County#039;s namesake was slain in brutal Indian massacre

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Highway 10, near the Butler-Wilcox County line, the blood of four men was spilt in March 1818 by a band of Indians.

One of those men was Capt. William Butler, whom the settlers would later honor by naming the county for.

According to Judy Taylor of the Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society, many people have come forward attempting to claim some relation to Capt. Butler.

&#8220The truth, though, is that after he was killed his family moved away from this area,” she said.

In Capt. Butler's time, Butler County was a frontier wilderness. Capt. Butler was born in Virginia and was a solider in Alabama during The Creek Indian War of 1813-14. The Creeks had been allied with the British during the War of 1812 and had become increasingly incensed over the encroachment of white settlers into their lands in Georgia and Alabama.

In 1813, an army of Creeks led by Chief Red Eagle attacked Fort Mims on the Alabama River and massacred over 500 whites. But an army led by General Andrew Jackson crushed the Creek uprising at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in March of 1814.

Capt. Butler will be forever linked with Savannah Jack, described in historical accounts as a ruthless half-breed (he had a Irish father and an Indian mother). It was Savannah Jack who led the Indians in their attack on Capt. Butler and the four other men in his company that fatal March day. One man - John Hinson - was able to escape. Butler, trying to escape to nearby Fort Bibb, was captured and murdered. His body, as well as the bodies of his fellow travelers, was discovered the following day scalped and horribly mutilated.

When the county was created by the legislature in 1819 as Fairfield County, acquaintances of Capt. Butler changed the name to Butler County to honor him.

Savannah Jack spent the remainder of his days in Florida where he boasted that he could swim in the blood of all his victims if it were collected into one pool.

One interesting aside: Popular folklore concerning the naming of Lake Butler in Florida involved a Capt. Butler who fought an Indian chief named Bendoris with both being killed in a climactic battle. The town was subsequently named for Butler, who like Capt. William Butler fought under Gen. Jackson during the Creek War.

But the story is not historically documented (a record of their ever having been a Chief Bendoris does not exist, nor of a battle) and was passed down from generation to generation until it had become fact. Some of the early residents of Lake Butler were from Georgia, and probably knew of Capt. William Butler, who had been a member of Georgia legislature before moving to Alabama. It's more than likely that this story became confused with taking place in Florida.