Thunder Butte

July 27, 2009

Neal Crowley

Mr. and Mrs. Tom Crowley homesteaded near Thunder Butte, Ziebach County, in 1910-12. They had four children; three boys, Joseph, Neal, Eugene and one girl, Cecil. They all attended a country school.

The Crowley's raised cattle and horses. There were a lot of range horses in those days, and quite often, the Crowley boys would help to gather and brand them.

When Neal Crowley was 16 years old, he went to work for an early day rancher, John Barthold. Randy Foster now lives at what was the Barthold headquarters.

Bartholds (John had a brother Fred, who moved to a place on the Cheyenne River south of Faith) ran cattle and a lot of horses. Neal enjoyed the years that he worked there, as he did most of the riding.

Neal was tall, weighed 200 pounds and carried himself well. He had an interest in and had learned some about boxing.

Following is the way he told of an early boxing event: “I thought I was pretty good. The boys at the ranch were an easy mark for me. One day at noon there was a stranger among the group of men (haying crew). That evening, I said, 'Come on someone, go a round or two with me'. No one offered. I looked at the stranger, Billy Cavin, and asked, 'Do you know anything about boxing?' Billy, a smaller man than I, said that he did. 'Well come on, I need a workout.' Rather slowly, Billy prepared himself and we squared away. When our little bout was over, I was more confused and deflated than I had ever been. I hadn't been hurt physically, but my pride has been severely damaged. Bill was well scienced and later that evening offered to help me if I cared to go on. I admitted that I would like to learn. Bill Cavin was a real nice fellow and a good instructor.”

The first time that I saw Neal Crowley box was in an outdoor ring at Usta, SD, July 4, 1933. He was matched with Babe (Thomas) Joyce from Faith. Babe got the decision, which was no dishonor for Neal, as Babe, a good fighter in general, had also taken boxing lessons.

Neal Crowley married Dorothy Tidball the summer of 1936. That fall, along with Mr. and Mrs. Dick McCord, they (because of the drought) moved their cattle to Martin, SD. I worked three months for Dick and Neal at their location four miles north of Martin on Bear Creek. Both couples moved back to Faith in the spring of 1937.

The Crowleys stayed on a ranch on the Moreau River until the mid 1940's when they moved into Faith. They had two adopted children. A boy Patrick, and a girl Pamela, (Mrs. Ted Escott) of Box Elder, SD.

Neal had a mail route north west of Faith. He was also Faith's Marshal and Municipal Liquor Store manager and part-time bartender. He served in all three capacities for a number of years.

Neal's scrapping and or boxing abilities, were brought to a test numerous times during his life. As a Marshal, Neal was instructed to carry a pistol. Because he dreaded the thought of shooting and perhaps killing someone, he was reluctant to carry a gun, which he seldom did.

One afternoon in 1953, just seconds after Neal had entered the liquor store's front door, a stranger (A.G. Akin or F.K. Pickett) took a hefty swing at Neal. Crowley dodged the blow and came back with a right to the jaw which put the man on the floor. Neal instinctively dropped down on the fellow with intentions of holding him and getting an explanation. He was suddenly attacked by two more men, also strangers. They were hitting and kicking him and momentarily, Neal was unable to rise. He managed to get on his back and by using both his fists and feet, was able to clear himself enough to regain his footing. Neal worked his way behind the bar. There, George Hoyle, an assistant bartender, handed him the gun which he should have been carrying. Neal walked toward the front door intending to put the fellows out. There was a hand gate at the end of the bar. One of the three men, Darrell Powell, jumped up on the gate expecting to get behind the bar and “clean house”. Neal struck Powell a stunning blow square on the left side of his face with the gun still in his hand. For balance, Darrell had thrown his left arm up and as the end of the barrel struck his temple, the gun fired. The bullet went through the upper part of Darrel's arm severing an artery. Powell fell back on the barroom floor, blood spurting from his wound. His two comrades walked past him, out the front door and disappeared.

First, Neal called the doctor and then John Eggar, Meade County Sheriff. Darrel was taken to the Faith Hospital. The doctor assured Neal that Darrel Powell's injury wasn't real serious and that he would be O.K. When John Eggar arrived, he and Neal went in search of the two remaining troublesome fellows. They found them in their room at the West Hotel. The two surrendered peacefully. The three fellows were part of a seismograph crew, and had the reputation of having had things their own way in some other small towns.

Neal was a temperamental man, but, for those in need, was compassionate and generous. He helped many people in numerous ways during his 25 years in Faith. The Crowleys left Faith in 1968. They spent some time in California where Neal's mother, brothers and sister lived. From there to Redstone, CO.

Neal and Dorothy were divorced in 1972; he married Jennie (Escott) Imslad. They lived two years in Rapid City where Neal managed the Western Bar owned by Mr. and Mrs. Guy Simmons. They moved from there to Presho, SD, where Neal managed the City Liquor Store. He succumbed to cancer in September 1977, and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Presho.

– Gene Ulrich

Editors Note – On a visit to Faith the weekend before last, I spoke with Gene Ulrich, who was kind enough to let me post this story on-line, which he wrote a few years ago about one of my favorite relatives. The story was originally published in: Gene Ulrich, Faith Country Heritage: 1910-1985, “Neal Crowley,” page. 386. Gene was a good friend of Neal's for many years and visited him during his final days in the hospital in Pierre. Gene also was one of the pallbearers at Neal's funeral.
Mike Crowley Monday, July 27, 2009


Here is a link to a 16 page story on John Barthold. The story also has pictures of the home he built in 1919. It is a very good story.
Thanks very much for the link to your story. My Uncle Neal worked for and was present in the house when John Barthold died. I've gotten some more recent pictures of the house and will get around to posting them one of these days. Sadly, the house isn't doing as well today as when your pictures were shot.

--Mike Crowley

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