Horace Button

Glen R. Nye, who compiled Button Families of America, 1971, records Horace Button as having been born about 1822 in Trenton or Barneveld, Oneida County, New York; however the book is unsourced and I have so far been unable to confirm this. Census records from 1850-1880 consistently put Horace Button’s year of birth at about 1815, the 1880 census says it was in June, and all but one (1850) give his place of birth as Vermont.[1]

A typewritten descendancy chart, which¬†belonged to my grandmother, also unsourced, says that Horace’s father was also named Horace, and born in 1802.[2] The record shows a direct line to Matthias Button, the progenitor of the Button family in America. It’s not known where this information came from; Nye does not give any information about Horace’s parents. Luckily, Horace’s mother was living with him in the summer of 1855. Her name was Mary, and according to the census, she was born in New Hampshire about 1779.[3] I have not yet ordered a death record for Horace; perhaps it will hold more clues about his parents.

The first mention I have seen of Horace is in the 1840 census. He is living in Trenton, in Oneida County; perhaps that is why Nye believes he was born there. Horace married a young woman named Olive shortly before that time.[4] Nye says that she was the daughter of Chester Bullock. Horace and Olive had six children:[5] Gilbert, was born about 1839, probably in Oneida County;[6] Sarah, born 4 May 1841 in Trenton;[7] my direct ancestor, James R. Button, born about 1844 in Oneida County;[8] Chester, born about 1846 in Trenton;[9] Celia F., born about 1852 in Lewis County;[10] and David, born about 1855 in Lewis County.[11]

For most of his life, Horace made his living as a farmer. (The notable exception is in 1870, when the census gives Horace’s occupation as tavern keeper, something I would love to know more about.) Horace was not able to read and write, although Olive could.[12] Thanks to the agricultural schedule in the 1860 census (Ancestry.com), we have a very intimate picture of how the Button family made its living, at least in that particular year. In 1860, the Button family lived in Montague, in Lewis County, New York. Horace had 120 acres of land and 20 acres had been improved in some way. The farm was worth $960, and Horace had $276 worth of personal property. Horace had help, his son James, who was then sixteen years old, worked the farm. Chester, Celia and David were also living at home; James, Celia and David had attended school in the last year, but Chester had not. The Button family had produced 250 pounds of maple sugar in the previous year, so some¬†of the unimproved land was probably wooded and populated with maple trees. Horace’s son-in-law, George Ryther, lived next door, and he produced 400 pounds of maple sugar, although he had a smaller place, only 61 acres. Of the 32 farmers listed on the same page with Horace and George, twenty of them produced maple sugar; it’s likely that the whole area had a good number of sugar maples. The fall color must have been lovely.

Horace had a horse, a pig, three cows and four “other cattle” — perhaps these were goats. He produced 8 pounds of wool that year from whatever they were (about 4 sweaters’ worth). He grew only oats and potatoes, and made 250 pounds of butter.[13] Horace also produced some hay, presumably for the livestock. Chickens were not counted in the schedule, perhaps because it was just assumed you would have them, or perhaps because they were the domain of women?

Horace was “highly esteemed” in his community, according to his obituary. Olive was a “lively member” of the Methodist Episcopal Church for more than half a century, and possessed “profound conceptions of Christian duty, privilege and graces”, according to hers. This lent her great strength in her last years, when she suffered very poor health. Olive died on January 1, 1886, at the home of her youngest son, David, in Vermilion, Oswego County, New York. She was buried in Sayles Corners Cemetery, in Vermilion.[14] Horace died two years later, on 14 January 1888,[15] and was buried beside here.[16]

[1] The 1850 census gives Horace’s place of birth as New York. The 1855, 1865, and 1875 New York State census also list Horace as born about 1815 in Vermont. FindAGrave.com lists his birth as 1814. (I have not yet seen his gravestone for myself.)

[2] Given that Horace the younger appears to have been born when his father would have been thirteen years old, this seems unlikely.

[3] 1855 New York State census (FamilySearch.org).

[4] Olive’s obituary says that she married Horace, although we don’t know exactly when.

[5] 1865 NYS census lists Olive as having had 6 children.

[6] The 1875 NYS census says Lewis County, but the family was living in Oneida County at the time. The Civil War something or other says Oneida, as does the 1855 NYS census.

[7] Obituary for Sarah L. Rice (FultonHistory.com).

[8] 1855 NYS census (FamilySearch.org).

[9] Obituary for Chester Button (FultonHistory.com).

[10] 1855 NYS census (FamilySearch.org).

[11] 1875 NYS census (FamilySearch.org).

[12] 1865 NYS census (FamilySearch.org).

[13] The schedule says that Horace and Olive had no homemade manufactures, so the butter they produced must have been for their own use. George Ryther didn’t produce any, so perhaps they shared or traded their produce.

[14] FindAGrave.com entry for Olive Button.

[15] Obituary for Horace Button (Northern New York Library Network).

[16] FindAGrave.com entry for Horace Button.

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