Some Things are Best Left a Mystery

Frawley1James Anderson Dairy photo dated 1876.


It’s a curious story, even to Hank Frawley himself. This photograph has been in the Frawley family for decades, and to this day, the date on the picture baffles them all. James Anderson must have been a risk taker to build his massive homestead and dairy farm before the year of 1877. In 1868, the Fort Laramie treaty guaranteed the land pictured above to the Lakota tribes. It wasn’t until 1877 that the treaty was broken and land was officially opened back up to the settlers.

Hank believes this photo is dated correctly but realizes it’s a rather strange artifact. “Those were very nice buildings for that time. These didn’t go up over night, so it makes you wonder how long they had been there when this photo was taken. This photo would have been posed because in those days you had to hold still for a long time to take a photo,” he said. The blurry horse heads prove it was a difficult task getting the whole farm to cooperate on photo day. Even with our extremely advanced photography today, it’s still difficult to keep an antsy horse from bobbing his head to prevent a blurry photo. Some things never change…

Hank’s father, Henry, was born in Deadwood in the 1890’s. As a young boy, Henry remembered the Anderson ranch as it is today, with the majestic stone barn and stately farmhouse, meaning the buildings in the photo above no longer existed a relatively short while later. Did a tornado wipe out the stately wood structures in the photo? Did the spring that was used for refrigerating their milk flood and compromise the wood’s structural integrity? Were they set on fire? Hank thinks he would have found evidence of a fire when he dug up old fence posts decades ago. Even ruling out a fire still leaves the questions unanswered.

We know so much about the Frawley and Anderson families thanks to years of excellent record keeping and the sharp memories of Hank and Molly Frawley. But the mysterious Anderson photo sure makes the mind wander and dream up Wild West stories of what might have happened. Today we can google any question we could ever possibly fathom and have the answer at our fingertips in seconds. What a strange phenomenon to have unanswered questions in our modern day lives. This rare occurrence serves as a good reminder that some stories are best told by our own imaginations and that we don’t in fact have to “know” it all. Some things are best left a mystery…

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