William G. Butler, one of the earliest and most active trail drivers of South Texas, was born on June 14, 1831, in Scott County, Mississippi, the son of Burnell and Sarah Ann (Ricks) Butler. In 1852 he moved to Karnes County, Texas, with his parents and twelve siblings. In 1858 he married Adeline Burris, who bore him eight children. During the Civil War Butler volunteered for Confederate service and was mustered into the Escondido Rifles, a company of mounted riflemen raised in Karnes County in July 1861. Later, as a member of Franklin C. Wilkes's cavalry, he was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department for service in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. After the war, like many other South Texans, Butler started ranching and trail driving "to connect the four-dollar cow with the forty-dollar market." He soon became important in the cattle industry in South Texas. His first string of cattle was driven to Abilene in the spring of 1868. For many years he and Seth Mabry of Austin were partners, and together they sent up the trail an estimated 100,000 cattle. In Karnes County, Butler owned nearly 75,000 acres of land, leased another 25,000, and stocked 10,000 cattle. He also helped secure the passage of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway through the county. He died in Karnes County on June 20, 1912, and was buried in the family cemetery at his home near Kenedy.
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J. Frank Dobie, ed., A Vaquero of the Brush Country (Dallas: Southwest, 1929; new ed., Boston: Little, Brown, 1943). Wayne Gard, The Chisholm Trail; with Drawings by Nick Eggenhofer (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954). J. Marvin Hunter, Trail Drivers of Texas (2 vols., San Antonio: Jackson Printing, 1920, 1923; 4th ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).
Ranching and Cowboys
Trail Drivers and Riders
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert H. Thonhoff,
“Butler, William G.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994