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Names & Places

Butler County - Poplar Bluff - Fisk - Neelyville - Rombauer - Broseley - Harviell - Qulin - Hilliard - Fagus - Ash Hill - Coon Island - Big Island - Stringtown - South Wilby - Morocco - Agee - Cane Creek - Ten Mile Creek - Bitter End

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Map of Butler CountyButler County

In the southeast lowlands of Missouri a new county was established in 1849. It was formed from the lower half of Wayne County, an area too large to meet the growing needs of all its residents. The new county, approximately 36 miles long and 26 miles wide, sits at the top of the bootheel of Missouri with a comparatively small portion of the northwest section in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. And an interesting county it was. The land was covered with swamplands and forests of hardwood trees. It was sparsely settled by families from Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana. Unlike the many French and German settlers in Missouri, these were primarily folks of English, Scotch and Irish ancestry - hard working, brave farmers looking for a better life for their families.

The county was named for one of the heroes of these people, native of Kentucky, Gen. William O. Butler. William Orlando Butler was a member of a family of military distinction. Gen. William O. ButlerHis grandfather, Thomas Butler, was a Revolutionary War hero. Thomas’ five sons also served in the Revolutionary War and were known as “the Gallant Butlers.” One of these five, Percival, was the father of William O. Butler.

Following the war Percival was sent to Carrollton, Ky., as adjutant general (non military) to the territory, and there he and his family made their home. William distinguished himself in the War of 1812 by rising from private to major. At the time Butler County was organized, Gen. Butler was at the peak of his popularity for his service in the war with Mexico in which he served as a major general. He was commander of all American armies in Mexico. Gen. Butler was a lawyer by profession. He ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket with presidential candidate Lewis Cass in 1848. They were defeated by Zachary Taylor, also a Mexican war hero, and Millard Fillmore.

General Butler died in 1880 at the age of 90. The general is honored in his home state by a state park named for him. The General Butler State Resort Park is between Louisville and Cincinnati at Carrollton on highway I-75. The 19th century historic Butler-Turpin home is in the park and contains the furnishings of the Butler family.

People and trees are the sources of most of the names of towns, villages and communities in Butler County. We began with the county, named for a illustrious man. Now we will discuss the county seat.


Poplar Bluff

The character of the early settlers of this county is evidenced in the choice they made for the county seat. They could well have chosen the Cane Creek area, site of the first settlement. It would no doubt have been a convenience to them and a financial benefit, but they chose to have their county seat in the center of the county on a navigable river to make it more easily accessible to all who would come here to live. The river in the early days of the 19th century.was used like a major highway is today.

They chose an uninhabited bluff on Black River on which to place the town that would contain their governing offices, and they named it for the beautiful poplar trees that grew profusely on that bluff. They called it Poplar Bluff and they set out to build a town, their county seat. By the end of 1850 a town had been started and some ten families lived in Poplar Bluff. In 1855 the first court house was built and the town grew, and finally, on Feb. 9, 1870, Poplar Bluff was incorporated.



Fisk, once a thriving timber town, was incorporated in 1895. The original town was founded in 1885 and was located on the east side of the St. Francis River in Stoddard County across the river from its present location. Fisk also was called Poplin which many of the older residents continued to call it after it’s relocation. The town was named for Stephen W. Fisk, an original town general store operator, and postmaster from 1893 to 1897. Though the town was relocated and registered in Butler County in 1895, the post office remained in the old town until 1899 after which the remnants of the Stoddard County town slowly disappeared, no trace of it can be found today.



Like most of the towns in Butler County, Neelyville was a thriving timber producing area with large mills in the mid 1800s. The area also had rich farm land particularly suitable for raising cotton after the swamplands were controlled by the irrigation canals in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Neelyville, first called Neely, was named for the man who gave the land where the town was established in 1872. In Deem’s History of Butler County, Judge Deem wrote of Neelyville in 1925 “ of the finest small towns in the county. It has several times virtually been destroyed by fire, but in every instance its citizens bravely rebuilt.”



In the late 1800s, a Mr. Sprangler (first name/initials now unknown) gave the land for establishing the town of Rombauer. The first post office was opened in 1902 with Henry Sanders as postmaster. Mr. Sprangler requested the town be named for a family friend, Judge Rombauer, of St. Louis (first name/initials also unknown). In the early1980s a daughter of the man so honored by Mr. Sprangler visited this Butler county town.

The area in which Rombauer is situated was once known as the Mud Creek or Mud Creek Hollow community. Called a community center for northeast Butler County by Judge Bruce Deem in his History of Butler County, this, too, was a timber town.



Bailey’s End was the first name given the town of Broseley. This was because the settlement was at the end of Bailey’s Railroad, which connected with the Butler County Railroad, a railroad organized in 1900 to serve the area with transportation for passengers and freight, particularly timber, and its products. In 1910 the postal department refused the name and the town was renamed Hunt for the first postmaster and the man in whose home the office was located, Richard and Alfred Hunt.

Wm. N. Barron of Poplar Bluff, manager and one of the organizers of the Butler County Railroad, renamed the town Broseley in 1913 in honor of his wife Martha’s hometown in Shropshire, England. Mr. Barron named the towns along the railroad. Also born in England, William Barron came to the United States as a very young man and settled in Poplar Bluff at the age of 30 in 1886. He was prominent in the development of Butler County.



Harviell was a thriving lumber-producing county town named for the man who owned the land it was built on, Simmons R. Harviell. Mr. Harviell was a landowner, businessman and county official for several years.

At age 22 he was so successful he was able to loan the county court money for the purchase of the land for the county seat in Poplar Bluff. A post office was established in the town, which was first named Renton in 1872. The name was changed in 1873. The busy little town had a large park where two-day July 4th celebrations were held for many years.



Qulin is a town whose name has no documented origin. Several stories of how it was named have been circulated over the years, among them the tale that some man named the town for his five daughters, using the first initial of each first name to spell Qulin, neither this or any other story has been authenticated. However, it is known that the town was called Melville for a number of years, but the post office could not accept that name officially because it was a name already in use by another town in the state. The post office was established c.1904. It was a lumber town in the beginning, later becoming an agricultural area.



There were many other lively small towns in the county in the 1800s and early 1900s. Most have disappeared completely; some are designated areas but only the seven previously named still have post offices. Interesting names among those areas are the following:

Hilliard, called Hill’s Yard until a post office was established and the name was changed to Hilliard. The name came from a yard from which George Hill supplied wood for the wood burning steam engines on the Iron Mountain Railroad (later Missouri Pacific Railway). Hill’s Yard was a fuel stop for the trains. Raw iron was mined in the area and it and clay for pottery and timber were shipped by rail from there. TOP

Fagus was once called Slapout . It was a railroad stop and got its name from the railroad grading crews who patronized an eatery where the owner regularly announced he was “slapout of meat.” It was later named Fagus by Wm. N. Barron, the name being Latin for beech trees, which grew in the area. TOP

Ash Hill also was named by Mr. Barron for the trees that grew in the area. TOP

Coon Island is not an island but an area in the former swamplands that was high enough to stay dry during rainy seasons. For this reason the raccoons gathered there and from that came the name. TOP

Big Island is another area that is not an island. This community got its name from a hill that was safe from the flooding of Black River in the south part of the county.TOP

Stringtown was named from the fact that the community had a row (string) of houses with a store at either end.TOP

South Wilby got its name, according to a story in the Daily American Republic June 28, 1979, from a resident, who in the early days said, ‘There will be a town here some day.” South Wilby is situated on Black River and while it is not a town, there are many homes along the river that make up the community.TOP

Morocco, an early county settlement whose population was predominately African American, was named by William Barron for the North African country by that name.TOP

Agee Community was named for the school that was built on land donated by William Agee, a member of a prominent pioneer family in that area. A famous descendant of the Agee family from a Tennessee branch is James Agee, author and Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel “A Death in the Family.” TOP

Cane Creek community is located on Cane Creek and named for the giant cane (also known as wild cane) that grows along its banks. This and the adjoining Ten Mile Creek community, located on a creek named for its length, were the first settlements in Butler County.TOP

Bitter End got its name from its location in a swamp south of Neelyville at the end of the tram that carried out the lumber harvested there c. 1900.




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