John Warren Butterfield

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John W. Butterfield.
Postal stationery for Post offices in Utica, New York, with Butterfield Sta. cancellations.

John Warren Butterfield (1801–1869) was an operator of stagecoach and freight lines in the mid-19th century in the American Northeast and Southwest. He founded companies that became American Express and Wells Fargo. Butterfield also founded the Butterfield Overland Express and from 1858 to 1861 operated a stage route running from St. Louis to San Francisco, establishing an important connection between the new state of California and the government and economy of the contiguous eastern states.[1]

Confusion concerning John Butterfield’s Name.

There are some who have incorrectly stated that his name was John Warren Butterfield. There is no existing primary source document that will justify that his middle name was "Warren." Searching many newspaper and history book sites, only one reference has been found for a John Warren Butterfield that was alive during John Butterfield’s time. John Warren Butterfield was born in 1829 and graduated in 1851 from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. He is listed as being employed as a lawyer for the U. S. Civil Service, Washington D. C.[2]

Most important is the legal document which must have John Butterfield’s full name—his will, which shows his name only as "John Butterfield."[3] Next is the tax assessment roles for the early 1860s. All show his name as "John Butterfield."[4]Next in line is his name on his gravestone and that is "John Butterfield." He signed his name on 100s of legal documents, such as stock certificates and checks, all showing "John Butterfield." Although newspaper articles sometimes have typographical errors, or a middle name is omitted, John’s name always appeared without any middle name—including his obituary.[5]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Berne, New York, in 1801 to Daniel and Catheline Butterfield. By the age of 19 he was a professional stage coach driver working out of Albany, New York, conveying passengers and freight to Utica. In 1822 he married Malinda Harriet Baker of Berne. He later established stage routes throughout New York State, and other means of transportation including packet and steamboats on Lake Ontario, the street railroad in Utica, and local plank-roads. He organized the Black River railroad. In 1850 his firm of Butterfield, Wasson & Co. merged with Livingston, Fargo & Co. and Wells & Co. as the American Express Co. under his direction.

Business ventures[edit]

Butterfield also had interests in various railroad developments, telegraph facilities, and banks. He was very fond of the city of Utica, situated along the Mohawk River in New York, where he built an elaborate home and commercial buildings, and also a business. He was elected mayor of Utica in 1865.

Butterfield's involvement with the stage coach transport business brought him directly to his participation in the express business. He was one of the first to see the commercial potential in the various services made possible with the use of stage coaches as vehicles of mail and freight transport. Butterfield's success was made easier because he came to the industry early on when the American nation was still developing and rapidly growing and with little competition to deal with.[6]

In 1857 he organized the long Butterfield Overland Mail route and, until 1861, contracted with the U.S. government to carry mail and passengers between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, California. In 1860, due to debts, Butterfield was forced out and Wells Fargo took over the route. He retired to his home in Utica where, after serving briefly as mayor, he died in 1869.[6]


His son the one

Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831 – 1901) was a Union General in the American Civil War, and Assistant U.S. Treasurer.

There is a Post Office named Butterfield Station, in Utica, New York, final home and resting place of John Butterfield.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Butterfield Stagecoach Overland Mail Co". Knol. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  2. ^ General Catalog of Bowdoin College, 1794-1889, Brunswick Maine, Published by the College, 1889.
  3. ^ Will Book, 1798-1909, Surrogate’s Court, Oneida County, New York, pp. 448-452.
  4. ^ Records of the Internal Revenue Tax Service, Record Group 58, Washington D. C., Tax Year 1862, State of New York, District 21, Annual and Special Lists 1862-1864.
  5. ^ Utica Weekly Herald, New York, November 16, 1869.
  6. ^ a b "John Butterfield". Gale Encyclopedia of Biography, Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  7. ^ Butterfield Post Office, Utica, New York Archived 2010-08-21 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]