Thunder Butte

September 04, 2005

Brayton - The Town That Blew Away

There were quite a number of homesteader families living around Thunder Butte back in the 1920s and 1930s. Among the nearby settlements that had a store, a church, and which were places where one could pick up or drop off the mail, was a place called Brayton.

Brayton was about two miles east of the Perkins County line, and maybe about ten miles west of Thunder Butte. In the early days, it was the post office for people living in the northwestern part of Ziebach County. According to records, A.L. Chase ran the general store there in 1916. There also was a Catholic Church that was attended by the Crowleys living at Thunder Butte.

Brayton operated a post office from 1910 to 1924. The year 1924 is probably when the settlement met its demise. According to John Crowley, “Sometime after I was born, a big wind came up and blew the whole thing to Kingdom Come. The church was rebuilt at Glad Valley.”

It was common in those days that the only "official" birth records were the records of baptisms kept by churches. When the church at Brayton blew away, so did any record of John Crowley's birth. John doesn't remember the name of the new church built at Glad Valley. Says John, "I think the last pastor was Father Now. He gave me a baptismal certificate when I went to California [to join the Navy] in l940. It was the only I.D. I had. I always remember the poor man with sorrow. He spent his entire life in New York City. The church then sent him out to this God-for-saken place [at least it would have seemed so to a New Yorker] to spend his remaining days. He had to carry his water from the Glad Valley store, which was about a mile down the hill. I digress, but I still have that baptismal certificate. He and I had to guess at the dates, etc., because the original where I was baptized, was blown away in a cyclone and all records lost."

Whether it was a cyclone or some other kind of storm that flattened Brayton, extreme weather in the Dakotas was one of the facts of life that plagued the early homesteaders. John Corwin filed on a claim about a mile west of Glad Valley in 1910. The wind blew his first shack away. A windstorm or tornado struck Dupree in 1918 and blew down a number of buildings. A twister was sighted near Isabel, in the adjacent county to the east, on June 25, 1914. Whatever the cause of the winds that blew Brayton away, the town disappeared from maps after 1924.

Twister Near Isabel South Dakota on June 25, 1914 
(Click for a Larger View)

Mike Crowley Sunday, September 04, 2005


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