Clark and Ailene (Bailey) Butler Family

by Jeff Harvey

An article based on a 2002 Interview with Clark Bailey appeared in the Princeton Times. It is reproduced here with permission of the author.

ATHENS-"I really don't know. I guess it's just by the grace of God. I guess (I've just been) interested in people and my community."

Those words from 91-year-old Clark Butler are his attempt to explain a lifelong interest in the Athens area where he has spent roughly two-thirds of his life and, come Sunday, which will be honored by the 2002 Athens-Concord Town Social with its Elder Citizen award.

Clark Butler was born on Oct. 12, 1910 in Hill Top (Topeth) approximately eight miles northeast of Athens to the late Rufus P. and Mary Vene Ryan Butler.

"My home was just across the road from the Butler (Family) Cemetery. Topeth is better known as Hill Top, but the story is that they asked people to send in names for a new post office. Someone sent in "Hill Top" but forgot to dot the “i,” which made it look like “Hell Top.” The post office sent a letter back to give it the name “Topeth” which was a name from the Bible for Hell, Butler recalled.

Butler graduated in the last graduating class of Lerona High School and attended Concord College (one year) and West Virginia Business College before getting a job in Bluefield.

“I was hired at the old Clark’s store in Bluefield to work the floor. They were owned by the Bluefield Supply Company and had five stores at that time. Lon Rich was my boss,” he said.

While working in Bluefield in 1940, Butler married Ailene Bailey (now deceased). They have three children, Mary Hopkins, Carol Bailey and Paul Butler, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“Not long after I married, in Oct. 1940, I was transferred to the Clark’s store in Mullens. We kept our marriage secret for a year because she was teaching school in Tazewell County (Va.) and they didn’t hire married women at the time to teach. After the nine months’ school term was up, we announced that we had been married since August, 1940. We bought furniture and set up housekeeping in Mullens,” Butler recalled.

In 1953, the Butlers moved to Athens, he said, to help his father-in-law John M. Bailey run his farm.

“My wife’s father and mother, John M. and Sally Bailey, owned a farm (The Legend Valley Farm between Princeton and Athens). He lost his renter and he asked me to become partners in the farm. We moved to Athens and lived in the upstairs apartments of Jennings’ Drugstore (now the location of Gino’s Pizza/Tudor’s Biscuit World) until 1962, when we moved over here after Mrs. Bailey passed away to take care of Mr. Bailey,” Butler said.

Although the Butlers sold the farm in 1968 due to advancing age and health reasons, they remained active in the Mercer County Farm Bureau, of which he remains a member. During his time with the Farm Bureau, he has held every elected post, served on the District Board of Directors and attended several American Farm Bureau meetings.

“I was more or less born into it,” he said.

Also during his working career, Butler said, he worked at Princeton Bank & Trust for six years and at B. T. Hash Furniture Store in Mullens as a bookkeeper/salesman.

“We hadn’t been in Athens long when I was elected to Athens Town Council (He served two terms 1959-63). I served on Council when we didn’t have any water or money (to build a system). We more or less had to start from scratch,” he said.

While a dam located at what is now the present-day Athens Lake was discussed then, he said, fiscal considerations forced the town to dig a well on the Meador Byrd farm between Hilltop Road and Hinton Road. The well served until a subsequent Town Council decided to “shoot” (blast it with dynamite) and ruined it.

The Butler home was built by Ailene Butler’s grandfather, H. M. Shumate, then passed down to the Baileys and the Butlers.

“Our house was originally where the back parking lot (of BB&T-Athens) is now. The bank (then Bank of Athens) was where the side parking lot is and the Baptist parsonage was on the Unity Road corner,” he said.

Butler is a lifelong Cincinnati Reds baseball fan, his daughter Mary said, who went to games on Sundays when they lived in Mullens. He also followed the West Virginia University Mountaineers basketball team on radio. He’s also followed the Princeton teams in the Appalachian League from the Pirates to the Devil Rays.

Asked what else he liked to do, Butler said, “I like to tinker and fix little things. I had a garden up to this year.”

Butler has been a member of the Concord United Methodist Church for nearly 50 years, serving on the church’s administrative council and on different committees.

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