Thunder Butte

March 18, 2014

Building the Railroad Near Dupree

Building the Railroad Near Dupree, December 16, 1910

Here is an interesting photo showing work in progress on the Milwaukee Road railroad line as it neared Dupree, South Dakota, on December 16, 1910. If you click on the photo to see a larger version and inspect it carefully, you can actually see that the rail cars on the tracks adjacent to the work site are stacked with metal rails and wooden ties to be laid underneath the tracks. If this is the same branch line that led to the first train entering Faith on January 6, 1911 -- and I believe that it is -- then the work must have been relatively non-stop. The men laying down the tracks would have had to cover over 22 miles in less than three weeks time. Was covering this distance with new rail tracks possible in that amount of time? Across relatively flat terrain, yes. When the first transcontinental railway was constructed in the 1860's, a couple of records were set when eight miles of track were laid in a single day and later, in 1869, when ten miles of track were laid in one day.

--Mike Crowley
Mike Crowley Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | (0) comments |

March 16, 2014

First Train to Faith

First Train to Stop at Faith, January, 6, 1911

Here's an interesting photo of the first train to stop at Faith, South Dakota, after the establishment of the new end of the line. In its heyday, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, which was usually referred to as the Milwaukee Road, stretched from Chicago and the Great Lakes to Washington State. Various branch lines, including the one that ran to Faith, were important conduits of immigrants anxious to take up ranching and farming in the Dakotas. These lines also replaced cattle drives as an inexpensive way to ship cattle off to market back east.

The new town of Faith reportedly got its name because "Faith" was one of the daughters of an important Milwaukee Road investor. Construction of the branch line took place in 1910, and then the first train pictured in the photo above arrived on January 6, 1911. It's not clear whether the people pictured in the photo are the first group of immigrants to arrive in Faith via train. However, subsequent trains brought many more people who helped to settle the town and nearby homesteads.

--Mike Crowley

(Editor's Note--Apologies for my absence of over a year. I offer none but the typical excuses: career, family, a move, etc.)
Mike Crowley Sunday, March 16, 2014 | (0) comments |

February 04, 2012

REO Speedwagon

Using the REO Speedwagon for a Photo Shoot, 1936

Here's an interesting photo taken near Thunder Butte (background on the right) in 1936 with my grandmother, Mayme Crowley, sitting on the running board of an old REO Speedwagon truck. Her son, Neil, is sitting on the hood of the truck and her brother, Joe Shockley, is sitting on the fender. A friend, Bill Williamson, is standing with a foot propped up on the truck. Of course, it could have just been the sun in her eyes, but Mayme does look downcast. The photo was taken on the occasion of Joe's planned departure from the area. Joe was a long-time resident of Glad Valley.

--Mike Crowley
Mike Crowley Saturday, February 04, 2012 | (3) comments |

January 22, 2012

Just an Old Line Shack

The Old Line Shack on Thunder Butte Creek

Git go`n Lindy!
Reins slap Lindy on the flank.
It`s been a long time Ole Buddy, we
gotta git home.

This ole man has been gone about
70 years and he`s go`n home.
Where`s home? It`s just a line shack
about ten mile from Thunder Butte
down on Thunder Butte Creek.

What`s a line shack, Dad?

Oh, it`s just a little frame house down
on the creek. I grew up there, then
when I went away to high school, the
ranchers in the area just moved in and
took it over for the cowboys to bunk in
when doing roundup and scout`n strays.

What`s so important about it now? Why '
go back to an old line shack?

Git up, Lindy. Well, son, you know how
important were some of those great days
in your life, the day you graduated from
college, that day you got your MA down
in Texas? Well, when Tony Roach and I
found that pool full of wild fish, that was
the same kind of day for me. Tony told me
they were wild fish and I filled my pockets
full of them and took them home and my
Mother found me emptying all those pollywogs
out on the floor. That was graduation day
for me. Boy did I get a whupp`n. Yup, that
was the day I became a man.

What else do you remember about that old
shack, Dad?

Whoa. That`s a long story son. Got a few
days to listen?

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, January 22, 2012 | (0) comments |

January 21, 2012

Pictures and Video

Dave Doan sent in this brief video clip of Thunder Butte. Much appreciated!

Dave also sent a picture of the family's old place from the original homestead, which his brother Doug now owns. The old home is located seven or eight miles southwest of Thunder Butte in Perkins County.

And, while we're on the topic of pictures from around Thunder Butte, here's one from 1918 or earlier:

Here's another view of Thunder Butte shot by Mike Welfl on July 20, 1980,as posted on

July 20, 1980 - One of My Very Favorites (almost 3-D)

And, here's an amazing December sunset over Thunder Butte from Christian Begeman, as published on his blog. South Dakota Magazine also named this their photo of the month in their January 2012 newsletter:

Thunder Butte on Christmas Day

Editor's Note: One of the photos and the video appears here by permission of Dave Doan. The photo of Thunder Butte circa 1918 or earlier is a scanned image from a turn of the last century and copyright expired publication. The other photos are not copied, but are merely clickable links to the photos as published by the original photographers elsewhere on the internet.
Mike Crowley Saturday, January 21, 2012 | (0) comments |

January 01, 2012

Old Line Shack

Dang. With Christmas time, visitors and other great things happening, I just plumb forgot the old line shack.

The last time I was down by the crick, where the old line shack is, there was a teen age girl chop`n firewood for the cook stove, an old dog with three legs lay`n by a horse that was tied to the front porch. Of course there was me, sitt`n my sorrel pacer and roll`n a smoke with the make`ns.

I was go`n inside, but I don`t know them folks and they sure don`t know me. I just looked around the yard where I used to play when just a wee kid. The old snapp`n turtle that almost got me when I thought it was a mountain lion. The old dog reminded me of the one we had, got caught in a trap one winter and he gnawed his leg off to get out. We pampered him for a while, but he didn`t need no help, he was just fine.

Look`n out across the yard reminded me of the Christmas tree that used to grow on the far cutbank. My Mother used to see it from her kitchen window `til one day, just before Christmas my brother came drag`n it home behind his horse and put it up in the front room.

That was in the old days, when the shack was home.

We used to hold the spring round up out there in the corrals. Cowboys used to rope and ride with their .44 by their side. Actually it was more than likely just a .22. The West had already been won and the gun was just used for shoot`n rattle snakes.

But, it was fun times. Big bon fire with some cowpuncher smoke`n up a bunch of Mountain Oysters. Some other Honyokker strum`n an old beat up guitar. Bawlin calves be`n stripped of their masculinity, herds of cattle be`n drove in and out to the tune of yell`n, git-hah!

Old Fred, the neighboring rancher who teased me unmercifully, sitt`n on a stump by the camp fire. He slapped his leg when he told a great joke, slapp`n the pocket full of stick matches he always carried. How I rolled on the ground in a fit of laughter when I saw him erupt in a mass of flames, runn`n for the crick to jump in and put out the fire.

You might say, "those were the days", but you would be wrong. Them ghosts of the days and nights, old memories kinda brand a place in the mind where it flares up now and then and them ghosts come march`n `cross the pasture by the old line shack.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, January 01, 2012 | (0) comments |