Butler, Indiana is located in northeastern DeKalb County in northeastern Indiana, within Wilmington Township. The intersection of US Highway 6 and Indiana State Road 1 marks the center of the community. Butler is approximately 23 miles from Fort Wayne, 6 miles west of the Ohio State Line, and nine miles east of Interstate 69. Two rail lines, both operated by Norfolk Southern, intersect in Butler.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BUTLER, INDIANA
The City of Butler was founded in 1841, although not named Butler until 1866. In the beginning, the city's prosperity was mostly due to the railroad industry. e first settlers in the Butler / DeKalb County area secured land in 1836 and came mostly from middle and eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania. Charles Norris bought and platted a small area, now known as the Norris Addition in the late 1830s. This area is in the southwestern quadrant of what is now the City of Butler. The Original Plat soon followed, as did the construction of a schoolhouse, sawmill, and dwellings. By 1856, “Norristown,” as it was known, had a population of about 40, a dozen stores, and a rail line of the Michigan and Southern Railroad running through town. The small community was called Norristown, Jarvis, Butler Station, and Butler between 1850 and 1866. In 1866, the community was incorporated as “Butler” and governed by Township Trustees.
A second set of tracks was completed in 1873 by the Eel River Railroad Company from Logansport. The Wabash Railroad Company leased the tracks in 1880 and extended the rail line to Detroit, establishing its division point in Butler and resulting in the largest population boom in the Town’s history.
Lake Shore Depot, circa 1900
The presence of the railroad proved vital to Butler’s growth in the late 19th century. Between 1880 and 1890, Butler’s population grew from 1,200 to 2,800. Factories, as well as retail businesses, prospered in Butler in the mid-1880s. The boom did not last long; in 1893 the Wabash Railroad Company divided the Butler division point between Ashley, Indiana and Montpelier, Ohio. Butler’s population diminished as quickly as it had grown.
In 1903, Butler became a “City” and installed a public sewer system. By 1910, the community was paving streets. The small city experienced gradual growth, paving streets and providing public utility service for lights, water, and sidewalks to its residents. In 1933, the City of Butler reverted to the “Town of Butler” because of new population requirements then set by the State of Indiana.
Butler Carnegie Library – now the DeKalb Historical Museum
The 1950’s saw significant industrial growth, starting with Universal Tool and Stamping Company’s move to Butler. Universal Tool was soon followed by Federal Fertilizer Company in 1950; Hendrickson Tandem in 1953; Bohn Aluminum and Brass Company in 1957; Crane Edmund Corporation in 1959; and Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company in 1962.
In 1956 Butler once again became a City due to another change in State law. New housing development was fairly consistent as several new subdivision plats were established and developed between 1952 to 1996.
Therma-Tru site in Butler
Eastern DeKalb County saw a resurgence of industrial growth in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Steel Dynamics, Incorporated (SDI) built a steel mini-mill on 750 acres four miles southwest of Butler. The State of Indiana constructed a vehicular overpass over US Highway 6 and the railroad tracks to accommodate the truck traffic generated by SDI and its related adjoining industries. That road was turned over to DeKalb County for maintenance and is now known as County Road 61. The area adjoining Steel Dynamics has grown into a major steel and metals producing area. This area is served by a force sanitary main extending from Butler to the SDI complex.
Butler in the 21st Century
Several significant public projects have occurred in Butler since the year 2000. A new Butler – Wilmington Township Fire Station was constructed in 2011 near the County 61 overpass over U.S. 6.
Butler – Wilmington Fire Station
The Thompson Block building was renovated for use as the Butler City Hall in 2012.
Renovated Butler City Hall & Traffic Court
The former Butler City Building / Fire Station was renovated for use by the Butler Police Department in 2016.
Renovated former Butler City Building, 120 West Main Street
Downtown Butler has undergone a transformation since 2015, due to fires and a major demolition project.
The Butler Company was a significant manufacturer during Butler’s early days. They built windmills, bicycles and buggies. A major fire destroyed the buildings on the site in March 2015.
The site was finally cleared of debris in November 2020:
Cleared Butler Company Site
In 2018, the Butler Redevelopment Commission completed a demolition project on the west side of the 100-block of South Broadway:
Vacant lots – 100-block of South Broadway, West side
This site is currently used for community events such as Butler Days and the Butler Main Street Association’s annual Harvest Festival:
Butler Days 2020
2020 Butler Main Street Harvest Festival