Thomas Butler, Sr. (1720 - c.1789) MP

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Birthplace: Wicklow, Ireland
Death: Died in Carlisle, PA, USA
Managed by: Mary Kathleen Arnold (Butler)
Last Updated:

About Thomas Butler, Sr.

From The Butler Society website by permission of John Butler, Lord Dunboyne. 2011

Q4. BJ1#1 BUTLERS OF THE U.S.A. Who were the parents of Thomas Butler (1720 - 89) of Pennsylvania? It is odd that they have not been traced, as more is known of the origin of him than of most Irish emigrants and he was the progenitor of a family which has become firmly entrenched in American history. He is said to have been born in 1720 in the city of Wicklow and to have gone to Carlisle, Pa., in 1748. Some American sources give his birth more precisely as on 6 Apr 1720 in the parish of Coolkenny, Co. Wicklow; but Mr. George Butler of Dublin finds no trace of any such parish and suggests it may be an error for Coolkenna near Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow. Thomas married on 16, or 26, Oct. 1741 Eleanor, da. of Anthony Parker of Co. Wexford and had five sons, three of whom became Generals, and two, Colonels, in the American Army, and all of whom so distinguished themselves in the War of Independence that Lafayette (the only Honorary Citizen of the U.S.A. besides Sir Winston Churchill) is said to have remarked, whenever he wanted a thing well done he got a Butler to do it (P. Nolan, The Irish Dames of Ypres, 82). George Washington himself had occasion at his home to give his officers the toast 'The Butlers and their Five Sons' (Penn. Mag., VII). The county and borough of Butler in Pennsylvania is named after the eldest son, General Richard Butler (1743 - 91) who was killed and scalped in an engagement with the Indians at Miami. Blake Butler thought Thomas (1720 - 89) was probably descended from the Butlers of Ullard, Co. Carlow who held lands in Co. Wicklow in the 18th century and who are believed to have been a junior branch of the Butler baronets in Co. Carlow. In that connection this Thomas's grandson, Edward George Washington Butler, formerly of Dunboyne Plantation, Iberville, Louisiana, wrote to the 24th Lord Dunboyne in 1871 that Pierce Butler (1744 - 1822), who was 3rd son of the 5th baronet, 'claimed relationship to the Five Butler Brothers; tho' never traced'. Col. Sir Thomas Butler, the present baronet, adds the not unimportant footnote that it was this Pierce who signed the American Constitution and was one of the first Senators of the U.S.A.

4. BJ1#2 Thomas Butler (1720 - 89) of Pennsylvania. Miss Mary Earle of Akron, Ohio adds the following information: (a) a great-grand-daughter of this Thomas asserted his father was Richard, son or grandson of Pierce, 5/15th Lord Dunboyne. (Neither this Pierce nor his elder son, James, seems to have had a son called Richard; but Pierce's younger son, Thomas, or daughter, Helena, who married James Butler, might have had this Richard as a son. Ed.) (b) Thomas (1720 - 89) may have had an elder brother, James, b. 1718, parish of Coolkenny, Co. Wicklow; educ. Dublin; m. 1739 and said to have remained in Dublin and to have had 3 sons and 2 daus.: Thomas (1740 - 1832) Pa.: William (1743 - 1839), Pa.: John (1745 - 1830), b. Dublin d. Williams County, Ohio; Jane (1747 - 1830) m. William Mahan in America; Sarah, b. 1749. (We want to trace any surviving descendant of this James, b. 1718. Ed.) (c) W. D., J. C., and J. M., Butler in "The Butler Family in America" give Thomas (1720 - 89) 2 bros.: said James, b. 1718 and Joseph who is said to have lived in France and come to America with Lafayette and settled in Maryland. (In 1950 there was a Senator Butler of Maryland whose ancestry would be interesting to know in this connection in particular. Ed.) (d) Information about Thomas (1720 - 89) is believed to have come from a family Bible which has not been located. Its supposed transcriptions vary: one gives his birth-place as 'parish of Cooklenny, Co. Wicklow'; another, as 'parish of Kilkenny, City of Wicklow'. Notably, the American tombstone of his son, Pierce, says 'son of Thomas and Elinor Butler of Kilkenny, Ireland'. Thomas and Elinor seem to have married 26, rather than 16, Oct. 1741. Their grandson said they were married in Kilkenny and then lived in Dublin. Elinor is said to have been dau. of Anthony Parker of Carey, Co. Wexford. Thomas's Will (pr. 23. 7. 1791 in Carlisle, Cumberland co., Pa) begins: I, Thomas Butler, gunsmith'. According to family tradition he learned about the manufacture of guns when an Ordinance Officer in Ireland. His gunshop in Carlisle, Pa. is still standing. Mr. Richard Plater of Louisiana, who is descended from Thomas (1720 - 89) states that Thomas's elder brother James (b. 1718) lived two miles from Dublin and that his son, William (1743 - 1839) was impressed into the British Navy as a seaman, escaped by swimming ashore near Philadelphia, Pa., joined his uncle Thomas, became expert in manufacturing steel and was a sergeant in General Daniel Morgan's Rangers. Many of his descendants were also steel makers. Mr. George Butler of Dublin adds for reference: "The Irish Sword", V. 169 for the military careers of the sons and some of the grandsons of Thomas (1720 - 89) and O'Callaghan's "History of the Irish Brigade in the Service of France" for Lafayette's tribute to Butler efficiency, and "The Encycl. Americana", V. 82 for the public life of Pierce Butler (1744 - 1822).

4. BJ1#5 Thomas Butler (1720 - 89) of Penn., USA. Coolkenny is the older spelling of Coolkenna (L. Price, Placenarnes of Co. Wicklow), a mile or so from the Carlow boundary, in Shillelagh barony, Co. Wicklow. It was part of the FitzWilliam estate, the records of which might help. They are mainly in Sheffield Pub. Lib. and, for late 18th cent., in Nat. Lib., Ireland. The Butlers of Coolkenna might descend from those of Tullow, Co. Carlow (per K.W. Nicholls, via George Butler of Dublin). The Butlers of Tullow descended from Pierce, 2nd s. of 1st V. Mountgarret. T. Blake Butler traced to the 19th cent. their descent, but only in their heirs male line (Brit.Mus. Add.MSS 52802-61; Nat, Lib., Ireland, MSS 12022-36).

4. BJ1#6 Thomas Butler (1720-89) of Penn. K.W. Nicholls' suggestion that the Butlers of Coolkenna descended from those of Tullow apparently referred not to the Butlers of Tullow of the Mountgarret branch, but to James, s. and h. of Richard of Roran, Co. Tip., 2nd s. of Pierce Butler of Nodstown. Nicholls considers C.S. shows this James to be of Tullow. Richard of Roran d. Jan. 1638 (H. Gallwey, Wall Family, 130).

4. BJ1#7 Thomas Butler (1720-1789) of Pennsylvania. In 1751, this Thomas applied for land toward The North Mountain, Pa. (per Miss M. Hurley of Newville, Pa.).

4. BJ2#4 Thomas Butler (1720-1789) of Pa. James Butler (b. 1718) who may have been his bro. is said to be s/o Edmond (or Edward) who was born ca. 1685 (per H.M. Russ of Texas). This Thomas maybe the Thomas Butler who was gunmaker in Dublin, 1743-46, in Lancaster, Pa., 1749-54, in Cumberland Co., Pa., 1760, at Fort Pitt, Pa., 1765 and in West Pennshore Township, Cumberland Co., Pa., 1771-89 (J.D. & V.E. Whisker, Gunmakers of W.Pa.). He also appears to have been repairing arms at the Park of Artillery near Raystown, 1758 (Bouquet Papers, ii, 663) and at Carlisle, Pa. 1759 (ibid, iii,260).

These extracts are from Happy Families, a serial published since 1968 in The Journal of the Butler Society. The serial is a continuing record of research into the genealogy of many different families named Butler. Happy Families is compiled by Lord Dunboyne, by whose permission these extracts are made available on the Butler Society's web-site www.butler-soc.org solely for personal, not-for-profit, use by members of the Butler Society. WARNING - These extracts have been scanned and may contain errors and omissions. If in doubt, please consult the original Journal.

____________________________________________________________ NOTE: The DNA of direct descendents of Thomas Butler b. 1720 and James Butler b. 1718 is NOT a match, therefore disproving that they had the same fathers. Mary Butler Arnold

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Thomas Butler, Patriarch of "The Fighting Butlers"'s Timeline

1720
April 6, 1720
Wicklow, Ireland
1743
April 1, 1743
Age 22
Dublin, Ireland
1744
January 6, 1744
Age 23
London, England
1748
May 29, 1748
Age 28
Dublin, Ireland
1749
November 5, 1749
Age 29
Pennsylvania
1751
September 19, 1751
Age 31
West Lancaster, Pennsylvania
1753
1753
Age 32
1757
1757
Age 36
1760
April 4, 1760
Age 39
Carlisle, Cumberland, Pennsylvania
1762
March 20, 1762
Age 41
Mt. Pleasant, Cumberland, Pennsylvania