John Butler was born on April 28th, 1728 in New London, Connecticut, the son of Lieutenant Walter Butler and Deborah Dennis. His father was an officer in the British Army who had come to North America to participate in the expedition against Quebec in 1711. Shortly after John's birth in 1728, his father was posted at Fort Hunter on the Mohawk River, and the family relocated there along with him. As a child, John witnessed years of the French Indian Wars growing up on the frontier.
John Butler joined the Indian Department of Sir William Johnson in his teens. As part of the department, he was present at the captures of Fort Frontenac, Niagara and Montreal. In 1752, he married Catalyntje (Catherine) Brandt and they raised a family of five children. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, he moved to Montreal with the Indian Department, where he was dispatched to Niagara in November of 1775 to manage the department there. In 1777, he organized a company of soldiers at Fort Niagara and they became known as Butler's Rangers. Butler's eldest son, Walter, fought in the war alongside his father, and his wife and children, who he left behind, were captured by rebel forces and held as prisoners until 1780.
After the Revolution, John Butler became a farmer in the Niagara Peninsula. John Graves Simcoe said the following of Butler: "He certainly was perfectly conversant with your manners, customs and interests, had fought with you in war and administered the king's bounty to you in peace, was a loyal and faithful subject of his sovereign and a true friend of the Indians." (Smy, William A.) John Butler died on May 12th, 1796.
*Smy, William A. John Butler and his Rangers:
Some Odds and Ends. St. Catharines, Ontario: St. Catharines Public Library
Special Collections Dept., 1996.
*Cruikshank, Ernest. The Story of Butler's Rangers and the Settlement of Niagara. Owen Sound, Ontario: Richardson, Bond & Wright Ltd., 1975. Originally published, Welland, Ontario: Tribune Printing House, 1893.