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Friends of Butler seeking to promote park, Butler legacy

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By Dave Taylor

The Friends of Butler, a nonprofit organization established to sustain, foster and further the heritage of the historic Butler family who settled on the land that is now General Butler State Resort Park, is currently conducting a membership drive.

“Every park has its focal point,” Friends of Butler President Majorie Bowers said. “This park has a real historical focal point. There is so much wonderful history here. For example, we have installed carpet from the old Governor’s mansion and from My Old Kentucky Home. There are a number of historical pieces that have been brought in here.”

 The “friends group” promotes the Butler heritage through the support of programming, restoration, collections, public awareness and promoting the Butler-Turpin State Historic House and General Butler State Resort Park. The organization consists of a board of directors that meets monthly and a general membership that meets once in the spring and fall to share thoughts and ideas.

“People can join at different levels,” Kathy Rarey said. Rarey, who serves as membership drive chairperson, said members can become involved by choosing which committees they wish to be active, “or if they’re not able to commit to meetings and activities they can participate by simply making a donation.”

 Rarey outlined the membership levels as follows: A $25 annual membership includes two free passes per year to the Butler-Turpin State Historic House. A $50 annual membership includes two free passes per year to the mansion and the member’s name displayed at the lodge. A $100 annual membership includes two free passes per year to the mansion, the member’s name displayed at the lodge and free tickets to all Friends of Butler planned events in 2010. A $1,000 corporate sponsorship includes all of the previously-mentioned benefits in addition to being featured in all of the organization’s programs and publicity.

“The most important role of a nonprofit ‘friends group’ is to serve as the caretaker of funds raised through outside sources by park administrators such as myself,” according to Evelyn Welch, Historic Site Museum Manager of the Butler-Turpin State Historic House located at General Butler State Resort Park.

There are limits to public funding available from state government for restoration and preservation projects, Welch explained, and as site curator and grant writer she seeks funding from sources outside state government.

“During these trying times funds available to support expanded and innovative educational programs along with the restoration and preservation needs of a history site just aren’t there anymore,” Welch said. “The monies awarded from the grants I write can then be placed in the account of the Friends of Butler. As the exofficio of the group I work with the board of directors to implement projects so the funds can be dispersed accordingly. I may receive $5,000 from a grant that I have written but because a state park is not set up to take contributions from individuals, businesses, philanthropic foundations and/or grant sources the funds can be placed in the account of the Friends of Butler.”

Although this is an important aspect of the organization, Welch said, a friends group through building a membership base along with their own fundraising efforts provides the much-needed dollars in matching funds often needed for these grants. The projects associated with the grants are varied. The funding can be for school programs, object acquisition, interior renovation, interpretive signage and a host of other projects implemented by the park.

Citizens in communities all across the Commonwealth are being asked to step forward and help by creating friends groups for the 52 Kentucky State Parks and Historic Sites.

The structure of a friends group is “merely a continuation in the tradition of how parks were created—through citizen support,” Welch said. “Our park—Butler Memorial Park as it was first known—was created in 1931.”

Funds to purchase the land were raised through the efforts of the Carrollton Tobacco Board of Trade, Welch explained. This board presented an idea to the farmers who sold their crops at the Carrollton market to donate one hand of tobacco each to go toward the purchase.

“The history of the Butler family was more than enough for the little community of Carrollton to garner a position as one of Kentucky’s first state parks,” Welch said.

“One of the projects we’re planning for the future is we’re looking to put in a log house,” Bowers said.

The log house will replicate one originally inhabited by Gen. Percival Butler, Welch explained. Percival Butler was one of the founders of Port William, as Carrollton was originally known.

“When he moved from Port William proper and came to his farm his home was a two-story log house that stood up on the knoll from the parking lot” near where the Butler-Turpin mansion was later built, Welch said. “There he raised his five sons and his five daughters and he also conducted the duties of Kentucky’s first adjutant general from that spot for 24 years. His was the first appointment made by our first governor, Isaac Shelby.”

Welch said another purpose of the membership drive is to encourage local residents “to reconnect with that legacy that truly put us on the map.” The most famous of the Butlers, she said, was Gen. William O. Butler, a hero of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, who was the vice presidential running mate with Gen. Lewis Cass in the failed Democratic campaign of 1848 against Whig candidates, Gen. Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore.

Those interested in membership should make their checks payable to Friends of Butler and mail to Kathy Rarey, 15 Springmeadow Dr., Carrollton, Ky. 41008. For further information about membership Rarey may be contacted by phone at (502) 525-7256, or via email at kprarey@yahoo.com.