MICHIGAN SHADOW TOWN: Butler, in Branch County
There are some of you who are very familiar with Butler Motor Speedway…we’ve heard their radio commercials for many, many years…but did you ever visit the little town from which the speedway was named?
The town of Butler is approximately a mile and a half north of the speedway. Butler lies in the upper right hand corner of Branch County.
In July 1835, the area's first land purchase was made by Jonathan Hart, but it was Caleb Wilcox who took the honor of being the first settler in 1836. That same year, a nearby patch of land was settled by Jacob Shook and Bob Wood, who named this new settlement “Shook’s Prairie”. The first schoolhouse was built in Shook’s Prairie in 1838.
The township was hatched in 1838 and named “Butler”, thanks to the influx of settlers who had migrated from Butler, New York. Shook's Prairie was re-named "Butler" and with it came its own post office in 1853.
According to michiganrailroads.com, Butler also had railway service. The former tracks are still faintly visible on satellite maps.
Here's the confusing part: the 1872 atlas shows the town listed as “Herricksville”, but later atlases show it as "Butler". I couldn't find any reason why the name was changed, or if they are actually two separate communities. Looking at the atlases (SEE PHOTOS BELOW) they look like they're in the exact same place...thus the confusion.
In 1872, the town - whatever it was called - seemed to be going great guns. A nice number of shops lined the street, a schoolhouse was nearby, as was a cider mill, blacksmith, saw mill, grist mill, doctor, and cooper shop. The name "Herricksville" obviously came from the Herricks that lived there: Gardner Herrick and Frederick Herrick. Gardner was a storekeeper and became the “Worshipful Master” of the local Masonic Lodge. The correlation between Butler and Herricksville is somewhat fuzzy, and info is rare. So anyone who knows something about the connection between the two is welcome to pass it along. By 1894, the atlas shows the town as “Butler”.
On top of all that, Butler Motor Speedway’s legal address is Quincy.
Nowadays, there seems to be only one little store in Butler.
Any insight or additional info to any of the above is welcome!