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August H. Butts

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August H. Butts

August H. Butts (1884-1955) and his wife, Natalie Swanson Butts, came from Lake County, Florida, to West Palm Beach before 1920. Butts purchased 3,500 acres west of Boca Raton that had been vacated in the “Bust.” They established Butts Farms, which became one of Boca Raton’s main employers during the Great Depression and one of Florida’s largest truck farms. Its produce, primarily beans, was shipped as far as Chicago, Boston, and New York.

The farm employed from 400 to 900 workers, depending on the season. Most were migrant laborers, but others were blacks from Boca Raton’s Pearl City community. The farm provided housing, a church, a general store, and an elementary school for its employees.

The Butts Farms land stretched from Interstate 95 to Florida’s Turnpike on both sides of Glades Road. The family sold most of it in the 1960s, when farming became less profitable. Arvida Corporation purchased much of it. The bean fields were replaced by projects such as Town Center Mall, Royal Oak Hills, and Boca Square. Butts Road runs along the east side of Town Center as a tribute to the family’s contribution to the local economy.

August and Natalie Butts had four children:

Jeannette Butts DeWitt (1907-1993) was a leader in Girl Scouts and the first Garden Club of Delray. She married Marshall W. DeWitt, a former mayor of Delray Beach and a founder of the Lake Worth Drainage District.

Clarence Edison Butts (1910-1956) oversaw the farm’s complex irrigation system of canals, which was so efficient the family sold surplus water to other farmers. He married Jessie Johnson in 1931.

Harold L. Butts (1912-1993) earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Florida. His oceanfront home was built into the coral rock of a reef called “Butts Rock” just south of Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton. Harold Butts owned a riding academy, Woodfield Hunt Club, in the 1960s.

Myrtle Butts Fleming (1918-2005) helped found the Boca Raton Historical Society, Boca Raton Public Library, and the Art Guild, which became the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Mrs. Fleming was also associated with the founding of Florida Atlantic University and St. Andrews School with her husband, Thomas F. Fleming, Jr., a former mayor of Boca Raton. In her later years, she worked to re-energize downtown Boca Raton, which had suffered since Town Center was built.

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