Archive for the ‘Richard Henry Pratt’ Category

Lies About Carlisle Indian School

July 13, 2021

I generally don’t bother to refute misinformation promulgated about Carlisle Indian School but, with reports on what happened at First Nations schools in Canada operated by the Catholic Church often being conflated with American schools, I now find it necessary to comment on a Facebook post (included below) that was forwarded to me for comment. Mr. Edwards appears to have visited Carlisle Barracks but is unfamiliar with its history. Some errors are so off they require no research on my part.

His sentence that includes the phrase “til ’51 or 2” is worded awkwardly but appears to mean that Mr. Edwards’ relatives played on the grounds at Carlisle Barracks in the early 1950s. If they had done that, they likely had some affiliation with the Army because Carlisle Indian School closed permanently in 1918.

Edwards’ comment about seeing fingerprints in the mortar on the Indian Field grandstand are incorrect unless the Army brought Indian masons back to Carlisle to build the new, concrete grandstand years later. Students learning the building trades likely built the original wooden grandstand around 1906, but they were long gone by the time the masonry grandstand was erected. However, they did build a masonry building: the Native Arts building which still stands. The school newspaper lauded the students for the quality of their work on the building in which the famous Winnebago artist, Angel DeCora, taught. It is diagonally across the street from the house in which Pop Warner lived. That house was also built by students. The funding for both these structures came from the Athletic Department.

A quick look at newspapers from August 1927, when the graves were moved, gives the total at 187. Perhaps Mr. Edwards was confused by hearing that over 1,000 students were enrolled in the school at its peak and mistook that for being the number of graves. Superintendent Pratt has been criticized for sending sick children home to die. He likely did that to keep diseases from spreading to other students and there was little he could do for many of them. The state-of-the-art of medicine had not advanced very far at the time the school was in operation. Lifespans were short. People, white and Indian alike, died at early ages. Tuberculous was rampant and took many lives. Pratt sent bodies of dead children home to those parents who wanted their remains whenever he could because a large graveyard filled with dead students wouldn’t have been good advertising for his school.

The graves were not moved to make room for a road. Officer housing was built on that site.

I had heard that the moving of the graves had been done in a haphazard manner but the newspaper articles suggest otherwise. Sixteen men were assigned to do the job. While errors were likely made, it appears that remains were paired with the headstones as both were relocated from the old cemetery to the new one. Some records were surely lost when the Indian School was closed with little advance notice. So, it would not be surprising to learn that some graves were mismarked. Something that argues for the overall data to be accurate is that the headstones were created shortly after the students died and would have been mostly correct, although some details could have been wrong. This was a government project after all so some screw ups were inevitable.

Neil Edwards

From where I’m standing a few yards to my right, a few yards to my left and back to that building almost where the stop sign is behind them vehicles is the old graveyard at Carlisle. There’s children under there…. but you won’t hear about that you’ll only hear about the graveyard out front. If I remember correctly, without looking it up, there was about 1,200 students back there and during the early 30s they ripped the graves out deep enough to make the road and piled them at random out front in 190 holes 192 I think or whatever……strange things happen here that’ll make yer neck hairs stand up…… this isn’t far from the “good ice” …their winter ice rink. In back and to my left is the field where Jim Thorpe, my family George Thomas todadaho, my great uncle, til ’51 or 2 I believe and his sister Edith Thomas, my GG, used to play. You can see the students fingerprints in the mortar between the Rocks when they built the grandstand there’s even fingerprints where they ended each pass in the morter.

If you don’t start learning about boarding schools here at Carlisle it’s like starting a book in the middle of it. You don’t know anything until you start here.

How Did Richard Henry Pratt Become a Brigadier General?

May 18, 2021

I had never understood why Richard Henry Pratt was promoted to Brigadier General after he retired. It didn’t make sense to me, but I had never given it enough thought to consider researching it. Now, the answer comes to me when I’m not looking for it. While trying to hammer down the precise date of Pratt’s removal from his position as Carlisle superintendent, I came across a June 12, 1904 New York Times article that discussed the matter. In addition to telling the story of why and how Pratt got fired, it explained how his promotion came about.

A year before this article was written, Pratt wrote President Roosevelt requesting that, when he reached the retirement age of 65 two years later, he be retired as a Brigadier General. Apparently not amused by the request, the President issued an order retiring him at his then current rank of colonel, not Brigadier General.

In a stroke of luck, Congress bailed Pratt out. They passed a bill providing that all officers who served in the Civil War be promoted one grade above the one they were holding when they retired. This is how Pratt became a Brigadier General.

1899 Carlisle vs. California

August 20, 2020

I was asked to write an article about a game I hadn’t previously given much consideration: the Christmas Day 1899 post-season contest between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California. I learned a good bit researching the game. The College Football Historical Society published it this month. Membership is only $17.00 a year, payable to:

Raymond Schmidt, PO Box 6460, Ventura, CA 93006

If you find this interesting, you might want to join the CFHS and get your own copies of editions with articles such as this one mailed directly to you.

1899 Cal Players Exploited

July 8, 2020

While researching the 1899 Christmas Day game between Carlisle Indian School and the University of California for an upcoming article, I learned that the Cal players had voted three times against playing in this post-season game. Initially, they gave fatigue from the season just finished and the need to study for final exams as the reasons for objecting to another game. What turned out to be the real reason was the money. Players complained that the Thanksgiving Day game against archrival Stanford had generated a lot of revenue but athletes received no benefits from it.

A major objection was that Cal’s athletes didn’t have a “clubhouse” in spite of generating lots of money and receiving nothing in return. Only after they’d wrested control of the finances from Manager Irwin J. “Jerry” Muma and transferred it to the athletic committee did the team agree to the tough, but potentially profitable, game with the Indians.

A major difference between then and now is that in the decades before the dawn of the NFL, athletic scholarships were not (officially) allowed. Student players generally paid full tuition and received nothing for their efforts, aside from the adulation of comely co-eds—unless alumni with deep pockets were generous with their money. The Cal players’ case for controlling the finances was considerably different than for today’s gladiators who get athletic scholarships, numerous perks not available to other students, and a shot at turning pro. Why should they have performed risky, unpaid labor for a college unwilling to use some of the profits for facilities that would improve athletes’ performance?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Radiolab Program About Carlisle on NPR

February 13, 2015

I was interviewed at length some weeks ago by NPR’s Radiohead for a future broadcast about Carlisle Indian School football. While listening to Sally Jenkins’s interview during the program, I was saddened by the lack of nuance in her description of the 1896 Carlisle-Yale game. Yes, William O. Hickok was a Yale alum but he was also Carlisle’s coach that year. Omitting this important fact spun the officiating of the game as outright cheating. Carlisle Indian School ran a special edition of its newspaper, The Red Man, that included contemporaneous coverage of the game from the viewpoints of several observers who had differing opinions. A reasonable conclusion that could be made after reading these articles would be that Hickok blew the call, to use modern football parlance, by prematurely blowing his whistle before Isaac Seneca or Jonas Metoxen (accounts vary as to who was carrying the ball initially) was taken to the ground. Bad calls are still part of football, so much so that instant replay has been instituted in recent years to overturn them when ample evidence is provided on the video. To say that Hickok, Carlisle’s coach at the time, cheated his own team in favor of his alma mater, is a serious accusation that doesn’t stand up to the available evidence. Think about the boost a victory, or even a tie, with Yale would have given Hickok’s coaching career. He had a significant incentive to beat Yale. He just blew the call and, possibly, his chance at being a top-flight coach.

Contrary to the Radiolab program, Pop Warner didn’t just happen to coach Carlisle. After graduating from Cornell with a law degree, he had coached Iowa State and Georgia–simultaneously–before returning to lead his alma mater. Seeing that his players needed better coaching, Superintendent Pratt asked Walter Camp, the greatest expert on the game of his day, for advice. Camp suggested he consider Pop Warner, an ingenious up and coming coach. Warner and the Indians made a perfect match football-wise. Neither would likely have had the records they did without each other.

Richard Henry Pratt, who was sometimes called “an honest lunatic” by his critics, deserves a more balanced treatment than NPR gave him. Where a common, if not majority, view at the time favored eradication, Pratt held the radical view that Indians could do anything a white man could do. I’ve never found anything from the period stating that Carlisle students weren’t allowed to speak their own languages. They were surely encouraged to speak English but Pratt had no need to force them. How else were they going to communicate with each other if they didn’t? The various tribes represented at Carlisle spoke numerous different languages and could only understand those from their own tribe or one that spoke a similar-enough language. Other schools, where the students were from a single or only a few tribes, may have forced their students to speak English but Carlisle had no need to do that.

 

Place where Indian School children played may be saved

February 28, 2013

Something Carlisle Indian School students surely played on over a hundred years ago may be rescued from the demolition ball. The Craigheads living at Craighead Station were strong supporters of the school almost from its inception and took students into their homes on outing periods to live and work in the majority culture. But all their waking hours weren’t spent working. They surely spent some of their time playing with the Craighead children along the creek and on the ever-beckoning bridges over the creek. Students from the earlier years of the school would not have played on the iron bridge because it wasn’t built until 1899. But those, like Emma Strong, who came after the turn of the 20th century surely did as did children of that and later generations. Now there is hope for the bridge to become a dedicated recreational facility for children and adults alike.

The fate of the historic iron bridge across the Yellow Breeches Creek at Craighead Station may be determined at tonight’s township supervisors meeting. It has been in peril for quite some time but its chances for survival look better. Some years ago, Cumberland County, owner of the bridge, determined that the one-lane bridge is unsatisfactory to handle all the vehicular traffic that would like to take that route. In addition to the bridge being narrow, its intersection with Old York Road is dangerous. The state and county developed a plan for a new concrete span a bit upstream from the iron bridge. That plan also calls for bending Zion Road south of the iron bridge to meet with the new bridge, eliminating the need to remove the iron bridge to make room for the new one. South Middleton Township officials offered to take ownership of the iron bridge if they could use the money budgeted by the state for its demolition to put it in better condition for use by walkers, bicyclists, and fishermen. Last fall, the state told the township demolition funds couldn’t be used to preserve the bridge. Many locals thought it absurd that the government would rather spend taxpayers’ money to destroy something of historical and recreational value than to use that money to continue using the structure for the current and future generations.

Yesterday’s Carlisle Sentinel reported that the state may have given erroneous guidance regarding the allowable usage of demolition funds. http://cumberlink.com/news/local/craighead-bridge-may-be-restored/article_a66d6442-806d-11e2-af92-0019bb2963f4.html It’s far from certain yet, but the iron lady that has served us well for over a century may not fall to an ignominious end.

Iron Bridge 2013-02-27 Bupp

 

The Devil Is In The Details

August 3, 2012

I recently read in an article about Carlisle School that “[T]he Friedmans attended the local Presbyterian church that Captain Pratt and other staff belonged to.” While not inaccurate, the statement leaves off much of the story. For starters, Carlisle had three Presbyterian churches: First Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, and Third Presbyterian. Third Presbyterian no longer exists, Second Pres. flourishes in a modern building on the edge of town, and First Pres. sets on the square, where it has since its early days, not far from the Carlisle Indian School campus.

Because of its location and because some students from the school attended First Presbyterian, readers generally assume that Pratt and Friedman attended First Presbyterian.  But a local historian knowledgeable about such things informed me that wasn’t the case. Pratt attended Second Presbyterian instead of the historic First Presbyterian Church on the square where George Washington once worshipped. Wondering why he chose that church when he was raised a Methodist, I perused the Second Presbyterian Church website history section.

Sheldon Jackson was a well-known minister who set up over 100 missions and churches in the western United States and Alaska. He was also the brother-in-law to Rev. George Norcross, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church from 1869 to 1909. Jackson used Carlisle as a home base between trips and met Pratt when he was in town. That Jackson and Pratt had compatible educational philosophies probably established a bond between them that may have extended to Norcross. That Pratt attended Second Presbyterian could be due to meeting Jackson and finding his brother-in-law to be an acceptable minister.

The Devil is in the Details may not be an accurate analogy for researching history. The truth can be found in the details is probably closer to the truth. Sometimes the cause is something prosaic rather than something more exciting or nefarious. But some digging is required to find the details.