Thunder Butte

February 05, 2006

Rare Family Photo from 1913

Mayme, Baby Neal, and Little Tommie (Click for a Larger View)

We told a story in March 2005 about Tommie Crowley's death about 1925, when he would have been around seventeen. His tragic death from appendicitis, owing to being miles from any possible medical care was talked about with hushed reverence for years in the family, as tragedies often are. Little Tommie, and later--before his death--a kid who was nearly a young man, must have been very important to the family. Until recently, I could only have imagined what he was like from the stories my father told, and my father was not much more than a toddler, himself, when Tommie died.

I thought that there were no family photos of Tommie. Recently, however, we have unearthed this picture (see above) from 1913, which shows Mayme (Mary Patricia Crowley), her baby Neal, and little boy, Tommie, who was named after his Dad. While the picture is not of very good quality, a little bit of amateur photo enhancement with Adobe Photoshop makes it apparent that Tommie had his Dad's shock of curly hair and did seem to be a good looking kid.

While accounts vary, some place the family on a homestead near Thunder Butte as early as 1908. If they were at Thunder Butte as early as this, they probably foundered, as many homesteader families did, when a dry year struck in 1911. That year saw many early homesteaders pick up and move back east. The Crowley's hung on, though. Thomas F. Crowley, little Tommie's dad, took title to 160 acres near Thunder Butte on October 30, 1913.

In the picture, baby Neal looks to be five to seven months old. He was born in March, which would place the time at which the photo was taken at sometime during July to September of 1913. It is difficult to judge ages, though. Still, the way in which everyone in the photo is dressed suggests that the photo was taken before the Crowley's took title to their new homestead. By late October, it probably would have been getting quite chilly.

--Mike Crowley
Mike Crowley Sunday, February 05, 2006


I am related to a Thomas Crowley who was an orphan in NYC. He joined the calvary at an early age. He helped the cook. He later was among the men that found Custer and his men slaughtered. I guess I'm related through his wife's side of the family since he was an orphan.

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