Posts Tagged ‘Oorang Indians’

Miscellaneous Research

November 4, 2010

This blog deals with some miscellaneous research findings and issues that aren’t closely related to each other.

An event that helped trigger my interest in researching the Craighead naturalists was mentioned in this blog some time ago when I noticed that Frank Craighead, age 12, agreed to stock a terrarium for Miss Paull’s classroom at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Later, I noticed that Frank’s older sister, Rebecca, visited Miss Paull at the Indian School. Now, I learn that Rebecca graduated from Carlisle High School and gave an oration at her graduation ceremony in 1906 entitled “Nature Is God’s Mirror.” Frank graduated from CHS two years later. At his ceremony, Carlisle Indian School Superintendent Moses Friedman conferred the diplomas. This was yet another example of the Indian School’s involvement with the local community.

Today, I visit the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio with multiple objectives. First, I want to photograph Leon Boutwell’s Oorang Indians uniform. I have seen several black and white photos of these maroon and orange outfits but haven’t encountered any that are in color. I read where Boutwell’s descendents donated his suit to the HoF and would love to see it. Who knows, it might make a great cover photo for “Carlisle Indians in the NFL.”

Also while at the HoF, I want to do a little research on players about whom I need more information. Chief among them is Joe Little Twig, another Oorang Indian. He played in the NFL for a few years after the Oorang franchise folded and eventually settled in Canton, Ohio. His early life is unclear. Little Twig is reputed to have attended Carlisle Indian School but I have not found any evidence of that. Perhaps, he was enrolled under a different name but I don’t know what that was. Here’s hoping that I find more information on him today.

Bulldogs and Indians Play Footbrawl

August 13, 2010

Large newspapers of the day recorded the October 15, 1922 game simply as Canton 14 – Oorang 0 but that doesn’t begin to tell the story. In the early days of the NFL, the Canton Bulldogs were a powerhouse team that featured Jim Thorpe and his Carlisle Indian School teammates, Joe Guyon and Pete Calac, in the backfield. But in 1922, Jim Thorpe and Walter Lingo formed the Oorang Indians franchise to, at least in theory, compete with Canton for championships. Oorang’s results were anything but competitive as Father Time’s inexorable crush was their greatest opponent. However, they more than rose to occasion when they battled the eventual league champions. And battle they did.

Few details of the game were covered by the national media but a Massillon, Ohio newspaper and the hometown paper of one of the players provided some unexpected coverage of the hard-fought battle. After a scoreless first half, the Bulldogs scored their two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Evening Independent told the story, “During that part of the contest the game almost developed into a free-for-all when the Indians gave battle to several Canton linemen who used their fists on an opponent, guilty of kneeing one of the Canton halfbacks. Throughout the game, Thorpe’s charges played in a most determined fashion, and bloody faces were not uncommon.”

A skeptic might conclude that this was slanted by a reporter from the Bulldogs’ rivals’ lair but The Lebanon Daily News provided some verification when it wrote, “William Winneshiek…was the recipient Sunday of an extraordinary compliment from the football players of the Canton Bulldog professional team. Winnie played center against them for the Oorang Indians and as an expression of appreciation of his wonderful playing and good sportsmanship, he was presented with the football used in the game and also a gold watch. The game developed into a slugging match, but evidently the Lebanon Indian played the game and kept out of the fights.”

 

Treasure Trove of New Carlisle Indian School Photos

July 22, 2010

The current edition of the Cumberland County Historical Society’s newsletter arrived earlier this week. When I got around to reading it, something in Richard Tritt’s column jumped off the page at me. William Winneshiek’s granddaughter recently donated her father’s photo album. Even though it is time to get Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals to the printer, I couldn’t resist running in to see if there was a photo of Winneshiek I’d like to add to the book. To put it mildly, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared for the number of photos in that album or the scope of them.

William Winneshiek arrived at Carlisle on June 5, 1911 and withdrew on October 19, 1915. His relatively short time at Carlisle and having never played on the varsity football team inclines one to expect mostly personal photo to be in his album and few that are directly related to Carlisle Indian School. Boy, was I surprised. Not only were there many photos in the album of school activities and of other students, several were photos that neither Richard Tritt nor I had seen before. For example, I had not previously seen any documentation of Little Twig having been at Carlisle. He is thought to have been here but no documents or photos had been seen to place him here before. The album includes several photos of Joel Wheelock’s All-Indian Band from 1929 and a number of photos of the Oorang Indians, including a group photo of the players in street clothes with two of the players’ wives. Good stuff.

After seeing what he had, and knowing what I do about Winneshiek, it all makes sense. When he left Carlisle in 1915, he remained in the area, attending Lebanon Valley College for a bit, working for the railroad in Altoona, playing with various bands, and moving permanently to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, all the while playing in bands and keeping in touch with old friends. His 1936 letter to Hugh Miller recorded a then-recent visit to Carlisle and thanked Miller for letting him have some photos from some unspecified baskets. It all makes sense now.

Winneshiek’s Return to Carlisle

November 3, 2009

William Phineas Winneshiek, Winnebago from Hatfield, Wisconsin, wasn’t a star football player at Carlisle but surely had friends that were. He probably played on a shop team or for the band, because he was a musician. After leaving Carlisle in 1915, he played semi-pro football for the Altoona Indians and, in 1916, assisted fellow Altoona Indian and musician, Joel Wheelock, coach the Lebanon Valley College team. In 1922 he played in the NFL for the Oorang Indians. However, music was where he made his living. A website maintained by his grandson includes photos of Winneshiek: http://firstpeople.iwarp.com/phineus.html

On December 11, 1936, Bill Winneshiek, who was then known as Chief Winneshiek (probably because he was descended from a hereditary chief) wrote Hugh Miller to thank him for giving him some photographs of the Indian School. He also expressed his feelings about what he saw on his recent visit to the old school:

Mr. Miller, I know that you are one of the few White men living that will realize fully the great injustice that was brought upon the Indian Race when Our Great Democratic Government decided to: “Take Away From The Redman The Last Remaining Treasure (Carlisle Indian School) He Had in U. S. A.

Buildings had been burned down; complete destruction of the tall smokestack, which once answered the purpose of a monument; The Campus , which was once the pride of all who saw it for it was kept always in its natural beauty by the Indian students had faded into an unkept meadow; Our school mates who had been called by the Great Spirit and laid at rest near the Athletic Field, had been disturbed and moved to a more lonelier spot by the soldiers who now inhabit the Grounds where the American Indian made his last stand. No Government, no Race of People could have been more Cruel, No Christians, whether they be White, Yellow, Brown, Black or Red, could forget Providence long enough to commit that one last barbarous act as when Carlisle Indian School was taken from the Red Man. The saddest thing that has yet befallen the Indian.

Lonestar Played in the NFL

October 19, 2009

Not long ago, I learned that some Carlisle Indians other than the ones on the Oorang Indians also played in the NFL. Chris Willis’s book, The Columbus Panhandles, tells the story of one of the charter members of the NFL (called the American Professional Football Association when it was first formed in 1920). The 1920 Panhandles’ roster included one player that claimed Carlisle Indian School as his alma mater. That was Frank Lone Star. John Steckbeck’s classic about the Carlisle Indian School football teams, Fabulous Redmen, makes no mention of him playing football. An appendix to Willis’s book lists Frank as having played guard and tackle in three games in the 1920 season. A search of newspaper coverage for these games confirms Willis’s data.

Unfortunately, Carlisle’s school records don’t indicate that Frank Lonestar ever played football there—at least not on the varsity squad. Frank Lonestar, Chippewa from Shell Lake, Wisconsin, first arrived at Carlisle in August 1903. After completing the five-year term, he re-enrolled for a three-year term. Just before the end of that term of enrollment, he ran away but re-enrolled in September 1911. He ran away again, returned in March 1912, and left for good in May 1912. While at Carlisle, he learned the printing trade and could have played on the Printers’ shop football team. Shop teams received little press, so it’s not known for sure if he played for them. He kept in touch with the school while working in Cleveland, Ohio. He died at his brother’s home in Shell Lake on October 30, 1915.

Frank’s untimely death made it impossible for him to play for the Columbus Panhandles in 1920. Playing under assumed names was common in the early days of professional football, especially by people whose employment might be jeopardized if their employer learned they were playing football for money.

One possibility is Lone Star Dietz because he was looking for a coaching job at that time. He went by the name William Lone Star at Carlisle. That name is close to Frank Lonestar. Also, Dietz would have likely known that Frank was dead because his death was announced in The Carlisle Arrow. In addition, Frank’s hometown was in the county immediately north of Dietz’s. Tackle was his natural position, too.

In 1920, Lone Star Dietz was 36, an advanced age for an athlete in that era, a factor that would explain him playing only three games. Of course, it may not have been Dietz, but if it wasn’t, who was it?

Joe Little Twig, Another NFL Star

August 14, 2009

Last time, I mentioned a guy named Joe LittleTwig. It just so happens that Wini Caudell has a website dedicated to him. You see, if things had turned out differently, he might have been Wini’s grandfather. But they didn’t.

Joe is believed to be Mohawk born on or near the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York State. After attending school on the reservation, he enrolled at Carlisle Indian School. So far, I haven’t been able to locate any record of him at Carlisle, but this isn’t all that unusual. Sometimes, different names were used. School employees often spelled named creatively, something that makes searching difficult. There’s a good chance that LittleTwig was young and not fully developed physically, a factor that would likely have kept him from making the varsity team. It’s almost impossible to identify players on any of the other teams at the school.

After leaving Carlisle, he served in WWI, but I have no details on that yet. After the war, he turned his hand to professional football and had more success than most. Researching his pro football career may be easier than researching his earlier life because some records-and a book-exist about the Oorang Indians and newspapers covered the early NFL games to some extent. Because he settled in Canton, either the local historical society or the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is located there, may have information on his life after football.

Wini Caudell’s site about Joe LittleTwig: http://www.rockislandindependents.com/Players/All%20Players/joejohnson.htm

Unexpected Carlisle Indians in the NFL

August 12, 2009

While researching Carlisle Indian School alums who played in the NFL, I came across an unexpected name—Frank Lonestar. Everyone is well aware that Lone Star Dietz coached the Redskins in 1933 and 1934 but I bet few know that Frank Lonestar played for the Columbus Panhandles in 1920, the league’s inaugural year. A website stated that he played three games at guard for the Panhandles that year. So far, I’ve found newspaper coverage for one game with his name in the lineup. That one was a losing effort against the Detroit Heralds.

I was well aware that Frank, a Chippewa from Wisconsin, was much involved in extracurricular activities such as the Invincible Debating Society and was an officer in his class (the same one as Gus Welch), but had no idea that he was a football player of note. He probably played for his shop team, the Printers, but many boys did that. I was unaware of him being on the varsity squad and doubt that he was. He apparently left Carlisle around 1911 to practice his trade after getting useful experience printing school publications. But that’s about all I know about him.

Also on the 1920 Columbus Panhandles, at least for awhile, was Littleboy, or someone with a similar name. The October 17, 1920 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette included a photo of four stars the local team, the Friars, would be facing when taking on the Columbus Panhandles later that day. Included in the photo and expected lineup was someone named Littleboy. A little research should determine if this person was Carlisle’s Little Boy. This Littleboy played left halfback in the Columbus-Detroit game mentioned previously.

I’m also learning about another Carlisle student who played in the NFL but doesn’t appear to have starred on the legendary Indian teams. Joe “Little Twig” Johnson began his NFL career with the 1922 Oorang Indians, but, unlike the majority of his teammates, had a significant pro career after Oorang’s demise. It appears that the Carlisle Indians were more involved in the early NFL than I thought.

Thorpe played basketball too

April 13, 2008

In March 2005 Anthony Barone, Jr. found a ticket in a book he had purchased for $6.00 at an auction. What is remarkable about this unusual event is that a ticket to a March 1, 1927 basketball game involving Jim Thorpe and his World Famous Indians dropped out of the book. Big Jim’s involvement in March Madness is not much known about today although it was covered in newspapers of the day.

When Jim first started playing basketball is not known. The first known documentation of his playing on the Freshman Class and Carlisle Indian School varsity teams in January 1909. So, Jim played hoops competitively long before the ticket date. If he played competitively after the 1909 season is not known either. However, he definitely played in 1927.

That he had formed the World Famous Indians or Oorang Indians, as they were sometimes referred to, was widely reported in November 1926. Also reported were the names of his teammates:

  • Raymond West, “Light Foot,” Cheyenne, forward
  • Dennis Hildebrand, “Eagle Feather,” Cherokee, guard probably
  • Leo Wapp, “Running Hawk,” Sac and Fox, guard
  • Jess Parton, “Swift Deer,” Delaware, forward
  • Dale Peters, college player from Indiana, center
  • Fred Cooke, college player from Indiana, guard

Although the team was advertised as being an Indian team, the closest two of the team’s stars got to being Indians was to have lived in Indiana. The WFI played a heavy schedule of games in the Midwest and east. At 39, Jim was nearing the end of his competitive athletic career so didn’t play full games as he had when he was young. A quarter of intense exercise on the court was enough for him. As of March 31, 1927 Jim Thorpe’s hoopsters were 42-14 with the season not yet finished and baseball just around the corner. Instead of barnstorming with an all-Indian team that summer, Jim played baseball with a team of college players he and Ohio State University star Chic Harley put together.


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