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Early Butners

by Ralph Clark


The Butner family in America seems clearly to have sprung from one man, appropriately named Adam, who had settled near Monocacy, in Frederick County, Maryland, by 1740. There were German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the later 1700s who spelled their name "Buettner", or used the umlaut mark above the "u". More Buettners and Bitners came into the midwest in the middle of the 1800s. However, all Butners known before 1850 can be traced to the Butners of Maryland and North Carolina.

Some of their neighbors around Monocacy are said by family tradition to have come from Denmark. Other settlers came into the area from New York, through Pennsylvania. The Butners were self-described as Englishmen before the end of the 1700s.

One branch of the family became associated with the German speaking Moravian settlement around Salem, North Carolina, but they seem to have joined after the Moravians opened an additional English-language ministry for their neighbors, many of whom came to their fort for protection during Indian unrest. This branch, headed by Thomas, son of Adam Butner, is mentioned frequently in the diaries of the Moravians, which were published in a dozen volumes, providing fascinating stories of life on the frontier. Some of Thomas's descendants moved to Bartholomew County, Indiana, when the Moravians established a settlement there called Hope. Their history has been chronicled in a genealogy written by Mrs. Lena Boman Jones of Kansas, who described the life of the women of the family in the early days in North Carolina. Mrs. Jones's book should be consulted for descendants of Thomas Butner, who are not duplicated in this book.

There appear to be three lines of Butners from North Carolina who settled in Kentucky before 1800. Isaac Butner, father of the Isaac who settled in Indiana, was probably the eldest, may have been the first to come to the state, but seems not to have owned any land.

William Butner was probably the son of David Butner. No evidence links him to Isaac. His descendants can be easily traced through wills and deeds in Madison County. There were many wills for this unfortunate family; they must have lived in an unhealthy area, and cholera epidemics were frequent in the county in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.

Adam Butner is the most mysterious, as his age is not clearly indicated by the records; it's possible that there may have been more than one man of that name. Other researchers of Kentucky Butners have been confused by the author of a book that extracted the 1810 census records, who evidently copied the data he attributed to Adam from the actual line under Adam Butner's data, thus raising Adam's age group from 26-45 to 45+, and leading to the mistaken conclusion that he was the patriarch of all of the Butners of Madison County, Kentucky. The author suspects that he may have been a son or, more likely, a brother of Isaac. It appears that Jesse Butner, probably Isaac's son, may have been taken in by Adam after Isaac's death.

The most interesting record linking the Butners of Kentucky is found in the tax lists of Christian County, Kentucky, which is some two hundred miles west of Madison County. Four Butners seem to have joined in some kind of real estate venture there, managed by young Edward, who may have been another son of Isaac.