The George S. Butcher Family, Elsie Butcher in back row far left
Front (L to R) Audrey, Carsel, George Stinson, Rosetta Candace Butcher (babies Arlin Patrick and Norman) Back (L to R) Elsie, Nealie, Samuel Everette, Stanley, Elma and Prushia, all children of George Stinson and Rosetta Candace (Coulter) Butcher, with two more, Arnold and Elouise, yet to be born (Widen photo about 1920 by Rejeania Flannery)

Elsie Butcher was married five times and
had a "hard life" (Photo - Roger D. Johnson)

By Roger D. Johnson 2008

My mother never knew much about her father. He was killed in a mining accident when she was five years old. When I started researching my family history a few years ago, I found his death certificate and realized the horrible death he suffered.

My maternal grandmother Elsie Butcher was born in 1895 at Dille, Clay County, a daughter of George Stinson Butcher and Rosetta Candace Coulter. She was the granddaughter of John Mac Butcher and Mary Jane Faulks.

John Mac was a lawyer from Nicholas County about the same time Abe Lincoln was a lawyer in Illinois. Elsie was the great-granddaughter of Warrick Butcher, a Civil War soldier who died of TB in a Confederate POW Camp at Rock Island, Illinois in 1864.

A view of some of the company houses during early days of Widen

The original Widen Company store where miners spent their script

Warrick Butcher's wife was Mary Dilley. Warrick was arrested by Union Troops in Nicholas County in 1862 while home on leave. The story goes that when the Union Soldiers came to get Warrick, Mary was down on her knees in the middle of the road praying her heart out. One of the soldiers asked her what she was doing. She replied, "I'm praying down to Hell to see if they have room for any more Union soldiers"!

On May 13, 1918 Elsie married John Gordon Goff, who was born in 1898, the son of Marshall B. Goff and Eliza Jane Barnett. He was descended from John Turton Goff and Madica Carrico. John T. was Sheriff of Harrison County when he died in 1803.

Gordon Goff went to work at the mines for the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company and after a few years underground Gordon got a comparatively safe job as dumper at the main tipple. His job was to dump the full cars of coal coming out of the mine onto the main conveyor going to the tipple.

Between 1920 and 1926, they had four daughters: Roma first born in 1920, then Ivy Alice born in 1922.

Then my mother Carmen was born March 23, 1924 and Phoebe born in 1926.

My grandmother Elsie raised her girls and after sending them to school she would wash and iron clothing for her neighbors to raise extra money to help feed and cloth her daughters. Her girls were always dressed well.

On Sept. 19, 1927 while dumping coal her husband was "instantly killed when caught in the machinery of the main coal conveyor" as his death certificate states. The next day he was buried in Butcher Cemetery at Dille. He was only 29 years old. There was no undertaker. I can only imagine the state his body.

Butcher Cemetery is on the old home place where the Butchers have lived for a hundred or more years.

Nine months and one day later on June 18, 1928, Elsie gave birth to their only son and fifth child Johnny Burl. He died 14 days later on July 2, 1928 of Bronchitis. He was buried with his father in Butcher Cemetery.

Widen miners in latter days of operation

Students at Widen Grade School

With no income and four little girls to raise, Elsie married Oscar Dodrill later that year in December. He was a coal miner at Widen. I don't know what happened to Oscar, but she later married Emory Given and even later a man named McCrady.

About Elsie's daughters:

- Roma, lived 14 months. - Ivy Alice eventually moved to Huntington and married Berkley Holly, a railroad conductor. She died relatively young at age 43. They had no children.

- My mother, Carmen Blanda Goff married Lloyd Johnson a coal miner who worked at the same mine where her father was killed. He eventually quit the mines and became a minister in the Nazarene Church. They had four boys and two girls. She outlived all her sisters but died suddenly of a heart attack April 8, 1996.

- Phoebe also went to Huntington and married a man named DeLaney. They had two girls and a boy. She died in her 30's of Leukemia.

The last time I saw Grandma Elsie was in 1958. She was living in Huntington in a little house by the flood wall with her fifth husband Beau Thompson.

To support themselves, Elsie did ironing for people. She had a big machine called a "Mangle" with which she could iron sheets and other large items. Beau built Adirondack chairs and sold them. Their yard was always full of chairs. She died in 1959 after a very, very hard life.

But I will always remember her as a sweet lady who never raised her voice or uttered a harsh word.

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