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Bonanza Farmer Charles W. Buttz


Bonanza farms brought great publicity to Dakota Territory from 1874 through 1880. The large-scale wheat farms attracted investors eager to make their fortunes. The names of Bonanza farmers echo through Dakota’s history, including the Grandin Brothers of Pennsylvania; the Carrington Brothers from Ohio; the Cooper Brothers of Chicago; and Richard Sykes from England.

These men left their imprint on North Dakota by the towns they gave their name – Grandin, Carrington, Cooperstown and Sykeston – names rich in history with syllables that roll off the tongue.

Yet there was another Bonanza farmer whose name was not as melodious as the others with a town name that could grate upon the sensibilities. The man was Charles W. Buttz, spelled B-U-T-T-Z, and he could have used his first name for the town – Charlestown. Instead, he called it Buttzville.

C.W. Buttz came from a long line of Buttzes. Born in Pennsylvania in 1837, he moved with his family to New Jersey, where his father, John Buttz, established a flour mill and the town of Buttzville, New Jersey.

C.W. grew up and studied law, but when the Civil War began in 1861, he became a cavalry officer, gaining glory and rising to the rank of Major. After the war, Buttz moved to Virginia where he became active in politics and soon relocated to South Carolina. Because he was a northerner and a Republican, Buttz was called a carpetbagger, a derisive name for those who came south during reconstruction. Nevertheless, in 1877 Buttz won a seat to the House of Representatives from South Carolina, a Democratic state, and he served one term.

In 1880, Buttz suffered a stroke and his doctor advised him to move to a drier climate. Buttz chose Fargo, where he opened a law office. Then, with his relatives David and John, he established the big “Buttz Bonanza Farm” on 36,000 acres in Ransom County in 1882. The brothers named the associated town Buttzville, to honor the family name and their old hometown.

C.W. was a farmer, lawyer and state legislator in North Dakota and also became a lobbyist in Washington, D-C, using his old Congressional connections. On this date in 1913, Charles W. Buttz died at the age of 75. His impressive tombstone in the Lisbon city cemetery lists his achievements. How many men in North Dakota ever made so much history – as a Civil War hero, a Carpetbagger, and as a Bonanza farmer?

As for his town, it faded away, for John moved West and David died in 1920. Today, all that remains of Buttzville is a lonely railway sign and a few ramshackle buildings, five miles east of Lisbon.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department, with research by Mark Moss, Lisbon, N.D.

SOURCES: “Charles W. Buttz,” date of death: 07/20/1913, Public Death Index, North Dakota Department of Health, ND Dept. of Heath: Birth and Death Certificates, https://secure.appls.state.nd.us./doh/certificates/deathCertSearch.htm, accessed on November 11, 2009. “Buttz Dead,” Grand Forks Herald, July 26, 1913.

Hiram M. Drache, The Day of the Bonanza: A History of Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley of the North (Fargo: N.D. Institute for Regional Studies, 1964), p. 49-52, 56, 75.

Hiram M. Drache, “Bonanza Farming in the Red River Valley,” Minnesota Historical Society Transactions Series 3, no. 24, 1967-68 season, http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/bonanzafarming.shtml, p. 6.

“Representative Buttz,”North Dakota Magazine, vol. I, no. 6 (February, 1907): 61-64.

“Charles Wilson Buttz (1837-1913), Infoplease.com, accessed on June 30, 2011.

“Buttz, Of Buttzville,” Grand Forks Herald, May 30, 1894, p. 2.

“Buttz In Washington,” Grand Forks Herald, December 15, 1905, p. 10.

D.H. Buttz death, Grand Forks Herald, July 11, 1920, p. 7.

“Buttzville History,” Lisbon, North Dakota, 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, p. 34.

“Died: Buttz,” Washington Post, August 2, 1913, p. 3.