Home from college last week, my daughter bought tickets and treated me to the 7th Annual Voices from Eureka’s Silent City tour. Every person portrayed was interesting, but the one who caught my fancy was F.O. Butt. I’d heard stories about Mr. Butt and was eager to learn more.
Some kids snickered when they heard Festus Orestes Butt’s full name. I was impressed that he is said to have had one of the finest private libraries in the state of Arkansas. That is, until 1943, when his house burned down. I happen to know someone who was 12 years old and a neighbor to the Butt’s at that time and asked him some questions about the house.
The house that burned was one of the largest around and was situated where the Land O’ Nod motel is now located. F.O. Butt and his wife Essie had seven children and each had their own bedroom. There were also dorm rooms for the grandchildren, one for girls and one for boys. The bottom floor of the house was nearly encircled by porches with the south porch crowded with old push-type lawn mowers. Mr. Butt’s study had a private entrance and inside was his collection of pipes, as he was an avid smoker.
I’d once noticed that in the 1930 Federal Census it was reported that the Butt’s home was valued at $25,000, an astronomical amount at the time. I told the Butt’s neighbor this and he said that perhaps the 25 grand included the property connected to the house. The grounds stretched to the location of the present day Pizza Hut and included the 28 acre parcel that now contains Thomas Drive.
If you’re not familiar with Mr. Butt, perhaps you are wondering how he could afford such property. I certainly do not have room here to do his biography justice, but suffice it to say that he was a very successful attorney. In fact, I learned on the 7th Annual Voices from Eureka’s Silent City tour that he was licensed to practice law in the state of Arkansas for an astounding 75 years.