Significant People of Lumber & Shingle

Photo courtesy Everett Public Library

William C. Butler

William Butler never headed a North Waterfront mill. As Everett’s all-powerful banker, however, he controlled the destinies of men and mills. Born on January 27, 1866 in Paterson, New Jersey, to a prominent East Coast family, Butler was in his mid-20s when he came to Everett during the city’s early boom days. He had a Columbia University mining degree and arrived here to help build and operate a smelter for the Rockefeller interests. He began acquiring bank stock and eventually left the smelter to become president of Everett’s First National Bank in 1901. The bank merged with American National Bank in 1909 and William Butler remained president of the resulting First National and Everett Trust and Savings Company, a fully owned American subsidiary. Now he headed the city’s largest bank operation with virtually no competition. The Bank of Commerce, Everett’s only other bank in 1909, had resources that were less than one fourth of Butler’s. Over the years, he increased his web of control and his domination of Everett’s economy. At one point he was reported to have a signifiant interest in at least 65 mills and logging companies in the city and county. Most certainly, some of those were in the North Waterfront.

Essentially a recluse, Butler quietly manipulated Everett’s finances behind the doors of his First National office and the beautiful home he and his wife, Eleanor, built at 17th Street and Grand Avenue. Reportedly, no news about him went into the local paper without his approval, and no companies came into the community without his sanction.He was a pillar in the Republican Party and, undoubtedly, had a major role in Roland Hartley’s successful quest for the governorship. Though he never sought recognition, he was instrumental in keeping every Snohomish County bank afloat through the Great Depression of the 1930s, and he was a generous supporter of Everett’s General Hospital. He personally balanced the hospital’s budget during the lean years and left a significant bequest upon his death.

Butler had bowed out of the bank presidency, but was still the board chairman when he died on January 6, 1944. His wife died four months later. Both are buried in the Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, New Jersey. The Butlers had lost their only child when he was a teenager so no one was left to carry on a family legacy. They did leave the Butler Trust Fund, which was still supporting charitable causes in the community as of 2010.