Carlisle Indians Played Football in 1891!

While researching Frank Lone Star for my upcoming book, Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, I came across a piece in the November 4, 1892 issue of The Indian Helper, in which Frank’s older brother, John Lone Star, had joined a newly organized football team called the Rovers. This, of course, piqued my interest, so I looked further. The November 25 issue reported that the Rovers had lost to the Pirates. The Pirates were described as the “Champion Foot-ball Team of the school.” From that I gathered that the Rovers and Pirates were intra-mural teams of some sort. It also mentioned that the Pirates’ trainer (coach in modern parlance) was Benjamin Caswell. In 1894, Caswell would captain the school’s football team, the first one to play a full schedule.

The article also reported that the Pirates also defeated the “School Team on Saturday, by a score of 16 to 10.” In his memoir, Superintendent Pratt wrote that interscholastic football at Carlisle had been banned in 1890 and not reinstated until 1893. So, why would there have been a school team?

But the Rovers weren’t through for the year. They beat Martin Archiquette’s team 22 to 8 on Thanksgiving Day. One can only assume that Archiquette’s team was another intra-mural team. The Pirates weren’t through either. On the following Saturday, they lost to the Regulars. What did that name mean? Were they just regular guys or were they the team that represented the school?

Curious, I delved a little deeper. On November 13, 1891, The Indian Helper stated, “They say we are to have a foot-ball team. The ball is already here.” That could have been just some gossip. Of course the school had a ball because the boys were already playing among themselves. A little ad in the November 28 New York Times told me that there was more to it.

1891-11-28 Carlisle vs NY YMCA

Was Pratt’s memory faulty? Was this a one-off game against a foe who promised to play cleanly? After all, it was a Christian organization. More research will be needed to discover the truth.

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