Butler’s Golf Course’s 90th Anniversary

January’s Story... Remembering the Beginning

John W. Butler didn’t have much of a formal education, having dropped out at age 11 after his father’s death in the mines, but his determination and entrepreneurial spirit guided him in life. He had been a coal miner; farmer; operator of a greenhouse, a lumberyard, and a brickyard; a builder of roads; proprietor of an automobile dealership; and ultimately a golf course owner.  In the early 1920’s he owned only a portion of what is now Butler’s Golf Course in the form of a pick-your-own strawberry farm.

Farming wasn’t the only use for Butler’s property.  The 1920s was a golden era for American airshows and he kept up with the times by using what is now #10 Woodside as a grass airstrip to be used for this purpose.  This allowed for the community to enjoy shows with barnstormers.  Pilots would travel to various farms across the country showcasing their skills and sparking America’s interest in aviation.  Shows were performed for a number of years on Butler’s farm, but family lore is that J.W. closed the airfield immediately after a stunt pilot took Butler's daughter, Mildred, for a ride and did a loop-di-loop.

Butler was always thinking of his next project and had been keeping an eye on the nearby Youghiogheny Country Club, a private course established in 1911.  Its success sparked interest in creating a golf course of his own, but he needed more property.  Butler began purchasing the deeds to several nearby farms.  Some of the family names related to these properties were McKnight and Patterson.  While making these acquisitions, Butler improved and paved Rock Run Road.  He then hired several individuals, including some from Youghiogheny, to assist with the design and construction of his 18-hole golf course.  Horses with scoops were employed to simultaneously create bunkers and use that dirt to build up greens.

By 1928, Butler had succeeded in opening one of the first public golf courses in the state of Pennsylvania, opening the door for a much larger portion of the community to enjoy the great game of golf.  J. W. Butler never became a golfer himself, evidently content with providing that opportunity to others.

This was just the beginning of what is now a 90-year history between the golf course, Butler’s family, and surrounding community.  Happily, one branch of Butler’s great-grandchildren proudly own what is now a 36-hole public facility, including the Rock Run Inn Restaurant and John Butler House Bed & Breakfast.  His legacy continues.

Thank you for helping us celebrate our 90th Anniversary.  Please stay tuned for February’s story as we highlight another piece of history.