Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Benjamin Franklin Butler

Lawyer - Civil War General
Governor - Congressman
Industrialist - Yachtsman

Photo credit: Library of Congress

Love him or hate him he knew how to use his power and influence. After the Civil War Major General Butler returned to Lowell to practice law. He was very active in the affairs of the textile mills both for and against the owners.

The General had a house in Lowell at 133 Andover Street. The house (mansion) was torn down in the 1970s and was located on the land of Mansion Drive, Carriage Drive and Butler Drive off Andover Street.

He also had a summer residence in Gloucester called Bay View that he built in 1866. Still owned by his descendents it is available for rent today if you are interested.

General Butler invested in the Pentucket Navigation Company in 1867. The steamer Merrimac brought vacationers from Lawrence and Haverhill to the Black Rocks at Salisbury Beach for summer recreation. He also brought coal up the river to sell in Lowell. He made a lot of money. General Butler also purchased the yacht "America" from the U.S. Navy in 1873. He was an excellent yachtsman. The trip from Lowell to Gloucester is 40 miles so you have to wonder how many times he made the trip by water.

The mouth of the Merrimack River is one of the most dangerous on the east coast. Boats coming out of the river have Black Rocks and Badger Rocks on the Salisbury side to navigate. A light house was positioned on the Plum Island side. Along with a life saving station. The jetties that are on each side of the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean did not exist.

Benjamin Butler himself picked out the spot for the navigation aid we know as Butler's Toothpick in 1873. It's officially known as Coast Guard Black Rock Day Beacon #10 (Light List #9040). It is owned by the Coast Guard but sits adjacent to Salisbury Beach Reservation. It is forty feet tall and sits on a granite base 24 feet tall. The General also owned Cape Ann Granite so I wonder if he supplied the granite as well.

In 1947 the high tide swept out the wooden structure. It was rebuilt. It has had several updates over the years. It is a highly prized landmark today. We love visiting it when we camp at Salisbury Beach Reservation.
Thanks Ben!

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