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Letter from Lucinthia (Hutchinson) Butler

[Letter from Lucinthia (Hutchinson) Butler (wife of George Henry Butler) to her son Ernest P. Butler. The letter is addressed to him at 36 + 38 Exchange St. Buffalo, NY. George S. is Ernest's brother George Sylvester Butler. The "Betsey & Nancy case refers to Benjamin Butler's ship that was taken by the French in 1798. See the French Spoliation claims story. Rufus Sage, whose mother was Jerusha

Cromwell, CT Sept. 9, 1889

Dear Ernest,,

I have been home over a week now, as I got back Saturday night. I am stronger than when I went away, but am not yet rid of my throat trouble, but hope, by resting and sticking to remedies, to improve at home now. Last week, my spare time was spent in writing out a history of the Betsey & Nancy case, for reference, as the Lawyers were coming on to see to the case and take depositions. They, or Mr. Clark took father's and Rufus Sage's; they being the only ones that seemed to know enough about the matter to testify. The conclusion of the matter is, with the Lawyers that if any claim is paid this ought to be, but unless stronger evidence of ownership is brought forward, Ells will probably get half because his share not being anywhere stated and he claims half, the natural supposition is that they were equal owners in vessel and cargo. He also swears to being sole owner when it was taken the same year again, though two other owners are on the papers.

I suppose the Attorney General in charge of the U.S. side of the suit and Mr. Clark went back today.

George S. began haying at the Parsonage this morning. Melon crop is a failure. George has some nice concords. Has picked a bushel of splendid ones for Mrs. Hallock this P.M.

Write as soon as you can so I can fill out the record and have done with it. As that seems to be "ye next thing" for me to do.


[The next is just some extracts from a torn letter to Ernest 10 years later in which she again talks about the French Spoliation Claims. "The Plains" was the area of northern Cromwell, CT where the Butler's lived. Sylvester is her grandson (and our grandfather) -- David Butler]

May 1899,

...to find someone decent the coming year to occupy your house, for I don't enjoy thinking of you living in such love forlorn way.

The rain has followed the snow. Bad for the Plains, in testament by Plains scholars this evening. I suppose Sylvester Benjamin will be one of the attractions. For we shouldn't go; done going out nights mostly.


The French Spoliation Claims matter has come up again and the cases that were tried some years ago will get their pay out of the last appropriation. This will bring on a hearing of other cases before the Court so that when another appropriation is made, if ever, the rest of the Claimants will be ready for their share.

...with much love from Mother

[The following are the depositions

In the Court of Claims

French Spoilation No. 2144
George H. Butler, Administrator of the Estate of Benjamin Butler, Dec'd
The United States

The following depositions were this day taken before me at my office in Middletown, Conn. by consent of George Clark, Esq, Attorney for Claimant and Benjamin Wilson, Esq, Attorney for the United States.

[signed] Wesley U. Pearce, Notary Public

September 7th 1889.

Thereupon came George H. Butler, a witness for Claimant, who being duly sworn by me according to law deposed and said: That his name is George H. Butler; his residence Cromwell Conn; his occupation a farmer; his age 68 years.

Examined by Mr.. Clark

Q1: Are you the Administrator of the Estate of Benjamin Butler dec'd named above?

A: I am

Q2: State as far as you are able all that you know of or about Benjamin Butler, his business, residence, place of death and date. Children surviving him, grandchildren now surviving and your own relationship to him; State as fully and briefly as possible, with the sources of your information.

A: I know from the history of the family, I never saw him. That he was a merchant residing in Stepney (now Rocky Hill) a part of the old town of Wethersfield; that he had a dwelling house and farm then, about a mile from where I now live; that he was reputed to be well-to-do in shipping, coasting and foreign trade both. West India trade. He died in Middletown Upper Houses. Was drowned August 21, 1813 in the Connecticut River, in the 64th year of his age; he left children as follows: Joseph, Jerusha - who married Rufus Sage, Allen, Sylvester, Mary, who married Comfort Starr, Eunice who married Ichabod Chapman, George, and Sophia, who married Asabel Woodruff. The last one died within the last three years. Of the grandchildren now living there is one son of Joseph, a son and daughter of Jerusha and Rufus Sage, myself and sister, children of Sylvester, (named George H, and Mary E., now wife of H. W. Bulkley) a daughter of Eunice; two sons and two daughters of Sophia. I am grandson of Benjamin Butler.

Q3: As Administrator or otherwise, have any original papers come into your possession, relating to his ownership of a vessel or vessels, at or previous to 1800; and particularly with reference to the schooner "Betsey and Nancy" of which Asa Sage was master?

A: I received source papers bearing upon that question which I sent to Judge Clark my counsel in this case. What I sent was a copy of the Condemnation of the vessel "Betsey and Nancy" - written in French brought from Basse Terre. I also sent a translation which I found with the original copy. I also found the papers which I hold in my hand, bills and receipts; these bills and receipts were found in my father's old desk where he kept his old accounts and papers. The condemnation I found at First National Bank, Middletown, among the papers of Justin Stocking,

Counsel for Claimant offers these papers in evidence and they are received as exhibits and marked as follows: Exhibits No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. And "7a" -- two having been marked as 7, and attached to this deposition.

Witness states that he had made a pencil memorandum on the bottom of Exhibit No. 3 for his own use, which was erased by the Notary in his presence, before filing.

Q4: Was Benjamin Butler a citizen of the United States, and if so, was he native born or naturalized?

A: He was a native born citizen. I know this from a deed given him from his father, of property in Rocky Hill. Which deed I think is in my house; and other deeds which I have examined; and from reputation in the family.

Defendant's Counsel objects to so much of the above answer as predicates knowledge of the said Butler being a native born citizen upon seeing the deeds referred to.

Defendant's Counsel objects to so much of the above answer as refers to the ownership of property by the said Butler or any other matter, except birth, death of marriage from history of the family.

Cross-examined by Mr. Wilson:

Q1: State what you know if anything about your grandfather, Benjamin Butler, being indebted to the Federal Government or having gone into Bankruptcy.

A: I never heard anything of the sort.

Q2: Was he connected with a foreign commercial house in the West Indies or elsewhere?

A: Not to my knowledge.

Redirect by Mr.. Clark:

Q1: State whether your father, Sylvester Butler is now living and if not state the date and place of his death or near as you can.

A: He is not living: He died in November 1861, I think: in Cromwell, CT.

Q2: State what if anything you have ever heard him say during his life of the ownership of the "Betsey and Nancy" - at the time of her first capture by the French.

A: He said that Capt. Eells. owned only one share and Benjamin Butler the rest.

Q3: Are you able to state anything further of what your father said or as to any papers relating to the vessel or her ownership.

A: He had papers - important papers but I do not know their contents. They were given to Edmund Sage about 1845 - what has become of them I am unable to state.

Question by Notary: State whether you know of any other matter relative to the claim in question and if so state it.

A: No more than this: That I have always understood the cargo was owned in the same proportion as the vessel. or wholey owned by Benjamin Butler.

[signed] George H. Butler

At the same place and on the same day in the presence of the same counsel of both parties Rufus B. Sage, a witness on behalf of the Claimant was produced, and having been by me in like manner sworn, deposed and said that his name is Rufus B. Sage; his place of residence Cromwell, Conn; his occupation a farmer; his age 72 years.

Examined by Mr.. Clark.

Q1: What do you know of Benjamin Butler the original claimant in this proceeding, and how id at all are you related to him?

A: I know only what my mother told me, that her father, Benjamin Butler, was well off or in other words rich; that he was engaged in the shipping business to the West Indies and otherwheres, from New London, that was the port from which they sailed. He lived in Cromwell. Then called Middletown Upper Houses. He was formerly a resident of Wethersfield; that he met with a serious loss by the capture in 1798 or about that time, of a schooner called the "Betsey and Nancy" by the French; that the loss was a very serious one and caused him great anxiety. He estimated his personal loss at $10,000. and it disturbed him to such an extent that he could not sleep nights; have heard my mother say repeatedly that at the time of the first capture of the vessel, Benjamin Butler owned five-sixths of the vessel and that he owned all of the cargo except the venture of my uncle Joseph Butler, son of Benjamin -- and another venture, the ownership of which I don't know: supposed to belong to Eells.

My mother, whose name was Jerusha Sage, was the eldest daughter of Benjamin Butler and I am his grandson.

Wilson: Defendants counsel objects to so much of the forgoing answer as gives the declaration of witness mother about her father, Benjamin Butler, being "well off" or rich; about his basis of transactions; about his loss of $10,000. by the capture of the schooner Betsey & Nancy: about his loss of sleep. These statements were alleged to have been made by the said Benjamin Butler to his daughter Jerusha, and by her detailed to the witness and now are detailed by him are merest hearsay evidence and for that reason not legal or competent evidence.

Q2: How if at all, are you related to Asa Sage the Captain of the "Betsey and Nancy?"

A: There is a distant relationship, but just what it is I can not state, without referring to the record.

Question by the Notary: State whether you know of any other matter relative to the claim in question and if so, state what it is.

I know that there were important papers in the possession of my brother Edmund, what they were precisely, I can not say, never having read them. His statement from the documents, confirmed what my mother said with reference to the ownership of the ship and cargo. These papers were in existence, to my knowledge, as late as 1876. Since then all trace of them is lost.

I know nothing further.

Wilson: Defendants counsel objects to so much of this statement as purports to give the language of witness's brother in confirmation of the statements of his mother. The same being hearsay and hence not competent evidence.

[signed] Rufus B. Sage

[The following are the exhibits. They were each attached to a legal size piece of paper with some sort of ribbon, and the ribbon affixed with a seal.]

Exhibit 1. [not sure what this one shows or how it relates]

Exhibits 2 (dated Feb 26, 1798) and 3 (dated March 1798)

Exhibits 4 and 5 (dated August 27, 1797)

Exhibits 6 (dated November 1795), 7 (1796) and 7a (1798).

Exhibit 8. (dated August 17, 1796)

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