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Cottonwood Heights Journal

History of the Butlers and Butlerville Days preview

Jun 29, 2023 02:58PM ● By Cassie Goff

Butlerville grew and progressed until it started to take shape as the Cottonwood Heights City known today. (Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights)

The annual tradition of celebrating Pioneer Day with a multiday festival called Butlerville Days is beloved for many Cottonwood Heights residents. The name may evoke memories of playing bingo, dancing to live entertainers or watching fireworks. But for some residents, the name is reminiscent of the area’s history and namesake. 

The area currently known as Cottonwood Heights was home to the Butler Bench, Poverty Flats and Danish Town settlements in 1849. Within those settlements lived the Butler and McGee family. On the day a town meeting was called to organize the community, there was one more Butler brother in attendance than McGee brother, so the community was named after the “Butler” lumbermen. 

By 1854, land that had been donated by Jehu Cox to build a 10-acre fort had been developed by 23 homes. The population was 273. By the 1860s, logs were being brought out of the canyon from homebuilders and the railroad.   

In 1861, The Deseret Paper Mill (now affectionately called “The Old Mill”) was built along the Big Cottonwood Canyon Creek. Deseret News used the mill to make paper from wood pulp prepared from the canyon’s lumber. 

By 1877, Butler Precinct, Union Precinct, Butler School District 57, and Union School District 23 had all been established. The population at this time had almost doubled to 484. 

The Unified Jordan School District was created in 1905 to accommodate the rising population, which at that time had reached 757. 

During the 1900s, the Butlerville area housed mining and sand/gravel pit industries. Agricultural farming was also booming with farms of hay, wheat, vegetable, fruit, milk, poultry and fur crops. 

“Electricity came to Butlerville in 1918 through the efforts of Asa R. Bowthorpe, William C. Wootton, and Edwin Jones. Some of the best fox and mink furs were raised when Alma Farnsworth started the first fox farm in 1929. Mink farming began when Erekson Fur Farms moved to the community in 1931. Fruit farming became an even more important industry in Butlerville as Mr. Kasuga is remembered for developing a new strain of strawberries,” wrote researcher and geocaching specialist Jacob Barlow. 

The first subdivisions of Greenfield Village, Cottonwood Ridge (Virginia Hills Drive) and Steffensen Heights were built between 1953 and 1955. Then in 1974, Rich Whitmore donated land to build the Whitmore Branch Library. 

The Cottonwood Heights Community Council was established in 1952 before the city was incorporated in 2005. Since then, the city has paid homage to its history by celebrating Butlerville Days over the Pioneer Day weekend. Beginning as a single-day event, Butlerville Days as grown to span over an entire weekend, drawing visitors to the city from across Salt Lake County. 

2023 will be no exception. Butlerville Days will be held from Thursday, July 27 until Saturday, July 29 with varying activities every day. The most anticipated event of Butlerville Days is known to be the firework show, which will continue this year. Live entertainment will also be reoccurring this year with musical groups Current and Shuffle performing. Various activities like walking tours presented by the Cottonwood Heights Arts Council and Historic Committee, an antique and classic car show, and carnival rides will be returning this year as well. 

New this year will be a drone show presented by Open Sky Productions. 

To learn more about the 2023 Cottonwood Heights Butlerville Days hosted at Butler Park (7500 S. 2700 East), visit the city’s website at: λ