Bears the name of the immortal Col. Zebulon Butler, always the first historical and cherished name connected with that of Luzerne county. It has a superficial area of thirty-one square miles, and the larger part of, in fact nearly the entire section, is arable land—the land of plenty and the quiet of the prosperous farmer’s life. It is principally a part of the Sugarloaf valley, once the name of the entire valley along the Nescopeck. Here for more than a century the farmer has gone afield and tilled the soil. Originally it was all upland and valley, covered with a dense forest, and was a prolific hunting ground; then the woodsman came and felled the trees, and the numerous early sawmills along the creek cut the timber and it was carried away to market.
Butler township was made from territory of Sugarloaf in 1839. A part of the south of the township was taken off and added to Hazle township in 1861. The belief of Stewart Pearce, who was a careful historian, and he is confirmed by Moses Compeer and others of Northampton county’s Revolutionary authorities is that John Balliett was the "solitary and alone" first comer to make a home in this [that] beautiful valley. Pearce says he had been one of the burial party who came to bury the victims of the Sugarloaf massacre, and, seeing that place so soon after the troubles and dangers were over, came and located. But the truth is now known that Balliett had intended to be one of the party, but was prevented by sickness from coming, that he was deeply interested in the expedition, and when the party returned he spent much time with different members thereof and made close inquiries as to what they had seen on the trip. These described to him the valley in which they had buried the dead, the beautiful Nescopeck, flowing nearly through its center, the fish, the game and the broad, smooth, level acres of land on each side, and this fired Balliett’s imagination, and very wisely he determined that he would seek it out and here make a home for himself and his posterity. The results of this determination, after more than a century, are with us to-day in the numerous descendants of John Balliett in this section of the county, who are and have always been among the prominent people of Luzerne county. Balliett, with wife and two children, came here from the south or Northampton county in 1784. His possessions were packed on the one horse he possessed, and the two small children, one of whom was probably Stephen Balliett, were in beegums strapped across the horse’s back, while the husband and wife trudged afoot. In another place is given an account of the memorable voyage of this avant courier of the coming hordes of men, and the writer was shown by Mr. C.F. Hill the probable spot on the side of Buck mountain where the strap broke and the children in their respective "gums" went rolling about the mountain side. John Balliett, the first day after his arrival, built, put up, erected or constructed, as you please, the first residence, home, castle or dwelling in the valley. The architecture was "simple and sublime"—poles leaned against a big tree and covered with brush and leaves—and here the family slept, the boys, no doubt, too tired to even have nightmare dreams that they were still fast in the "gums" and rolling and tossing about the steep mountain side. John Balliett and wife dreamed in sweet content of their future home and its abundance and happy content—brave, as were all the pioneers, as to their ability to meet and overcome the obstructions that lay in their way, the years of toil and loneliness and the inevitable deprivations and of the distance from the world’s older settlements. John Balliett settled here in 1784. It has been asserted, and has so found its way into print, that G.H. Riep (sometimes written Reab) came here as a settler in 1782, two years before Balliett; that he located on the Joseph Woodring place, and that he died in 1794 and was buried in the old German church cemetery. Those that followed Balliett, whether the same or the next year, is not certain, were Benner (Harry), Shobers, Dolphs, Hill, Bachelor and Spaides. There are now numerous descendants of these pioneers still here and in other parts of the county. The name of Spaide has been and is still spelled different ways. The early chroniclers generally spelled it S-p-a-d-e, but Spaide, Spaid, Spayd and Spayde are some of the many variations. Among the early settlers were Philip Woodring, Henry Davis, Andrew Mowery and George Drum. The latter’s son, Abraham Drum, was high sheriff of Luzerne county at one time. His son, George, was father of Hon. G. W. Drum, of Conyngham. This was so long a part of Sugarloaf township that the reader is referred to the list of early settlers, as given in the account of that township, for the particulars of who were here up to 1835. Pearce says that Samuel Woodring as early as 1788 built the first saw and gristmill on Nescopeck creek. Both were very small in their way; the gristmill had one set of stones, which were "home made." Other authorities say that Woodring put up his mill on the Big Nescopeck, on the mill site of Straw & Sons, in 1813. The latter is the more reasonable story, as Mr. Stephen Balliett remembers, when he was ten years old, of going to mill many miles, over to Lizard creek, to Sultz’s mill. Some time after 1800 the ancient mill story might have been repeated of the settlers of Butler, where the man and ox team went to mill, and in the long way and long wait had eaten every grain of corn, the load that the cattle could haul, and had to return home for more to grind. In the meantime the wife and children, waiting and looking for the man’s return, were living along by calling "the fat part meat and the lean part bread."
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This Town History was donated by Julie.
1997-2011 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual
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