Archive for the ‘Football’ 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.

JimThorpePremiere

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.

 

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.

Finding Eagle Feather (part one)

March 21, 2016

I initially thought this post would have been completed weeks ago due to little or no information being available regarding Eagle Feather. I was wrong. There is lots of information available, almost all irrelevant, that require much time to sort through. To make the task more manageable, I ignored everything about people named Eagle Feather far too old or long dead. But I did include anyone remotely possible of being the Eagle Feather in question.

Eagle Feather SeminoleThe first reference I investigated was of a 1901 Seminole love pentagon gone terribly wrong. Seventeen-year-old Mocking-Bird, daughter of the chief, was the belle of the tribe and had attracted four ardent suitors, including Eagle feather. The longer she took making her choice, the more hopeful—and jealous—each became. Smiling impartially at each of them, she remained steadfastly indifferent. Her suitors’ jealousy and ardor festered day by day as the day of the sun dance approached, thinking she would pick a husband during the festival.

When Eagle Feather danced with Mocking-Bird, they sped round and round until they needed to rest. Breathless, they passed out of the throng. The other three suitors saw her drop her eyes to Eagle Feather’s amorous glance, signaling surrender. Enraged with their loss, blows were struck and blades were drawn. Soon Eagle Feather and a rival fought were fighting with hunting knives. Two dark figures closed in, shielding the fighters from the dancers circling around them. Mocking-Bird pulled away, fell to her knees and prayed for the life of her young lover. The fight ended with two men dead, the other two dying. Gasping for breath, Eagle Feather was laid in Mocking-Bird’s arms. Dumb and dry-eyed, she watched his life drift away. She held him silently as if doing that would keep him from leaving her.  That night, she slipped out of camp and walked to the low bank of the sluggish river that lapped the fringe of the forest. Under the light of the quarter moon, she quietly dropped into the water.

Next time we’ll investigate a newspaper report on another Eagle Feather.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Was Eagle Feather?

February 16, 2016

“Do you have any idea who this Eagle Feather was,” asked Chris Willis, of NFL Films and President of Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA)? “On the 1922 Oorang Indians is a player named Eagle Feather. In my research the name coming up for him is Bemus Pierce. But the only Bemus Peirce I am finding is one who was born in 1873 or 1875. Which would make him roughly 47 or 49 years old when he played in 1922. The photo I have of Eagle Feather in 1922 doesn’t look like him.”

Oorang Indians player Eagle FeatherReceiving questions like this isn’t unusual for me since writing Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs: Jim Thorpe & Pop Warner’s Carlisle Indian School football immortals tackle socialites, bootleggers, students, moguls, prejudice, the government, ghouls, tooth decay and rum because I have probably researched Carlisle Indian School football players’ lives more than anyone has. This is normal and not discouraged because I also ask other authors questions about topics they have researched. Chris is researching the Oorang Indians NFL team that played in the 1922 and 1923 seasons for a future book, one that I’m looking forward to reading.

Something I’ve never seen is a color photo of an Oorang Indians uniform and hope Chris finds one. I’m told they were maroon and orange and looked just like the one Eagle feather is wearing in the photo. If anyone has one or knows where one can be found I’d appreciate being informed. I’d also appreciate learning anything you might know about Eagle Feather (which might not be his name because Walter Lingo made up names for some of the players). Email me with anything you might have, no matter how small unimportant it might seem.

Jim Thorpe Comes to Berks County

February 11, 2016

Thorpe DietzTex Noël, Executive Director of Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association, informed me of a recent article on Jim Thorpe’s January 1941 visit to Berks County, Pennsylvania. Accompanying the article was a photo of Jim Thorpe with Lone Star Dietz and Jimmy McGovern, then coach at Kutztown State Teacher’s College. Also present, but not in the photo, was Carlisle Indian School alumnus and Reading High School Orchestra Conductor and Music Director Fred Cardin. In his spare time, he led the Ringgold Band, composed music, directed the Reading Civic Opera Company. With Dietz coaching athletics at Albright College and Cardin leading most of the musical groups in town, Reading had quite an exposure to Carlisle Indian School alums.

 

It was probably on this trip east the fall of 1940 and winter of 1941 that the photo of Thorpe and Dietz with the then Albright College quarterback (mistakenly identified in Albright’s yearbook and my biography of Dietz as Moose Disend) was taken. Thorpe gave a series of talks to enthusiastic audiences on that speaking tour as described in the Reading Eagle’s reporter Ron Devlin’s article. Devlin’s article can be found here: http://www.readingeagle.com/news/article/history-book-when-jim-thorpe-visited-berks-county.

Ron Devlin repeated a commonly made misconception that the 1912 Jim Thorpe-led Carlisle Indians won the hypothetical National College Football Championship. The Indians never won a national football championship or had an undefeated season. 1912 was one of four-one-loss seasons the Indians had. Their 34-26 loss to Penn and scoreless tie with a good Washington & Jefferson team were the only blemishes on their record that year. 1912 was the middle year of a three-year string of one-loss teams. 1911 stands out because Carlisle beat two of The Big Four (Harvard and Penn) offset by a one-point loss to an inferior Syracuse team. 1913’s only blemishes were a 12-6 loss to Pitt and a 7-7 tie with Penn. Pretty darn good for a Carlisle team without Jim Thorpe. However, that was the year Joe Guyon and Pete Calac were shifted to the backfield. But that’s another story.

 

Renewed Interest in Carlisle Indian School

December 27, 2015

While I wait on galleys for my Craighead book, I have received requests for interviews about Carlisle Indian School football players. The first was with the local paper to talk about the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rose Bowl. The second is for a videotaped interview about the Carlisle Indian School football program for an upcoming documentary by Ernie Zahn, a Current Fellow with Filmmakers Without Borders. In the meantime, Washington State Magazine, the Washington State University alumni magazine published a short article they requested I write about the 1916 Rose Bowl. How, you might ask, is the 1916 Rose Bowl a Carlisle Indian School topic?

Lone Star Dietz played right tackle for Pop Warner’s legendary 1909-11 teams and became his protégé when he assisted the “Old Fox” coach the Carlisle teams from 1912 to 1914. After Warner took the head coaching job at Pitt, he recommended Dietz to head up the floundering Washington State program. Dietz brought Warner’s single- and double-wing formations to the Palouse and ran roughshod over the competition with them. A photo of the 1915 Washington State College team lined up in an unbalanced-right single-wing formation heads the Washington State Magazine article.

The Carlisle Sentinel interview resulted in an article in the December 26 edition titled “Rose Bowl: Lone Star Dietz coached first game in Rose Bowl Series.” Accompanying the article are two photos of Dietz: one in civilian clothes holding a cigar, the other in a Carlisle football uniform.

How much of the hour-long interview by the Filmmakers Without Borders fellow won’t be known for some time but the entire documentary Zahn intends to produce will be short. Because it is funded, he won’t be entering it in festivals or contests. Instead, he will be putting it up on YouTube.com when post-production work is complete.

 

Pop Warner Not at 1905 Washburn-Fairmont Game

May 30, 2015

Some months back Harry Carson Frye brought the 1905 game between Washburn College and Fairmont College (today’s Wichita State University) which was played under the rules to be instituted for the 1906 season. Some claim that the game played on Christmas Day was the first one in which a legal forward pass was thrown. I’ll let others argue whether it was an exhibition game or not. What interested me most was that Mr. Frye had the impression that Pop Warner was present for the game.

Warner has been accused of trolling the reservations for material for Carlisle and for finding Lone Star Dietz playing semipro football out there somewhere. It seems unlikely that Warner would have been scouting for Carlisle in 1905 because he was in the middle of his second run as head coach at Cornell at that time. However, he was available to travel to the game for purposes of his own because Cornell’s season ended on November 30 that year. Interested in learning more about the game, I contacted Wichita State’s archives and requested copies of newspaper articles they hold about the game.

By the time the copies arrived, I had forgotten exactly what prompted me to request them. Yesterday, I realized it was Harry Frye’s question. I scanned newspaper coverage for the names of coaches who were present for the game but found no mention of Warner. Dr. John H. Outland coached Washburn refereed the game, Willis Sherman “Billy” Bates coached Fairmont and umpired the game, T. H. Morrison, a former Fairmont coach, was head linesman, Dr. J. C. McCracken of Penn reported on the game to Penn, D. C. Hetherington of Missouri observed, and it was assumed that coaches in the region would attend. If Lone Star Dietz was in Wichita at the time (he may have been working at an engraving company in Kansas City at the time), he would surely have been at the game. However, I found no evidence that Pop Warner was there.