By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
If you come into Mountain City on the old State Route 91 (Divide Road since the new highway was built), you will see a stately old brick mansion on the right. Local folks know it as the Butler Mansion and probably know something about it but visitors to this area or newcomers planning to stay may be curious about its builder and its long time resident.
The house was built by and was the residence of one of the most famous citizens of Johnson County: Roderick Random (R. R.) Butler. Butler held a wide variety of important posts during his 75 years not the least was his actions during the American Civil War during which he attained the rank of Colonel. He was born in Wytheville, Virginia, April 9, 1827. He came to Taylorsville to follow the tailor’s craft having been apprenticed to a John Haney of Newbern, Virginia. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1853. He early on practiced law in Taylorsville (the name was changed to Mountain City in 1885.)
He was a Union Sympathizer, as were most folks in East Tennessee, and spent much of time working for the Union Cause. His rise to fame included being appointed Postmaster of Taylorsville by President Millard Fillmore and he was a Major of the 1st Battalion of Tennessee Militia and was a member of the Tennessee State Senate. During the Civil War he served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th Regiment, Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry.
After the war he was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1864, delegate to the Tennessee State constitutional convention in 1867 and was know as the people’s judge of the first judicial circuit of Tennessee in 1865. In 1867, he was elected as a Republican to the Fortieth and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving until 1875. He was a member of the Johnson County delegation at both the Knoxville session and Greenville session of the East Tennessee Convention, which petitioned the state legislature to allow East Tennessee to break away from Tennessee and form a Union-aligned state.
Butler was married to Emeline Jane Donnelly Butler and they had 11 children. Their home, The Butler Mansion, was built around 1870. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town of Butler was named in his honor. He died August 18, 1902. He is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Mountain City.