May 13, 1890 was a memorable day in the history of the village of New Hartford for on that day Morgan Butler officially presented to the village the Butler Memorial Hall on Genesee Street.
Utica architect Jacob Agne had designed the hand-some brick and red sandstone building that included a post office, a justice office, a public library (with 300 volumes and many periodicals all donated by the Butler family), a reading room, a room for the gathering of ladies, a gymnasium, bowling alleys, a kitchen (with 1,500 pieces of china, knives, forks and spoons) and a large hall that seated 450 and whose stage had on it a Chickering grand piano. It was said the building and furnishings cost nearly $20.000.
The presentation ceremonies began at 2 p.m. and the large crowd in attendance was greeted by music provided by the Chadwicks Brass Band.
Morgan Butler was on stage during the ceremonies, but preferred to remain in the background and not make a speech. He asked, instead, that the Rev. Israel N. Terry present the deed and keys to the village. Rev. Terry said he wished that Mr. Butler had decided to make the presentation speech himself, "but his accustomed modesty keeps him in the background, though his works are the things in the very forefront this afternoon."
Morgan Butler was born June 7, 1807 in New Hartford, the son of Eli and Rachel Kellogg Butler. His grandfather, Eli Butler Sr., came to the New Hartford area from Middletown, Conn. in 1789. The Butlers settled on a beautiful — and valuable — farm about one mile south of the village. Morgan became owner of the farm when he was 25 and lived there for the rest of his life.
He was not your ordinary farmer, either. Always looking for new ways to produce crops, Butler owned the first mowing machine in Oneida County. He also made a few extra dollars by becoming the company's representative and selling the machine throughout the region. He also was the first or among the first to own a tedder, a hay rake, a barn fork and a field loader.
He helped to organize the Central New York Farmers' Club and was its first vice president (and later its president).
Morgan Butler died at age 85 on August 3, 1892.
Three years before his death, Morgan Butler said: "I was born in this town (New Hartford); here I have lived all the years of a more than ordinary long life... I have never lived elsewhere; have never been away except for comparatively short stays: here I have received my education, here found my pleasures and enjoyments ... in recognition of the pleasures and good I have here received, and above all in the desire to do what may be of lasting benefit to the entire community, and something which may make New Hartford even more beautiful and attractive, I propose to build and present to my native town a public hall, a hall suited to the official business of the town and fitted for all the public occasions where a large and commodious audience room is required."
Thus was born Butler Memorial Hall.