Edward Butzow

Biography of Edward Butzow

Edward Butzow
Edward Butzow

Edward Butzow, a resident of St. Joseph Township for a long period of years, has had a career that challenges admiration and respect. It has the solid basis of industry and is crowned by a success of his own achieving, won by the strictest regards to honest principles and integrity of character.

Mr. Butzow is one of the sturdy sons of the fatherland who in such numbers came to America in early years, poor in cash but with ambition and energy. He was born October 23, 1839, at Walkendorf in Mecklenburg Schwerin, son of Ernest and Sabina (Brosaman) Butzow. Ernest Butzow lived on a farm owned by a German nobleman, and about eighty families altogether had their home there. Ernest Butzow was employed as teacher of the community school, and at one time had 120 students, being their only instructor. Edward was one of four children, three sons and one daughter. He first attended school under his father and later at the town of Tessin, and finally completed his education by private instruction.

While in Germany he served an apprenticeship at agriculture, but in that vocation he could see no future except as a tenant or farm manager, and therefore at the age of twenty-five, in the fall of 1864, he set his face for the land of America, where his two brothers had already preceded him. He had been encouraged to make the journey by enthusiastic letters from these brothers. He took ship at the city of Hamburg, and after a number of days of voyage landed at New York. The following winter he spent at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was employed on construction of Government gunboats for use in the Civil War. He next went to Oil City, Pennsylvania, and was employed as an oil driller. In 1865 Mr. Butzow arrived in Iroquois County, Illinois, where he worked at making railway ties. In the fall of 1865 he joined his brother Louis at Urbana. Louis was engaged in the brewery business at Urbana as partner of some other parties who were not distinguished for scrupulous honesty and were rapidly getting the better of Mr. Butzow’s brother. He finally lost nearly all his capital and was compelled to take the $300 that remained to his credit in notes of the brewery with the understanding that he should buy enough beer to cancel the account. In this dilemma he set up as a retail liquor dealer, and employed his brother Edward as salesman. Edward Butzow saw so many unpleasant things connected with the business that he soon became disgusted, and though very poor and without extended opportunity he refused to have anything to do with the liquor trade. Early experiences make strong impressions, and it is noteworthy that from that day to this Edward Butzow has been one of the strongest and most determined opponents of the liquor traffic and there is no truer friend of the temperance cause anywhere in the country. It should be remembered that fifty years ago, when he became aligned with the temperance people, liquor manufacture and liquor selling were accepted as a matter of course and there was no general public opinion against the traffic. Thus through all these years Mr. Butzow has been a nucleus in that gradually enlarging movement which now happily promises to destroy the liquor evil for all time to come.

After this early adventure at Urbana Mr. Butzow bought a half interest in a shingle mill. The mill turned out a fine grade of shingles. These were cut in blocks, boiled in water and cut into shingles, but the business was not profitable. He then turned over his share to his partner, and after that bought forty acres in section 27 of St. Joseph Township. Here he established a brick yard, making brick for one year and the following year engaged in the manufacture of tile. He was really in advance of his time as a tile manufacturer, since land owners had not yet learned to appreciate the value of subsurface drainage by means of tile, and in a short time he found himself bankrupt and burdened with a large debt of $1,150 after selling all his land. When he had solicited a local merchant for financial aid in the tile business, Mr. Butzow assured his creditor that he would see that he incurred no loss by the venture. He made good his word, though it took five years of hard, steady and heavy manual toil at ditching to pay off his note of $1,150 and its accumulating 10 per cent interest. It was an honest debt, and Mr. Butzow could not rest until it was paid, and he has always looked back upon that transaction as one of the most satisfactory in his entire career and furnishing him more pleasure than even the abundant possessions which he now enjoys.

One incident occurred in the life of Mr. Butzow which he always called “Two seconds from death.” While in Germany, he was working with another man in a “marl pit,” a mixture of clay and lime. They were working under a great undermined embankment of earth. Observing a boy driving up to it with a blind horse, he stepped out from under it to caution him, when the props gave way and the entire embankment fell, burying his companion.

In 1874 Mr. Butzow was elected town clerk of St. Joseph. While looking after the duties of that office he took up the study of law in a practical fashion. He was possessed of a good education, was a good talker and man of experience, and there being no lawyer in the community, he carried on a considerable practice, especially in drawing up legal documents and performing such other services as have popularly been denominated as pettifogging.

In the meantime Mr. Butzow bought 120 acres of land in section 2 north of the village of St. Joseph at a price of $20 an acre. He went to work clearing it up and cultivating it, saved every dollar he earned, and gradually was in a fair way to the success which later years and labors assured him.

In 1880 Mr. Butzow married Miss Lenna E. Cross. She was a native of Ohio. Mr. Butzow took his bride to his farm of 120 acres, and together they laid the foundation of a good home. It was improved with substantial buildings, with the planting of trees and other improvements, and in 1892 Mr. Butzow sold to advantage and subsequently bought the magnificent place of 440 acres which he still owns in section 34 of St. Joseph Township.

Mr. and Mrs. Butzow have four children’, one of whom died in infancy. The other three are Louis James, Edward Charles and Clara Bertha. Mr. Butzow saw to it that they had the advantages of the local district schools and also the high school at Sidney. Louis subsequently graduated from the University of Illinois in the technical course and is now an electrical engineer in Chicago. He has made a splendid record for himself, and enjoys a good position and has an ideal family life. He married Louisa Hermison, and their two children are named Mary and John. The son Edward C. is a practical farmer and manages his father’s estate in section 34. He married Zora Rudisell, and their family consists of three sons, Harold, Gleason and Darnel. The daughter Clara, after graduating from the Urbana High School, took a bookkeeping course in a business college at Chicago, and is now the wife of Oliver Plummer, a successful teacher of Champaign. Mr. Butzow has given each of these three children eighty acres of land, and Mrs. Clara Plummer is now preparing to move to her farm.

In 1900 the death angel visited the Butzow home and took away the good wife and mother, leaving Mr. Butzow with his three young children. In 1905 he married for his present wife Mrs. Jennie Reese, who was born in St. Joseph Township, a daughter of Henry and Catherine (Argo) Reese. Her people were pioneers in Champaign County. Her father was a native of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Butzow was educated in the district schools, and was left fatherless and motherless at an early age. For several years she Was employed as a housekeeper in the family of Mr. Butzow until their marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Butzow have five young children, Grace, Waldo, Ruth, Marshall and Gladys.

Politically Mr. Butzow is an ardent Republican and has supported that party first and last ever since casting his first vote in America. He and his wife are regular members of the Christian Church at Tipton. It is certainly with pardonable pride that he may look back upon his career in Champaign County. He overcame much in his early experiences, as already noted, and having paid every obligation and every honest debt, it is with unusual satisfaction that he enjoys the fine estate which has grown and accumulated under his enterprise and which furnishes a splendid home for his later years.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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