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Weston Wagons West - Ep. W5 - Roger Weston and the Butler family in Carlisle

Updated on December 23, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

On the streets of Carlisle...

The author, Bill Smith, in front of the Butler sign, in Carlisle, on May 2000 genealogy trip..
The author, Bill Smith, in front of the Butler sign, in Carlisle, on May 2000 genealogy trip.. | Source

Thomas Butler opened his gunshop across the street from the Weston Wagon Works

Thomas Butler, born in 1720, had been in the British army from Ireland and had opened a gunshop in Dublin, Ireland, in 1748, shortly before immigrating to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Thomas, and his wife, Eleanor, had three sons when they arrived: Richard, born in 1743, William, born in 1745, and Thomas, born in 1746. While they were in Lancaster, they added two daughters, Mary, born in 1749, and Rebecca, born in 1751. In April of 1760, Eleanor gave birth to a fourth son, Percival; they called him Pierce.

When Thomas opened his gunshop, across the street from Roger Weston's Weston Wagon Works, in 1760, his three oldest sons, Richard, 17, William, 15, and Thomas, 14, worked there with him. They had learned to make the Pennsylvania long rifle in consultation with their friend, Daniel Morgan. The Pennsylvania was a weapon of choice during the French and Indian War. During 1760, they were joined, direct from Ireland, by three sons of James, the older brother of Thomas. These men, first cousins of the Thomas Butler sons, were named: Thomas, 20, William, 17, and John, 15.

1760 was a busy year in Carlisle, as both the Butler and the Weston businesses prospered. Roger Weston met and married Polly Armstrong, a distant relative of the founder of Carlisle. In March of 1762, the fifth son of Thomas and Eleanor Butler was born. They named him after a son they had lost as an infant, fourteen years prior: Edward. In April of 1762, Roger and Polly Weston had a son, their first child. They named him Carl, after the town of his birth, Carlisle. The last child of Thomas and Eleanor Butler, a girl they named Eleanor, after her mother, was born late in 1763. A second son was born to Roger and Polly Weston, in March of 1764. They named him John.

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Daniel Morgan, American soldier and United States Representative from Virginia
Daniel Morgan, American soldier and United States Representative from Virginia | Source

The Butler family influence grew far and wide

The oldest Butler son, Richard, became an ensign in the Pennsylvania militia in 1763 and 1764, but the war was coming to an end. He had spent time at Fort Pitt, and soon, joined by his next younger brother, William, became an active Indian trader in and around the Fort Pitt area of western Pennsylvania and into what became Ohio. (The Butler Street in Pittsburgh is named after him, for his later exploits as an American soldier and Indian Commissioner.)

The Thomas Butler gunshop in Carlisle was well known throughout the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia regions to anyone involved with the military effort during the latter years of the French and Indian War. When hostilities began between the British colonies and the British Government in 1775, Carlisle was right in the middle of it, a revolutionary hotbed, it was called by some. Among the first to join the call for service, early in 1776, were the four older Butler sons, Richard, William, Thomas and Pierce (Edward was still too young). They each served as officers. Their cousins, Thomas, William and John also enlisted in the local militia efforts.

Thomas, the gunsmith, because of his reputation, was named Public Armourer, for the Continental Congress, supervising the other gunsmiths making arms for the patriot cause. Richard, his eldest son, was soon commissioned a major in the Continental Army and served as second in command to Daniel Morgan. They saw action together both at the Battle of Saratoga and at the Battle of Monmouth. Each of the four Butler brothers served as officers under George Washington at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778. Their three first cousins were also there.

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A copy of a painting of General Richard Butler from about 1790.
A copy of a painting of General Richard Butler from about 1790. | Source

The Butler brothers distinguished themselves in battle during the Revolutionary War

During the war, Richard Butler rose to the rank of Major General. William Butler closed the war as a Colonel. Thomas Butler became a Major and fought in every major battle of the Middle States. At the Battle of Brandywine, the Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington, commended him for his bravery on the field of battle. At Yorktown, George Washington conferred on Major General Richard Butler, serving with the famous Frenchman, Lafayette, the honor of receiving the sword of surrender from Cornwallis. Butler, in turn, gave the honor to his second in command, Ebenezer Denny. Among the many intrigues surrounding this act, Baron Von Steuben demanded to be given the honor to receive the sword. Butler and Von Steuben nearly came to a duel over the issue. (In actuality, Cornwallis, claiming illness, did not appear as expected to surrender his sword. Instead, he sent his second in command.)

Roger Weston learned all this and more about the progress of the war by continuing to keep close watch on all the news that would impact his family and his Weston Wagon Works in Carlisle. The business grew during the war years, of course, and contributed as many wagons to the war effort as the available manpower and physical resources available would allow. Young Edward Butler joined the war effort at age 16 as a Lieutenant. At about the same time, his young friend, also 16, Carl Weston, served the army as a farrier, for which he had completed his training with his father. At the conclusion of the the war, the army was downsized to one regiment, based in Pennsylvania, under Josiah Harmer. Edward Butler continued to serve. Carl continued to serve him as a civilian from Carlisle.

At a dinner celebrating the wartime victory, with his officers, George Washington is said to have raised his glass and toasted: "The Butlers and their five sons!" Later, when Lafayette was commenting on his wartime service, he exclaimed, it was said, "When I wanted a thing well done, I ordered a Butler to do it."

Historical note by the author

As with prior Weston Wagon West episodes, all members of the Weston family, their spouses and children, are fictional. All other characters and places are based on actual historical figures and places, used fictionally while retaining their historical detail as closely as feasible based on known historical records. For example, John Butler, son of James, born in 1745, was a 3rd great-grandfather of the author. The author is also a 4 times Great-Grandnephew of Thomas Butler.

The information used here partially was obtained in the 1904 "The Butler Family in America" book, where interviews were used with people still alive who remembered speaking with William and Thomas Butler in western Pennsylvania. Some information was also obtained by reference to Wikipedia. Otherwise, ongoing family history and genealogy research was the source of these stories.

The latest novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories

Video Book Trailer prepared by author

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The day is winding down my friend, but I had to get this read before calling it quits. I love the picture of you on the genealogy trail...looking quite dapper. :) And of course, your writing is topnotch. Have a great evening.

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 2 years ago

      This is a fantastic tale. Great heroism.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for stopping by, Bill. 14 years ago, hair is thinner and whiter, some pot is still there, no matter how much I try (obviously don't hardly try, at all! ;-)

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      The "Fighting Butlers" were quite a crew, for sure! I just scratched the surface here. Hope to include a few more stories in coming episodes; working on how to do that, how much, what point of view... what writers do, I suppose. THANKS for your visit and comment. Nice.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I like the paragraph about George Washington toasting the Butlers and Lafayette paying tribute. We see lots of details about their genealogy, and less details about actual incidents that demonstrate their character qualities. Helps us know them a little better. Good reading!

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
      Author

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Excellent comments, MsDora. I appreciate the reminder. Thank you for the visit, always appreciated! ;-)

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I never knew where the term "long rifle" came from. Thanks, Bill. And I didn't know Americans invented the spiraling tooling for the bore. The term "long gun" is still commonly used to distinguish a rifle from a pistol!

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image
      Author

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      For sure! Law enforcement uses "long gun" designation regularly. Happy to add to your repertoire... the more we know, the more we find we don't know... I'm a life-long learner - happy to see you are too! HubPages is a great place to share! ;-)

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