While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Debbie Mauldin Cottrell
Florence Thornton Butt
Photo of Florence Thornton Butt. Image courtesy of San Antonio Express News. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Florence Thornton Butt Behind the Counter
Photo of Florence Thornton Butt Behind the Counter. Image courtesy of San Antonio Express NewsImage available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. 

BUTT, FLORENCE THORNTON (1864–1954). Florence Thornton Butt, whose grocery store was the first link in the H-E-B chain founded by her son Howard Edward Butt, was born in Buena Vista, Mississippi, on September 19, 1864, the daughter of John and Mary (Kimbrough) Thornton. She spent her youth in Buena Vista, where she often assisted her two pastor brothers in holding revivals. She later enrolled in Clinton College and, as the only female in her class, graduated with highest honors. Afterward, she taught school. In 1889 she married pharmacist Clarence C. Butt. The couple lived in Mississippi and Tennessee before moving to Texas in 1904 in search of a more suitable climate and better medical facilities to treat Clarence's tuberculosis. After a year in San Antonio, the family, which included their three young sons, moved to Kerrville. With her husband unable to work, Mrs. Butt became an agent for the A&P Tea Company, taking and delivering grocery orders door-to-door. She accumulated a small stock of groceries and invested sixty dollars to open the C. C. Butt Grocery on Main Street in Kerrville. The store was on the ground floor of a two-story building, which Mrs. Butt rented for nine dollars a month. She combined her business and domestic responsibilities by moving her family into the second floor of the building and using her sons as delivery boys. She continued to run the store until 1919, when her son Howard returned from the navy and took over as manager. She then concentrated on religious and civic efforts in Kerrville. She was a devout Baptist and a leader in the Eastern Star. She died at her Kerrville home on March 4, 1954, after suffering a stroke, and was buried in Glen Rest Cemetery. Her survivors included her sons Howard and Eugene. By the end of the twentieth century the H-E-B stores were the largest privately owned food chain in the nation.


Austin American, March 5, 1954. Austin American-Statesman, April 9, 1985. San Antonio Express, March 5, 1954. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Howard Edward Butt, Sr., Howard Edward Butt, Jr., Charles C. Butt).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, "BUTT, FLORENCE THORNTON," accessed July 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu84.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on September 29, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...