History of Butler County

Naming of Butler County

Butler County is named for Senator Andrew Pickens Butler (1796-1857) of South Carolina. Senator Butler was an ardent proslavery advocate although he had voted for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, perhaps thinking like many others that Kansas would become a slave state and Nebraska a free state.

Butler County was one of the 33 original counties created by the “Bogus Legislature” composed of pro-slavery Missourians, border state ruffians and the fraudulently elected. A late Free State legislature allowed the name to remain unchanged. One account states that they thought Butler County was named after Massachusetts’s politician and late Union Army General, Ben Butler.


Since the early days, the regional economy had been focused on farming and ranching. This would all change when, in the fall of 1915, a cable tool-drilling rig owned by Wichita Natural Gas began to drill an oil well on the John Stapleton farm north of town. Day after day the tools stomped their way into the solid earth until a depth of 670 feet oil was discovered. Word spread like a wind-whipped prairie fire and the black gold rush was on.

Butler’s economy changed almost overnight. Lease prices for land skyrocketed as men sought riches from deep within the earth. New shops and businesses were built to meet the demands of thousands of incoming workers.

The company owned towns of Oil Hill, Midian, Gordon, Browntown, and others prospered. Oil Hill and El Dorado grew and by 1918 their population totaled 20,000. In a single year, more than 28 million barrels of crude oil were produced.