Saturday, June 8, 2013

Vanished Rochester: David Wagner Butts Farmhouse

(Photo courtesy of Rod and Susan Wilson)
For half a century, the David Wagner Butts farmhouse stood atop South Hill at the location where the Bill Fox dealership is today.  The Rochester Era noted in February 1906 that: "D. W. Butts is getting material on the ground for a new brick residence on his farm just south of Rochester, in the spring." Although the house wasn't built until the first decade of the 20th century, the property on which it stood had been in the Butts family since 1855. In that year, Elias and Catherine Butts (also sometimes spelled Butz) migrated west to Michigan from New Jersey. Their son, David, was nine years old at the time the Butts family established their farm in Avon Township.

David took over the farm from his father and built this home for his own family, including his wife Juliet Bromley Butts, and daughters Elizabeth and Laura.  In addition to crops, David Butts raised Belgian and Clydesdale horses, and sold two to three teams a year, according to an interview given by his daughter, Elizabeth, in 1944.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Butts Case and her sister Laura Butts Cross eventually inherited the South Hill property, but nobody lived in the house after 1964 and it fell victim to vandals. Laura Cross and her niece, Della Wilson (Elizabeth Case's daughter), decided to have the house razed in 1976 and it fell to a wrecker's ball on August 12 of that year.

In an interview with the Rochester Clarion given at the time the house was slated for demolition, Della Wilson remembered that her grandfather, David Butts, maintained an athletic field for the community on part of his farmland that lay between the house and South Street. She recalled:
The park was like an amphitheater - it was beautiful. My grandfather would mow it and fix the neighbors' fences when the kids broke them down every year.
Mrs. Wilson recalled that her grandfather's ballpark was used for three generations, until Halbach Field was opened in the village in the mid-1920s.

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