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Memories of Old Butler Live on as Watauga Academy/Old Butler Reunion Nears

Those of us not affected by the flooding of Old Butler will never know the heart-wrenching experience of many of the residents of that once industrious, thriving town and its environs as they lost their homes to the building of Watauga Dam and the subsequent inundation of their town by the resulting lake. One can only imagine how it would feel to lose a cherished home place — a place where love had ruled and laughter had reverberated through its rooms and halls and when the realization sets in that no one will never see that familiar landscape again.
Some Butler residents sold their land and homes and moved away to distant locations, while some stayed in the general area. Some chose to have their homes moved away from the water’s proposed edge, while some moved their homes to or built on property that was originally called Carderview.
Carderview; named for then Cobb Creek Baptist Church minister, M. H. Carder, who led in the establishment of that community; kept the name only five years (June 1, 1948 until June 1, 1953). The residents changed the name back to Butler to honor the memory of “The Town That Would Not Drown.” That memory is very much alive in the hearts of the former residents of “Old Butler.” But to further enhance the memory of that town, an outstanding museum has been built and equipped featuring many items and photographs pertaining to that unique town. Another way the memory of Butler is kept alive is through the annual Watauga Academy/Old Butler Reunion. It is being held this year at Butler Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Sunday, August 14. The Butler Museum and Watauga Academy Boards of Directors plan this event each year. Mr. Dan Stansberry will be the guest speaker. Mr. Harry Fontaine, a native of Old Butler, will provide the special music. It is a church service. After the service a lunch will be served in the church fellowship hall by the Butler Museum and Watauga Academy boards. The lunch is by donation only. Everyone is invited to attend. For more information, you may call Herman Tester at 423-753-6961.
Another annual event in Butler is Old Butler Days conducted by the Butler Ruritan Club. This year the dates for that event are this coming weekend, Friday, August 12 and Saturday, August 13. There will be crafts, food, music and much more. While the town is no more, the memories remain for those who were its citizens and for those who experienced the excellent education provided by the Watauga Academy.
Approval and preliminary work on the Watauga Dam project was begun in 1941. World War II intervened and work was stopped until it was renewed in 1946. Finally, the floodgates were closed in December 1948 and by October of 1949 the reservoir was full.
Called Smith’s Mill in an earlier time, Butler was named for Colonel Roderick Random Butler, who gained fame as a Union officer in the 13th Regiment Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry. Butler also served in the United States Congress as well as a Tennessee state senator during his distinctive career.