1839: Dr. William Edward Butler to Christopher Magee

This letter was written by Dr. William Edward Butler (1790-1882), “the son of Major Thomas Butler. William was born in the barracks at Carlyle, Pa., January 8, 1789. His mother was Mary Semple of Philadelphia. Thomas Butler had been a distinguished soldier in the Revolution. Shortly after the war, he had been made a Colonel and sent to Tennessee to expel settlers from Indian lands. Here he made the friendship of Andrew Jackson. The courtesy and courage which the old soldier displayed in the discharge of his unpopular duties won “Old Hickory,” and this friendship was passed on to Butler’s sons, who later came to Tennessee to live.

“William Edward Butler graduated as Doctor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and migrated to Murfreesboro to make his home. There in 1813, he married Mrs. Jackson’s niece, (Patsy) Martha Thompson Hays. To complete the alliance, William’s two brothers also married nieces of Mrs. Jackson, and the Butler sister, Lydia, married Stockley D. Hayes, a nephew of Mrs. Jackson. William Edward Butler was a resolute fellow and was useful to Jackson in many ways, though on one occasion he seemed to have been a thorn in Jackson’s flesh, as we shall see. The course of true love with one’s wife’s kinfolks doesn’t always run smooth.

“Dr. Butler was with Jackson at New Orleans, arriving during the second day’s battle. He lost his hearing in the engagement, being too near a large cannon when it was fired. It is presumed that he was attending the wounded at the time, but Butler was wont to get into the thick of battle and here are many references to his valor. In an interview given in his 91st year to the Jackson Sun and Tribune, Dr. Butler is stated to have carried Mrs. Andrew Jackson to her husband General Jackson. Rachel had made the trip down the river in a keel boat, with Andrew Jackson, Jr. Samuel Cole Williams writes that Mrs. Butler accompanied her on the visit to their husbands after the great victory on January 8, 1815. Mrs. Jackson had grown so fat that the French said she proved how far the skin can-be stretched. [Source: Doctor William Edward Butler; Founder of City of Jackson, Tennessee]

Butler wrote the letter to Christopher Magee who is otherwise unidentified in the letter. He is presumed to be Christopher Linem Magee (1807-1863) of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Mr. Christopher Magee, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Jackson, Tennessee
March 11th 1839

Dear Friend,

Your letter of the 20th ult. in answer to mine of the 2nd February. was received by last mail. I hasten to answer it. When I last saw you, we had two bonds in the hands of N. B. _____ on Isaac Lou__ of Ohio, and on my return from the East, Mr. Craig handed them over to me stating that he had not been able to see Jones, and that I had better take the bonds and give them to some person living in Ohio to collect for us. I took the bonds & placed them in the hands of Mr. J. Forsyth of Wheeling, and have not received the amount of the last note as yet.

I think if we can do no better, we had better embrace the office of the company that purchase our land, viz. by paying them the 75 cents per acre and the purchase money they are out. Should you conclude to make this arrangement for yourself, be pleased to embrace it for my sister & myself. The money shall be paid in all the month of May next, at which time he will be in Peterburg, and pay over the money to them, or their agent. If this will not do, you are hereby authorized to draw on me at three days light, for our proportion of the redemption money — say two hundred & five dollars, your draft shall be honored. When I visit your city, I will come prepared with a power of attorney from my sister to dispose of our interest in the land, at which time you shall be amply remunerated for your kindness to the orphans of a revolutionary Patriot.

In the mean time I wish you would make some enquiry about some lots in Meadville my Father was possessed of at his death. A. Barker must have purchased Brother’s Thomas & Robert’s interest in them at the time he made the purchase of the Oil Creek & Ohio land. Any information you may be able to get by corresponding with some of Abram Barker’s kins, will be thankfully received and acknowledge by your friend & obedient servant, — Wm. E. Butler


One response to “1839: Dr. William Edward Butler to Christopher Magee

  • Jean Meaney

    I know this bio is on the Internet but there is some incorrect information in it.
    Dr. William Edward Butler was the son of Col. Thomas Butler and his wife Sarah Jane Semple of Carlisle, PA. Her father was Robert Semple and her mother was Lydia Steel, daughter of the Rev. Capt John Steel.
    When his father died in 1805, William and his siblings Robert and Lydia were teenagers. They were made the wards of Andrew Jackson who made sure they all got outstanding educations. This is from the Archivist at the Hermitage. They all three married nieces and nephews of the Jacksons. In fact, all Hays siblings.
    William Edward married Patsy Hays on the same day as his sister Lydia Butler married Stokely Donelson Hays.
    Their older brother Robert Butler had married Rachel Hays several years earlier.
    The Hays were all children of Col. Robert Hays and Jane Donelson.

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