Archive for the ‘Carlisle Indian School’ Category

Sampson Bird Fights the Pandemic

March 28, 2020

SamBird2The current pandemic brought to mind a favorite Carlisle Indian School football player. Sampson George Bird, son of John Bird, a white man of English descent, and Mattie Medicine Wolf, full-blood Piegan Blackfeet, lived on the Blackfeet Reservation near Browning, Montana, just east of present-day Glacier National Park before coming to Carlisle Indian School. Sam started receiving notice for his athletic ability at Carlisle in the fall of 1909, when he was elevated from the second team to the starting eleven. Because he was a lineman, he toiled in relative obscurity.

His social life, however, generated him more coverage in the school newspaper when he and his partner, Margaret Blackwood, Chippewa from Michigan, won three dance contests. After the school year ended, the couple left for Montana to be married. Their marriage barely survived the honeymoon because Margaret was stricken with spinal meningitis and died in August 1910.

Sampson returned to Carlisle, where he assisted Pop Warner in coaching the team while also playing right guard. At season’s end, he was elected captain of the 1911 team because he was “…one of the best players on the team, a heady player, a natural leader, and very popular among the players and students….” Coach Warner shifted him from guard to end and added an end-around play to the playbook. Sam led the team to its greatest season, beating two of the Big Four for only the second time in Carlisle history. The only blemish on their record was a one-point loss to an inferior Syracuse team on a wet field.

Off the field, he earned the reputation of being everyone’s best man by standing up for so many of his friends at their weddings. Soon after school’s end in May 1912, he married fellow student Margaret Burgess, Haida/Tlinget from Alaska, and operated his family’s ranches in Montana. They soon had a growing family. When the Great Influenza Pandemic struck, Sam Bird allowed no one on or off the ranch. Supplies from town were dropped off at the end of the lane for later pick up by the family. No one on the ranch got sick.

Athletic genes must run in Sam’s family because his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are stars on the Indian rodeo circuit.

Lone Star Dietz at Lehigh Exhibition

March 1, 2020

I just learned something new about Lone Star Dietz I didn’t know before. Andrew Jay maintains a blog about the artwork of Francis Quirk, someone I had never heard of before. In 1955, the Lehigh University Art Galleries held an exhibition of works done by Quirk, head of the department of fine arts at Lehigh, Joseph Brown, boxing instructor and associate professor of sculpture at Princeton University, Jose deRivera, formerly of Yale University and working on a Texas hotel project, and Lone Star Dietz, formerly of Reading, PA’s Albright College.

Here is a link to the Francis Quirk blog: http://francisquirk.blogspot.com/

Dietz’s contributions to the exhibit included his prize-winning landscape, “My Pittsburgh,” as well as several other famous portraits and landscapes not listed. All of these paintings were done in oil.

Because the descriptions of all but one of Dietz’s paintings are vague, I can speculate on only that one: his Pittsburgh painting. I have seen a cityscape of Pittsburgh done by Dietz, probably painted during the time he operated Liberty Academy of Advertising Art on Liberty Street in that city. The painting I saw is titled “Pittsburgh Just Grew.” However, on the back of the frame above that title is “My Pittsburgh.”

The painting is now owned by Joel Platt, owner of the Sports Immortals museum in Boca Raton, Florida. If you’re ever in South Florida, a visit to the museum is worth your time. Rather than telling you about the museum, I’m providing a link to its web page. Platt has an extraordinary collection of sports memorabilia, including items from Carlisle Indian School and Jim Thorpe. http://sportsimmortals.com/

Below are photos of “Pittsburgh Just Grew” being held by Joel Platt and the back side of the painting with an inscription written by Lone Star Dietz. This painting is surely the one he showed at the Lehigh exhibit.

(more…)

Indian School at Chambersburg?

February 27, 2020

Central Pennsylvania residents are well aware of Wilson College having to rebuild itself in recent decades. Not widely known is that the Carlisle Indian School could have been located on Wilson’s campus. The recent financial stress afflicting Wilson College was far from the first in its history.

When the Depression of 1882-85 struck, Wilson College lacked an endowment large enough to aid it in dealing with difficult economic circumstances. Enrollment plummeted, requiring the College to mortgage its buildings in order to pay staff and expenses. By 1883, the student population was half its former size to fewer than 30 students. The president tendered his resignation to the Trustees. They accepted it and informed the faculty that the school would close.

One of the last-ditch efforts to save Wilson College was to offer the campus to Richard Henry Pratt, Superintendent of Carlisle Indian School. Lucky for Wilson College (and probably the Indian School as well), Pratt turned down the offer.

It takes little insight to understand why he refused their offer. In 1879, the War Department lent idle army base Carlisle Barracks to Pratt as a campus for the Indian Industrial School he was establishing. One assumes he paid no rent. His student body was multiples of Wilson’s by 1883. A physical plant that served 50 students would have been inadequate to house and educate this number of students.

Carlisle Indian School was always underfunded by the government. Helping fund the school was a significant factor in fielding a highly profitable football program. So, Pratt would not have been looking for more expenses he couldn’t afford.

Superintendent Pratt on horseback.

Carlisle Indians in the Movies

January 9, 2020

5.4 Yellow fort

A photo of The Yellow Menace being shot

Sometimes something goes full circle when you least expect it. On a recent trip to St. Augustine, Florida, I looked into a few things I only had the vaguest understanding of. I was well aware that, around 1875, Richard Henry Pratt was assigned to confine captive plains Indians taken in combat at a place 2,000 miles from their homeland on the prairie. The place was Fort Marion. I knew it was located near St. Augustine but that was about it. A visit to Castillo de San Marcos, built by the Spanish between 1672 and 1695, informed me that this impenetrable fort was the place of incarceration. Old photographs taken during the 1875-1878 period of confinement supported this.

When the U. S. purchased Florida from Spain,  the Castillo was renamed Fort Marion. It was there that Pratt conceived the radical view that American Indians were educable and need not be eradicated. Prior to coming to Fort Marion, Pratt had led a troop of Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Cavalry and had worked closely with Indian scouts (from tribes that were enemies of the ones he was fighting). At Fort Marion, he dressed the prisoners in cavalry uniforms and assigned trustees to guard their brethren. As a practical matter, escape was pointless with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and land that was foreign to plains Indians in all other directions.

Pratt allowed Quaker ladies who wintered nearby to teach the prisoners to read and write. The prisoners taught them archery and sold Sunday visitors their artwork. His experiences here led Pratt to open Carlisle Indian Industrial School at the former site of the army’s cavalry school at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

While researching the lives of Carlisle Indian School football players, I learned that three (possibly more) of them matriculated at Keewatin Academy in Wisconsin after leaving Carlisle. That the three were all Chippewa from Minnesota may have been coincidental but they appeared to be friends. Leon Boutwell and Joe Guyon joined the football team that was coached by their former schoolmate, Peter Jordan (sometimes spelled Jourdan). After the end of the regular season, the academy migrated to its winter campus in St. Augustine, where it extended its season by playing against southern football teams—until it was time to prepare for the baseball season.

Unknown to me, until I received a photograph of Boutwell and Guyon made up to look like Chinese men, was that St. Augustine had hosted a bustling movie colony years before film makers escaped to Hollywood, California to avoid enforcement of Thomas Edison’s patents. Thomas Graham, professor emeritus of history at Flagler College, has documented that colorful history in Silent Films in St. Augustine. He identified the location in the photo of Boutwell and Guyon was the doorway to the chapel at Fort Marion and that they were probably playing characters in the 1916 serial film The Yellow Menace.

Professor Graham has also graciously allowed me to use a photograph taken of the shooting of the film. He explained, “Most of the ‘Oriental’ men in the movie were local black St. Augustinians, although the local newspaper ran a want ad by the movie company for ‘short statured’ white men–evidently to play Asians. The uniformed soldiers are Florida National Guardsmen and the guns are Gatling machine guns.” Although their movie careers were short, Boutwell and Guyon were far from finished.

After serving in the 14th Field Artillery Band at Fort Sill during WWI, Leon Boutwell went on to play in the NFL for the Oorang Indians under the name Little Cyclone. After the team folded, he put his training from Carlisle as a printer to work, eventually owning and operating The Daily Telegram in Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

During WWI Joe Guyon played for the Georgia Tech “Golden Tornado” championship football team where an assistant coach said, “Tackling him was like grabbing an airplane propeller.” He played for several teams in the NFL, often alongside Jim Thorpe, and minor league baseball teams. He is enshrined in both College and Professional Football Halls of Fame.

Boutwell Guyon as Chinese

Joe Guyon (left) and Leon Boutwell (right) in costume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restore Jim Thorpe’s Sole Standing

November 13, 2019

Everyone knows Jim Thorpe’s gold medals for winning both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics were taken back in 1913 because he had played some low-level minor league baseball. Less well known is that, through the efforts of husband and wife team Bob Wheeler and Florence Ridlon, his medals were restored, and his name returned to the record books. Little known is that even though his records are now included in the official report, the International Olympic Committee chose to list the second-place finishers in both events as also being gold medal winners’ point totals, even though Thorpe amassed much higher point totals. Over the decades, the IOC has resisted all efforts to restore Thorpe as the sole gold medal winner for the decathlon and pentathlon even though it was proven they had illegally taken his medals and records away. Fortunately, not all have given up hope.

U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico Debra Haaland is submitting a resolution in a week to put pressure on the IOC to right this wrong. She is proposing this resolution to coincide with Native American Heritage Month. After making its case, the resolution states:

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the International Olympic Committee, through its president, should officially recognize Jim Thorpe’s unprecedented athletic achievements as the sole Gold Medalist in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon events and correct these inaccuracies in the official Olympic books.

I urge you to assist Rep. Haaland in this effort by writing in support of this resolution to her office in care of Kevin.Carriere@mail.house.gov.

jim_thorpe

 

Jean Craighead George’s 100th

January 7, 2019
flower gardens

Sketch of Agnes Craighead’s Flow Gardens Drawn by Jean Craighead George

2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Jean Craighead George’s birth. Throughout the year, I will be posting articles about her, primarily from my interviews of her. In the fall of 2009, Dr. David S. Masland, a lifelong friend of Jean’s, arranged for me to visit her at her home and accompanied us on the trip. Although she was already 90, she was still vibrant and could recall much about her youth, the part of her life I was most interested in learning about. You see, it is my belief that her and her brothers’ childhoods made them the extraordinary persons they became.

Since Jean allowed me to videotape the interviews, except for certain parts, I have a considerable amount of footage of her talking. Over the next twelve months, I will review these recording and extract excerpts I think people might be interested in seeing and hearing and will post them on my YouTube channel. I’m too cheap to upgrade my WordPress account to be able to store videos on my blog.

The first topic I’ve chosen is about her paternal grandmother’s flower gardens. The video I’ve put together starts with a sketch Jean drew from memory of how her mother described the gardens and from her memory of what still remained when she was a girl.

Jean mentions a man from the Indian School. Carlisle Indian School was located on the edge of Carlisle about five miles away from Craighead Station, where her father was born and where his adult family spent their summers. The South Mountain Railroad tracks joined the Cumberland Valley Railroad tracks on the eastern edge of Carlisle and passed through the Craigheads’ property on the way to Pine Grove Furnace. So, it was a simple matter for teachers and students at Carlisle Indian School to go back and forth to and from Craighead Station.

Central to the Carlisle Indian School program was immersing students in the majority culture some time each year. They called these “Outing Periods” in which students lived and worked with families in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Besides being acculturated, the students earned a little money, something few had before coming to the school.

Here is a link to the short video: https://youtu.be/XVcKeCQceps

 

 

What Was Dietz Doing?

November 18, 2018

Lone Star - OregonianWhat did Lone Star Dietz do between early February of 1920, the time he left the Spokane, Washington jail after completing his 30-day incarceration, and late March 1921, when he signed with Purdue to coach their football team?

Dietz was broke in late 1919 after investing heavily in Washington Motion Picture Company. Having no money for his legal defense forced him to plead nolo contender to the draft-dodging retrial after the first one produced a hung jury locked at 8 to 4 for acquittal. An apparently sympathetic district attorney agreed to the wrist slap sentence in the county jail instead of a long one in a federal penitentiary like those given to others in the post-WWI hysteria. The news article announcing his release stated that he had been a “trusty” the last two weeks of his incarceration that began on January 8, 1920.

One can easily envision the affable Dietz playing cards with his jailers a la Rhett Butler—except that he had no money to gamble with. What he did afterwards is still unclear. Newspaper articles covering his release his release made no mention of his plans for the immediate future. He may have promoted Fools Gold, the movie he played a role in and helped fund, but that would have required finances on which to live. Another possibility is that he did movie work in Hollywood. He had experience and could have acted or done stunt work or various things behind the camera. That would have been a way for him to earn a paycheck. Football was out of season, so that wasn’t a possibility.

The Encyclopedia of Football, 15th Revised Edition by Roger Treat listed Dietz as having played guard for the Hammond Pros NFL team. At 36, Dietz would have been old, and likely too out of shape to play much. However, it would have brought him east and more available for other opportunities.

The November 12, 1920 edition of The Evergreen, Washington State College’s school newspaper, listed “Veteran Cougar Coaches.” According to this piece, Dietz was “Now engaged in theatrical business in New York.” A January 10, 1921 article in The Seattle Star titled “‘Lonestar’ Dietz Playing Behind N. Y. Footlights” had him “…playing behind the footlights in Woodward’s New York theatre.”

I have been unable to find out anything about Mr. Woodward or his theater. Any help in that regard would be most appreciated.

The March 229, 1921 edition of The Lafayette Journal Courier announced the hiring of Lone Star Dietz to lead Purdue’s varsity football team. That article also said that “…for the last two years he has been engaged in business activities on the west coast.”

Clearly, more information is needed to determine exactly what Dietz had occupied himself doing those thirteen-plus months between jail and Purdue football.

Was David McFarland the Orator?

November 13, 2018

A researcher contacted me recently regarding information on and photos of David McFarland, an early Carlisle Indian School football star. He also shared some information he had on McFarland’s later life. One item jumped out at me: he was a skilled orator. Reading that made me wonder if McFarland was the Carlisle student who persuaded Superintendent Pratt into lifting his 1890 ban on Carlisle students playing football against other schools.

Pratt wrote of the students’ appeal to him:

“While they stood around my desk, their black eyes intensely watching me, the orator gave practically all the arguments it seemed possible to bring and ended by requesting the removal of the embargo.”

Could David McFarland have been the one who argued so eloquently?

I checked my copy of Steckbeck’s Fabulous Redmen and found McFarland’s name (Steckbeck had it as MacFarland) listed on the 1894 team roster. (His book didn’t include a roster for the partial 1893 season.) So, it was possible he might have been the one who convinced Pratt to allow Carlisle to field a football team.

I read Pratt’s account further to find out what else he might have said about the youthful speaker. “The orator was a descendent of the family that produced the great chief Logan, who said, ‘I appeal to any white man to say that ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry and gave him no meat, came cold and naked and he clothed him not, etc.’…”

Now, all I needed to do was to find out which boy was a descendent of Logan. A quick search revealed that Logan was the son of Shikellamy, a Cayuga. His father renamed him sometime after his birth to James Logan, in honor of his friend and prominent Pennsylvanian of that name.

David McFarland was Nez Perce, a fact that made it almost impossible for him to have been a descendent of Logan. The search to identify the orator goes on.

Jim Thorpe’s Biographer is Interviewed

August 19, 2018

Back in May, I reported on the Jim Thorpe movie that is being made with the involvement of Angelina Jolie and others. Because, to a great extent, the film in development is based on his definitive biography of Thorpe, Bob Wheeler is being interviewed about Thorpe, his research and the movie. Here are links to videos of some of his recent interviews:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1gaK7rdZgpEcstHfye0buBCWt7aTANU16

The Big Biz Show: https://vimeo.com/281652412/002da7695e

BizTalk Discovery: https://vimeo.com/281653077/23660f3772

Wheeler’s odyssey in tracking down Thorpe’s contemporaries while they were still alive is a story in itself. Hitchhiking cross-country when it was possible but frowned upon by some, including President Eisenhower, was the only way a grad student with no money could travel to all the places he had to go to conduct his research.

Even getting an oral history approved as a valid project was a challenge at that time. It’s better I stop and let Bob tell his own story.

Wheeler's book

 

 

 

 

 

The Tebow Thorpe Intersection

July 30, 2018

Earlier this summer you read about my ill-fated attempt to see Tim Tebow play minor league baseball against the Harrisburg Senators at City Island. Since that time, I’ve thought about who else played at that island in the Susquehanna River over a century ago.

Called Hargest’s Island in 1902, a crude baseball field there was home turf for Harrisburg Athletic Club for whom Carlisle Indian School grad and Dickinson College student Charles Albert Bender pitched one summer. The future hall-of-famer even hurled a game against the visiting Chicago Cubs. Chief Bender lost but acquitted himself well. So well, that by season’s end he had been signed by Connie Mack to pitch for the Philadelphia Athletics. The rest, as they say, is history.

Baseball wasn’t the only sport in which Carlisle Indians competed on Hargest’s Island. In 1908, 8,000 people attended the first annual statewide track and field meet sponsored by the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Carlisle Indians defeated ten colleges to take first place honors. Several Carlisle athletes performed well. Among them was Jim Thorpe, rounding out his first season of competition. He came in second in the 220-yard hurdles and 16-pound shotput, and first in the high jump. Not bad for someone new to the sport.

Jim Thorpe on Hargest's Island

Jim Thorpe runs the high hurdles in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Meet on Hargest’s Island

The 1912 event was the source of an often-heard legend about the Carlisle Indians. Their team did not run 20 miles to a game, defeat their opponents and run home. Lewis Tewanima and Jim Thorpe were training for the Olympic Games to be held in Stockholm that year and did not compete as members of the team. As part of his training regime, distance running Hopi Tewanima ran from Carlisle to Hargest’s Island, waved to his friends, circled the track, and ran back to Carlisle.

Jim Thorpe returned in 1915 to compete there as a member of the Harrisburg Islanders minor league baseball team. A parallel of Thorpe and Tebow is that that both competed on City Island in baseball, not either’s first sport. Both camein to prominence for their exploits in college football. Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and Thorpe would have been had that award existed in 1911 and 1912. His prominent position in the College Football Hall of Fame attests to that.