The Butturff family and their furniture business in Wadena

Samuel Butturff was born in Pennsylvania in 1831. Early in life he came west settling first at Waverly, Iowa and then moving on to Rochester, Minn., then to Red Wing and Lake City. In 1878, he moved to Marshall where he was engaged in the furnitu...

Samuel Butturff was born in Pennsylvania in 1831. Early in life he came west settling first at Waverly, Iowa and then moving on to Rochester, Minn., then to Red Wing and Lake City. In 1878, he moved to Marshall where he was engaged in the furniture business coming to Wadena in 1894 with his second wife Sarah Spates Butturff and their four children, Helen Letha, Clyde Clarence, Rolla and Carl. He had four children with his first wife, Mrs. F. L. Stone, Mrs. H. F. Hunter, Mrs. Kriner and George all of whom were spread all over the United States.

Clyde the main focus of this article was born at Red Wing, Minn., on Dec. 21, 1873.

On his arrival in Wadena Samuel and his son Clyde, as equal partners, opened S. Butturff & Son, a large furniture store at 213 Jefferson South, buying out Rowley & Eddy, who had been in business but a short time (Tae Kwon Do in 2009).

In 1895, outgrowing the building, they moved next door south to 215 Jefferson south (McDonald Studio in 2009) where they remained until 1901. That year they moved into the building at 302-304 Jefferson South built by William King and which Clyde purchased in 1904.

On the death of his father, Clyde changed the name of the store to Butturff & Son the name it carried until it was sold to Merton Bottemiller and Alvin Engelmann, two Bertha boys in 1945, changing the name to Homecrest, in turn devolving to Smith Furniture, Jake and Fred Smith, then to Jake's son Jerry, then to Dick and Sue Wirta, the present owners. But that is another story.


In 1899, Clyde married Kathryn Cecelia Bullard, a Verndale girl, daughter of Clarence E. Bullard. To this union was born one son, Phillip Douglas, in 1901.

Early on Kathryn (almost always known as Kit) was much in demand as a public speaker, giving recitations and entertainments for many different charities and for the public library. I remember seeing her at what I believe was the dedication of Memorial Auditorium in 1934 clad in a striking dark blue evening gown with sequins, giving a humorous reading. It left quite an impression. She was also the organizer and actress in numerous home talent plays. One deserving mention was her appearance as Madam Eva Fay, a spiritualist holding séances, 1923, and later as Miss Petunia in an American Legion Minstrel show in 1926. She was a very public-spirited and talented lady. She was also a charter member of the Twentieth Century Club.

Clyde was a very low-key person, soft-spoken, known for his honesty and sincerity.

He was always active in civic affairs becoming a director of the Wadena Commercial Club on its formation in 1907, later serving on its finance committee. A charter member of the Lions Club on its formation in 1922.

However, his main interest and love was the furniture business.

In 1904, Butturff purchased the building at 302-304 Jefferson south from William King for about $7,000. He anticipated changing the show windows, lowering them to the sidewalk and deepening them for better display. He also was going to move the carpet department to the rear of the store giving more display space in the main store.

About 1910, the Butturffs purchased the home of Frances Kern just north of the Catholic Church and resided there until their deaths.

In 1911, the city tried to buy five feet of property from him on his south line to give them enough room to build a new city hall and fire station. However, he refused to sell feeling that he might need the land for future expansion.


In 1915, for a Harvest Edition by the Pioneer Journal the store was described as follows: Furniture for every place, leather davenports and rockers, brass and iron beds, American and oriental rugs, pianos and piano players, sewing machines, trunks and traveling bags, wall paper and an expert embalmer. Further stating that Butturff is a licensed and graduate embalmer and has a complete equipment of all the improved devices used by funeral directors.

Back tracking a bit I should mention that Clyde Butturff became a licensed embalmer in 1897, one of the first ten in the state of Minnesota. On the move to 302 Jefferson South the mortuary was in the rear of the building, home of the carpet department for Smith Furniture in 2009.

In an 1898 Pioneer Journal edition, it writes of the Butturff & Son Furniture and Mortuary as follows: Mr. Butturff is a regular graduate of the Northwestern Embalming School and is fully qualified to give the most scientific and modern attention to care of the dead. The firm will carry a full line of coffins and caskets and own the only funeral car, a very fine one, in Wadena County.

In 1911, a PJ article states that Butturff advised them that he had ordered a new funeral car, to take the place of the old hearse which he had sold to the Deer Creek undertaker. He stated: "The new funeral car will cost $1,500 and it will be the finest in this part of the state. It will be black in color, with hand carved wood sides, with heavy plate glass set in the wood. It will have rubber tires and will have two sets of curtains, black and gray in color."

This was the only funeral home in Wadena until 1926. In 1945, Butturff took in a young man named Luther (Red) Bjerke and the name was changed to Butturff Bjerke Funeral Chapel. Also another story.

In the early 1920s, Butturff's son, Phillip, became active in the business. I am told that Phillip would sit at the piano in the show window playing for the passersby. Supposedly his favorite tune was a ragtime number "Kitten on the Keys." In 1925, Phillip married Josephine Kathryn Kenyon, daughter of Dr. Paul Kenyon, Wadena physician. However in June 1928, disaster struck. Phillip and a friend, Jerome McKinnon, took a ride in a barn storming air plane giving rides south of town. It was late in the day and supposedly the last trip of the day. Something went awry and the plane crashed with Phillip dying as a result of injuries received and the pilot and McKinnon surviving.

Butturff & Son Furniture was labeled as the best furniture store on the Northern Pacific line between the Twin Cities and Fargo. Their quality and selection unsurpassed.

Clyde C. Butturff, at the age of 72 years and 13 days, suffered a heart attack. He was taken to Wesley Hospital in Wadena where he died the following day. Funeral services were held at the Episcopal Church, pall bearers were members of the Masonic Fraternity which he had been a member of for many years. He was survived by his wife; a brother, Dr. Carl Butturff; a nephew, Gene Hotz; and a niece, Dorothy Bergman.


His wife Kit died in 1954 with burial beside her husband in the Wadena cemetery. Prior to her marriage she taught school at Duluth.

The death of her son Phillip in 1928 deprived her of much of her energy and enthusiasm and marked the beginning of a prolonged period of gradual retirement.

Kathryn Bullard Butturff's passing marked the end of an illustrious family name as far as its association with Wadena is concerned.

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