Archive for the ‘Carlisle Indian School’ Category

Eagle Feather Mystery Solved

August 4, 2016

Sherman Pierce photos

Cathy Jimerson sent me two photos of Sherman Pierce, one as an older and another as a younger man in his Oorang Indians uniform.  Ms. Jimerson wrote:

I have been in contact with the family of Sherman Pierce and they have the very picture that you are questioning as to the identity of Eagle Feather.  I have included that plus a picture of him as a older man.

I don’t know Cathy Jimerson but am very much inclined to believe her.  Jimerson is a family name well known by Carlisle Indian School researchers. National Archives files include records for at least a dozen students named Jimerson, possibly more with misspellings. Jimersons are Senecas from upstate New York as are the Pierces. The likelihood of people from these families knowing each other and being friends is great.  Cathy’s husband’s great great grandfather Jacob Jimerson attended Carlisle in the 1910s. However, Carlisle listed him as Jacob Jamison. Yes, the same Jakey Jamison whose great play in the 1896 Yale game was erased by a bad call from an official. More on that in a later post.

I think Sherman Pierce is Eagle Feather based on this photo and draft card data. His age and physical attributes jibe but we already knew that. Sherman Pierce’s smile, shape of his face, and stance would lead me to believe he was Eagle Feather even if I didn’t know his family claimed he was. It seems highly unlikely Sherman Pierce’s family would still have a 1922 photograph of a football player from a team that hasn’t existed for 93 years if he hadn’t played on that team. So, I think we’ve found our man.


Important Info About Eagle Feather, Maybe

June 3, 2016

Eagle Feather Carlisle fullback 19221011

When my Eagle Feather research returned me to 1922, the Oorang Indians’ first year of operation, I took a second (or third) look at some newspaper articles I had previously collected. I was forced to search for an early article I for which had neglected to capture the date of and publication name. Mercifully, the easily recognizable article popped up early with the graphic at the top of the page. Rereading “Former Bulldogs Now Important Cogs In Jim Thorpe’s All-Indian Football Machine” brought me back to “Thorpe has unearthed a brilliant fullback in Eagle Feather, from Carlisle.” No new information there, I thought, “At least I know where this came from now.” My eye wandered to a piece immediately below the one I had sought, finding something I’d previously overlooked.

“Most Of Jim’s Indians Are Carlisle And Haskell Men” grabbed my attention. Perusing the piece unveiled “Eagle Feather, fullback who weighs 230 stripped, is a cousin to Bemus Pearce [sic], famous as a tackle in the old Carlisle days. This could lead us to who Eagle Feather really was or it could have been wrong as are so many things in newspapers.

Since we have so little else to go on, let’s assume it is correct. Let’s accept that Eagle Feather was a cousin of Bemus Pierce and that he attended Carlisle. To make our lives as easy as possible, let’s assume (for now) that his last name was Pierce and research Carlisle and tribal records for a person from that family who would have been between 18 and 25 in 1922, based on his youthful appearance in the Oorang photo. I’d also scan Carlisle football files and photographs for a player weighing over 200 pounds (he might have put on a few after Carlisle closed in 1918).

If we come up dry, we’ll have to do some genealogy work to identify Bemus Pierce’s cousins who might fit the criteria. This research will likely require considerable assistance from the tribal librarian. It’s not exactly looking for a needle in a haystack but only by an order of magnitude or two.

Eagle Feather Bemus Pierce cousin 19221011












Eagle Feather, I Presume?

May 31, 2016

Wanting to find out exactly who the Eagle Feather who played fullback for the 1922 Oorang Indians football team, I spent several hours searching through old newspapers for clues as to who he was. I received a plethora of hits and quickly learned that Eagle Feather was not an uncommon name nor was it unique to a single tribe. Nor was the Eagle Feather who played football the only athlete of that name. Here they are in ascending order:

1904       A Cheyenne who played right field for a Sioux baseball team in

1908       An Otoe who played football for the Otoe School in Red Rock, OK.

1909       Chief Eagle Feather toured with 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

1910       Pitched for Fallsington M. E. church at Cadwalader Park in Trenton, NJ.

1911       Eagle feather aka Dr. Frank DeKay of Toledo, OH restored a woman’s vision by rubbing her head and conferencing with a mystical medicine man.

1911       Chief Eagle Feather was featured in Priscilla and the Pequot, touring with The Obrecht Family show.

1911       Father of baby born in Canton, OH to “a Sioux squaw traveling with the John Robinson circus.”

The next day, Chief Eagle Feather was assaulted by Bear Paw and struck in the head with a whisky bottle.

1914       Performed in Gray Eagle’s Last Stand at Lyric in Wellsville, NY.

1915       Eagle Feather’s daughter Princess Mary Eagle Feather performed in Miller Brothers and 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

1915       Chief Eagle Feather was a wealthy land owner in South Dakota.

1915       Chief Eagle Feather toured on Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits.

1915       Sherman Institute gala – couldn’t tell if Eagle Feather was a person or a character in a skit.

1915       Eagle Feather came in 2nd in the “Half-mile Indian Buck Race at the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

1919       In Winnipeg, old Chief Eagle Feather cranks his car in front of his farm house to drive his children to school.

1919       Winnebago Eagle Feather, aka John Smeade, operated and maintained the elevator at the Des Moines Club.

1919       In Chicago, Chief Eagle Feather’s wife, Princess Waunita, a full-blood Choctaw, assisted Vera Trepanier during her murder trial. Eagle Feather was reputed to be a Carlisle grad.

1920       Chief Eagle Feather’s mother was Geronimo’s oldest sister. He gave a talk on patriotism and Christian sentiment near Elkhart, IN. He also advertised for performers for his medicine show.

1920       Eagle Feather aka Jackson Barnett, who became rich when oil was found on his Oklahoma scrub land, gave his wife most of his money and sent her and the children to Los Angeles. He bought a horse and went back to the blanket.

1921       Chief Eagle Feather, Cherokee from Oklahoma, toured Indiana speaking in favor of granting Indians full citizenship.

1921       Chief Eagle Feather, 100 year-old Hopi, visited Ruston, LA.

1922       Big Chief Eagle Feather appeared in a medicine show at the Indiana State Fair.

1922       Local boxer Eagle Feather fought Bud Brown in a match held in Loraine, Ohio.


Investigating all of these various people named Eagle feather would be a considerable undertaking, so I first looked into the one I considered most likely to be him. The boxer, an athlete located in Ohio when the Oorang Indians were founded, looked promising until I noticed that the fighter weighed 125 pounds. To play fullback, he would have had to put on 100 pounds by the start of football season. Not likely. I continued looking and found something I didn’t think looked promising but might just be.



New Jim Thorpe Movie

May 6, 2016

Yesterday, the ever-vigilant sports statistician Tex Noel sent me a link to an article he thought I’d be interested in reading. As usual, he was correct. The link was to a news article about Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story, a much-needed new movie about Jim Thorpe. The previous major biopic about the world’s greatest athlete, starring Burt Lancaster as the young Thorpe, was released in 1951. Sadly, that dated film came as much from the screenwriter’s imagination as from actual events.


Crowds throng Carlisle Theatre

Abraham Taylor, producer of the new film, is striving for accuracy. He explained, “To tell an authentic Jim Thorpe story we have to maintain control of the project. The only way to do this is with the help of Indian country. We are honored and incredibly grateful for Tuolumne’s partnership on this project.” The reason I believe him—much fluff comes out of Hollywood that is far from the truth—is that Bob Wheeler is involved in the project.

When a grad student at Syracuse nearly a half century ago, Robert W. Wheeler undertook a new approach for writing his thesis: an aural history of Jim Thorpe. He acquired a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder similar to the one that his boss some years later, Howard Cosell, blamed for making him stoop shouldered, and crisscrossed the United States, hitchhiking from one place to another to interview people who knew Thorpe or had experiences with him. The noted Dick Schaap called him “Jim Thorpe’s Boswell” for the thoroughness of his research.

Bob has worked as an unpaid technical advisor for the film for more years than I can remember. Our numerous conversations and emails always dealt with the same thing: getting the details right. My next hope is to see Bob sitting in a director’s chair with a megaphone at his side, scrutinizing each scene for accuracy at Carlisle Barracks, the real-life site of where much of the story told in the film actually took place.


Joseph Tarbell at Craighead

May 1, 2016

One of the Carlisle Indian School students to stay with Charles and Agnes Craighead on one of his outing periods was Joseph Tarbell, Mohawk from the St. Regis Reservation at Hogansburg, New York. His Carlisle student file suggests that his father had attended the school earlier. However, the student file number given for his father appears to have been lost or renumbered. Joe first arrived at Carlisle on August 10, 1901 at 12 years of age. His previous off-reservation schooling had been 8 years at The Educational Home (for American Indians) in Philadelphia, which closed in 1900. That Joseph was sent away from home at such an early age is curious, especially since both of his parents were still alive when he first enrolled at Carlisle.

Joseph TarbellTo the best of our knowledge, Joe only spent one outing period in the vicinity of Boiling Springs, during the fall of 1907, after spending much of the summer in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. He returned to Carlisle on August 13, staying there till leaving on September13. He stayed with Charles and Agnes Craighead until December 8. It’s not clear whether they had moved to Harrisburg by that time or not. Other evidence suggests that Joseph Tarbell stayed with them at Craighead station.

Joe was photographed in a team photo in which all the players wore the uniforms of a Boiling Springs baseball team, not a high school team, but a town team made up of players from the area. How Joseph Tarbell came to be associated with this team is unknown. He may have come to the Craigheads as a result of being on that team or vice versa. What is known is that he was a very good baseball player. He spent his next summer in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where be played for the Hershey Chocolate team along with his brother, Louis.




Joe Bergie

April 27, 2016

Bergie, Joe from 1912 line photoI often learn things while giving book talks. Yesterday was no different. One of the attendees (whom I didn’t ask permission to use his name) informed me that, when doing some work at Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana in the 1960s, he met Joe Bergie. The first thing I learned is Joe pronounced his last name with a hard G not a soft G as I had assumed. That’s one of the problems of only reading someone’s name; you don’t know how it is pronounced.

The gentleman had talked at length with Bergie out in Montana. Bergie shared with him that, after the 1912 game at West Point, the team had a three-hour layover at Grand Central Station in New York City. Warner let them use the time to see as much of the city as they could before it was time for their train to leave. For boys mostly from reservations, Carlisle was a big town with modern conveniences such as electricity and trolleycars. New York was something else again. Without going into the specifics of their exploits, Joe thought it was a miracle all found their way back to catch their train on time.

Joe told a story major newspapers didn’t include in their coverage of the 1912 Carlisle-Army game. Winded after having his kick-off return for a touchdown called back for having stepped out of bounds, Jim Thorpe returned the re-kick well but ran out of steam and was tackled at the 3-yard line. Bergie, who was the back up fullback, was given the ball instead of the tired Thorpe. Joe punched the ball over the goal line but landed on the ball, something that can be painful any time. This time, he had half of each team on top of him and the officials were slow in pulling players off the pile. He thought he was going to suffocate under the weight. The national papers didn’t notice that he was the ball carrier and gave credit for the score to Jim Thorpe.

Craigheads Host Carlisle Indian School Students

April 22, 2016

The ability to search Carlisle Indian School Student Files has given me the ability to identify (however incompletely) the students who worked and lived with the Craighead family on their outing periods away from the school. That Richard Reynolds and Mary Leidigh Craighead were early supports of the school and their location adjacent to the railroad tracks at Craighead Station likely made them favored hosts. After Charles Cooper Craighead married Agnes Miller in 1886, they also had Carlisle students with them on outings.

The files available on-line at Dickinson College include partial outing rosters on which only three students were listed as having stayed with a Craighead family: Henry Morning, Sadie Metoxen and Myrtle Thomas. Student Files proved to be more reliable. A search of them for “Craighead” returned the names of 22 unique students (some were duplicated) who had been with a Craighead family on outings, one of which was Myrtle Thomas. A Student File wasn’t found for Henry Morning and Sadie Metoxen’s file wasn’t returned by the “Craighead” search because it doesn’t include a card for the time period in which she was with the J. B. Craighead family. A search of images not unexpectedly found no photos taken at Craighead Station or of Craighead family members. I would have been surprised if any had been in the school’s files.

A search of Carlisle Indian School publications on “Craighead” found no occurrences. I knew this was misleading because I had previously found references to Craigheads as supporters of the school in the school’s newspapers. I had also read an article in one of the school’s newspapers that mentioned Emma Strong being with Agnes Craighead but her Student File could not be found. A complete manual scan of the Carlisle Indian School newspapers and literary magazines would be necessary to identify the names of all the Carlisle Indian School students who stayed with Craigheads on their outings.

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Searching Scanned Carlisle Files

April 19, 2016

Something not previously mentioned is that people’s names were not always spelled uniformly or correctly. It’s always a good idea to also search on common misspellings of the name. A simple example is Lone Star Dietz whose father spelled the family name Deitz. Something to keep in mind is that some students went by more than one name, such as Charles Guyon aka Wahoo. If you are looking for information on a woman, make sure you also have her maiden name if she was ever married as her records are likely to be under that name. Also search on her married name because some of her  items might be associated with that name.

Student files aren’t the only things that can be retrieved. Links to photographs are not uncommon as are inclusions on lists that have been scanned. Mentions of the person in Carlisle Indian School publications, such as The Morning Star, The Red Man, The Carlisle Arrow, etc. are often found but are generally incomplete.

Emma Strong 1902Sometimes information can be found for students whose student files have been lost .  Emma Strong is an example. Her name appears in the student file for Frank DeFoe, whom she married after leaving the school. Her name also appears on some lists, however those entries are for other people named Strong or Armstrong or for students not strong (healthy) enough to remain at Carlisle. Emma Strong’s name appears several times in Carlisle Indian School publications but none of those articles are found by this search.

Sometimes, such as in the case of long family names, using just the first five or six letters may return results where spelling it completely won’t. That is because searching on scanned documents is an imperfect process at best.

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Carlisle Indian School Files (cont’d)

April 16, 2016

William Newashe in football jersey

Today’s blog deals with one simple search request:  Carlisle Indian School records for William Newashe, left tackle on the great 1911 football team. From perusing the school’s newspapers, I was also aware of a star student named Emma Newashe. So, instead of searching on “William Newashe,” I searched on “Newashe” only to bring up both of their records.  Often, siblings’ records provide information about the person of interest, especially regarding their birth family. This search returned nine items, including student files for both William and Emma. It also returned a photo of William that was donated by Robert Rowe and one of the 1911 football team. Also of interest was an article Emma wrote for The Red Man, Carlisle’s literary magazine, about a Sac and Fox legend, the merman’s prophecy. The last three items were listings of boys enrolled, girls enrolled, and girls’ outings. Even though, Bill’s name didn’t apparently show up on the boys’ outing register, we know that he went on outings.

His student file included “Descriptive and Historical Record of Student” cards that list times spent away from school. He spent two stints with the C. Carwithen family with a Doylestown, Pennsylvania address and one with Henry F. Sickles of Furlong.

Emma’s file listed her as having gone on outings to William Floyd of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Samuel Greene of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and L. R. Hollingshead or Moorestown, New Jersey. Her file also included an evaluation of the home and her performance, some of which provided information about her personality: “More fond of study than work.” Bill’s file didn’t include evaluations. Both of their student files were more extensive than the average.

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<to be continued>


Carlisle Student Files

April 13, 2016

Several times over the years I have been writing this blog, people have requested information on Carlisle Indian School students that, if it existed, could only be found in the paper records in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Traveling to Washington to look at the Carlisle Student Records in person is impractical for many people. Even for those of us who live close enough to make day trips, it isn’t easy. Parking garages aren’t inexpensive and learning the National Archives’ procedures for retrieving files are nontrivial. Having photocopies made to take copies of records home with you isn’t cheap either. Plus, the copies are stamped disallowing you from making copies of these copies to give to others. The Archives does allow researchers to submit requests from their homes to have Archives’ personnel retrieve the records of interest, make copies of them, and mail the copies to the requester. Significant time delays and costs are involved.

Fortunately, those of us who want to access Carlisle Indian School Student Files have another option now. The Dickinson College Archives have scanned the Carlisle Indian School Student Files and have made them available to researchers. One need not come to Carlisle to access these files because Dickinson College makes them readily available on their website. I give Dickinson high marks for their site. Retrieval is easy and straightforward and retrieved records can be printed on your home printer.

To access the site, key in or click on On the left side of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center screen, you will see a box under Search All. Enter the name of the student whose records you would like to see in this box and click on the search button. I generally start with the student’s last name to avoid problems with spelling and inconsistent recording of the first name. Also, many siblings attended Carlisle. In their files, information about the person in whom you’re interested can sometimes be found.

<to be continued>