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The Butler-Woodard Affair

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Page 415, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



In the latter part of June, 1856, a shooting affray occurred between Hardin Butler and John Woodard, both residents of Cedar Township, and living only one mile apart, which resulted in the death of the latter, when he had but lately returned from California.

When Woodard set out for that far-off State, he left his wife at home. She was a thrifty woman, industrious and economical every way, and, having a number of cows, turned her attention to butter-making, from the sale of which she received considerable sums of money.

On one occasion she sold a lot of butter, and took a note of hand in payment therefor. She subsequently sold the note to a man named Scott, who held it until it was "outlawed." Scott then went to Mrs. Woodard and made her believe that she was responsible to him for the payment of the same, and that she must pay it, which she did.

Hardin Butler lived a neighbor to Mrs. Woodard, and two or three times, when she had butter to convey to market she rode to town with him, when he happened to be going with his wagon. Butler learned how she had been imposed upon by Scott, and urged her to commence suit against him to recover the value of the note. When Scott learned of Mrs. Woodard's determination, he sought to "get even" with her by circulating insinuations that there had been an undue intimacy between her and Butler.

When Woodard returned home from California, these reports came to his knowledge, and he swore that he would avenge his honor by killing Butler on sight. The two men soon met a few rods from the line, between Cedar and Round Prairie Townships, when, as was supposed, Woodard drew his pistol and fired, but missed his aim, and that Butler returned the fire, mortally wounding his assailant.

Butler gave himself up to the authorities, and was held for murder in the first degree. The trial occasioned considerable interest; but as Butler was enabled to prove clearly that Woodard fired the first shot, and as he had been heard, by several persons, to threaten the life of Butler, the latter was finally discharged, it having been shown that the shot was fired in self-defense.

Butler now resides in Missouri, near La Plata. The widow of Woodard married again and removed to Cass County. John Huff, Woodard's brother-in-law, stated that the latter had been successful in the land of gold, and that he knew that, previous to his death, he had buried somewhere near his residence $500, all in $20 gold pieces, which has never been found, so far as known.

Ed. note: A 'rod' is a surveyor's term, a linear unit of measure 16.5 feet in length.

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