The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


BUTLER, Ezra Pitt (1796-1875) and Sarah (1799-1866)

Parents of George Ide Butler, who served as General Conference president 1871-1874 and 1880-1888. Ezra Pitt's father, who had the same name, was governor of Vermont (1826-1828). Ezra married Sarah Grow in 1819. According to his obituary, he was “a very zealous worker in the ’44 movement.” Sarah became a Sabbathkeeper in 1848, her husband following her two or three years later. E. P. Butler was ordained for ministry in 1853, although his subsequent participation in public ministry was quite limited. 1EGWLM 800.3

Ellen White's major comment on Butler relates to his participation in several conferences in New Hampshire and Vermont in October and November 1851. Apparently Butler belonged to the small faction that, despite the warnings of the Whites, expected the Second Coming in October 1851 and doubted the visions of Ellen White. During the course of the conferences, however, Butler radically revised his position, declaring publicly, “I believe them [the visions] to be of God, am a full believer in the visions, so you may know where to find me.” 1EGWLM 800.4

Together with several other Sabbathkeeping Adventist families from New England, Butler with his family migrated westward in 1856 to Waukon, Iowa, and farmed there for most of the remainder of his life. Butler's move to Iowa seems to have coincided with a decline in his religious experience. In 1863 he wrote of “the stupidity and indifference that has rested upon me for six years.” In 1868 J. N. Andrews despaired of Butler, that the Waukon church was suffering from some of his theological notions that he was pressing “to a ridiculous extent … and disfellowshipping all who did not make it a test of salvation.” Nevertheless, by 1869 things had improved. “I think I can say something encouraging of Father,” wrote his son, G. I. Butler, to James White. “He acts very different towards us all—attends meetings regularly, takes part, confesses he has been led by Satan in the course he has pursued.” Butler's last years were spent with his daughter in Battle Creek, Michigan. 1EGWLM 800.5

See: Obituary: Ezra P. Butler, Review, Dec. 9, 1875, p. 183; obituary: Sarah G. Butler, Review, Sept. 18, 1866, p. 127; George W. Davis, John Grow of Ipswich: John Groo (Grow) of Oxford (Washington, D.C. [?]: Davis, 1913), p. 76; Ellen G. White, Lt 8, 1851 (Nov. 12); E. P. Butler, “From Bro. Butler,” Review, Apr. 7, 1863, p. 151; J. N. Andrews to “Brother and Sister White,” July 3, 1868; G. I. Butler to James and Ellen White, Feb. 3, 1869. For a survey of E. P. Butler's family background, see Emmett K. Vande Vere, Rugged Heart: The Story of George I. Butler, pp. 9-13. 1EGWLM 801.1