company pack trail. Once on the cut-off, things
changed. The parties became lost. They knew this part of the trip would be
a rigorous experience. Isaac and Tabitha “kept their health.”
Other emigrants in the company encountered more hardships and tragedies in
what would become known as “Meek’s Cutoff” also the “Terrible Trail.”
Six Months Later
Arriving on the Tualatin Plains late in October 1845, the young newlyweds,
along with many others and started looking for land. It was wet, cold and
rainy. Isaac’s leather breeches so shrunk on the trip that he had to cut them
off when he reached Oregon.
After their long journey and finally locating to the plains, Isaac and Tabitha
worked to build a new life. They had a log cabin, and on April 19, 1847, a
baby boy was born. The nearest town was Oregon City, and that had only a
few inhabitants. They struggled to live during those early, hard pioneer
The Cayuse War
Upon receiving news of the massacre of Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman
and others, at Waiilatpu Mission, in the Walla Walla Valley, in December,
1847, George Abernathy, then Provisional Governor of Oregon, called for
volunteers to muster into the service of the Territory and proceed to the
Walla Walla country to assist what missionaries and emigrants there were
remaining in that country to the Willamette Valley, and to force the Cayuse
Indians to surrender the murderers.
Lawrence Hall, Isaac Butler and many of the men who had come west with
their company now volunteered to help, left their wives, children, and homes
and went North to help. It had to be a very trying time for those women left
to tend the home fires.
Isaac made it back along with most of the other men he had traveled west
with. More babies were born and life took on a more manageable pace.
The Butler School
Tabitha and Isaac eventually had ten children, education was important to
them, he started one of the early schools in Washington County, sometimes
called the Butler School.
By 1856, the Butler School had been organized. The School District No.19
Record Books held in the Washington County museum start in April 6,
1868. It lists the first directors Henry Sewell and John Q. A. Young, along
with clerk, S. H. Mills. Each man had to copy the oath administered to him
in the book, and follow it with his signature. The district had been organized
for 12 years when this book was started.
Tabitha Butler died on January 31, 1867, and Isaac had ten children to care
for the oldest 20 the youngest 2 years of age. The older members of the
family helped with the little ones. Tabitha had lived a good life, died age 39
two years after the birth of her tenth child. [Perhaps in childbirth?]
Isaac married again and had 6 more children by Polly Tidwell. She went by the
name of "Mary" Butler.
Isaac Butler was chairman of the School Board. Bids for the painting of the
school house were taken and W.R. Evers was accepted and paid $51 for is
work. They met on Oct. 31, 1868 with Isaac Butler in the chair. Someone moved
that they tax the district for $9 to buy a blackboard but the motion was lost.
However, they raised the money by subscription and had enough left to buy
some chalk, a bucket, a cup and some books. Even the children were
taxed also. At this same meeting, it was moved and carried — “to tax each
scholar 25 cents for fuel for the winter.” The contract was to be let to the
lowest bidder and wood was selling for around $2 per cord delivered.
School supplies and improvements came slowly. It seems they had a well
with a pump but after having it repaired they gave up and bought a well
wheel for which they paid $1.50. In 1880 they had a bored well and a new
pump installed. They got the blackboard in 1868, some recitation benches
in $12 in 1870, some patented desks to replace the carpenter-made ones
at a cost of $106.67 and a globe in 1890 that cost $35.
Isaac Butler seems to have had the highest assessment. It started out at
$7954 but soon rose to $10,010. He had 721 acres of land, 200 of which
was prairie worth $4000 and the balance worth $2605. He had nine head of
horses listed at $600, 10 head of cattle worth $177, six hogs that got in for
$12. His machinery totaled $370 and two sets of harness and a sale were
marked $10. His 200 bushel of wheat went at $140 and 100 bushels of oats
counted for $40.
Butler School in later years was called the Shute School and was located
on the NW corner of the intersection of Shute Road [Brookwood] and
Airport Rd/Butler Rd.
Isaac Butler’s Baptism
There was a very early pioneer Church of Christ in Hillsborough. Records
start in 1853, with sixteen charter members. The name was changed to the
Christian Church of Hillsboro in 1862. It appears that Isaac Butler was one
of the leaders. The first baptism was Katherine Towner in 1863 and the
second was Isaac Butler.
Isaac Butler started his own sawmill and was very successful. His older
sons helped manage the mill.
In later years, his grandchildren asked him to recall the journey west. They
wondered about the Blue Bucket Mine and all the gold the Butlers had
Additional Information About Isaac Butler and his family-
"Isaac Butler Pioneer of 1845"
compiled by Stephenie Flora oregonpioneers.com
An Illustrated History of the State of Oregon by Hines p. 630-1 and History of the Willamette Valley by Herbert Lang p.633
Editors Note- Quatama Elementary School was erected upon the Butler donation land claim as was many stores and parts of the town of Orenco. It is said the Butler land was among the finest most excellent land ever to exist in the Tualatin Valley due in great part to the toil the family put into clearing the land.
Today the grade school covers much of the original homestead but recent work we have done with Ginny Mapes and Paul Cauthorn indicate that the actual Butler home may have been located where the Children's playground is. Further work is being done to see what can be discovered here.
Our mapping overlays which we do from the original 1851 land claim maps allow us to locate original structures where they were and show them overlaid on a Map of what exists now in the modern world. Incredibly we have discovered that we believe the original homestead of Isaac and Tabitha Butler and as many as 10 of the children or more would be on the field behind the school - the Quatama School. This should spark significant interest from the kids if we allow our minds to run wild as to what might be under the land just below the surface!
See our Map here-
On another note Ginny Mapes has located the graves of Isaac and Tabitha Butler and their headstones and broken. A project and support is being sought to repair them and bless them for their work in our County and in the Tualatin Valley.
More to follow on this story.