Clemmie Butler

This article was published 10 Nov 2023 by Paul Herman, digital media archivist, West Pasco Historical Society

Clemmie Butler (full name Clemmie F. Osteen Butler) was born May 1, 1902 in Dade City, Florida, to parents Allen Fisher Osteen (1882-1938) and Leola O. Wilson Osteen (1882-1967). She was the grand-daughter of Samuel W. Osteen (born 1858), an early pioneer of Pasco County.

Clemmie’s father, Allen Osteen, was a farm laborer, who lived in various places in Florida – as his work required. Before he was married to Leola, he lived with his father, Samuel, in Mascotte, Florida in Lake County. He married Leola Wilson on July 20th, 1900, in Pasco County. Clemmie was their first born child, and was one of a family of at least 9 children. By 1910, the family had moved to Oxford, Florida, in Sumter County. And in 1920, when Clemmie was 18 years old, the family had moved to Kalon, Florida, in Hernando County. (Kalon is no longer shown on maps, but was near the present day intersection of State Road 50 and US 301 in the Ridge Manor area.) Probably due to the itinerant nature of her father’s occupation, Clemmie had to drop out of school after the 6th grade.

About 1921, Clemmie married William Martin Bell Butler (1897-1926). William was a lifelong resident of Elfers, Florida, being born there on December 10, 1897. And once he and Clemmie were married, they lived in his home town of Elfers. They began a family, and in 1922 Corrine Isabell was born, followed by Lillie Belle in 1924, and James William in 1926. Unfortunately, on July 17, 1926, just ten days after the birth of his first son, William died in an automobile accident near Fivay, Florida, in Pasco County.

Article in the New Port Richey Press, 2 Dec 1942

Left alone, with three small children to raise, Clemmie began to take in laundry to make ends meet. By 1930 she was living in a rented house on Pine Street in Elfers. At some point in the next few years she established a friendship with Eugene Z. “Easy” Jackson, a man ten years older than her, and moved into a house he owned on Grand Boulevard in the Palm Haven area of what was within the boundaries of the newly incorporated New Port Richey. By 1940, she was still making a living as a laundress in the two story frame house she was renting from “Easy” Jackson. Her business had grown to fill the needs of her family, who with the help of her daughters had even acquired the business of the nearby Gulf High School to wash the school football team uniforms after a game.

Clemmie Butler home as it appeared in the 1950s

Then on the 29th of December, 1942, disaster struck. A fire destroyed the wood frame rented house that was Clemmie’s home and business. All was lost, including $300 worth of football uniforms belonging to Gulf High School. Through the assistance of neighbors and friends, Clemmie was able to secure laundry equipment and other premises for her business, and was able to continue operating the next day.

Butler headstone at East Elfers Cemetery

“Easy” Jackson was not deterred for long. He decided to build a new house on the site of the burned out wood frame house. But this time, he was determined to build a more fire resistant building, and constructed it from limestone rock quarried from the nearby Cotee riverbed. The result was a new two story house built from stone and mortar. The bottom floor was used as a garage (and probably the laundry area for Clemmie), and the second floor was the living quarters.

In 1950, the US census reports that Clemmie Butler was the head of the household on Grand Boulevard, and “Easy” Jackson also lived there as a lodger. By that point, all three of her children had established other homes.

The house survives to this day (2023 when this article was written), and bears a plaque indicating it as the historic home of Clemmie Butler. Clemmie died on August 24, 1983. She is buried next to her husband William at East Elfers Cemetery in New Port Richey.