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.
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.
To 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.
April 27, 2016
I 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.
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.
To access the Dickinson College site, key in or click on http://carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/student-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.
Sometimes 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.
To access the Dickinson College site, key in or click on http://carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/student-files.
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.
To access the site, key in or click on http://carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/student-files.
<to be continued>
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 http://carlisleindian.dickinson.edu/student-files. 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>
March 24, 2016
Newspaper accounts of a November 2, 1903 incident that occurred at Little Lightning Creek in northeastern Wyoming between Sheriff W. H. Miller’s posse and a party of Indians claimed that Sioux, Crows and Arapahos traveling back and forth between reservations in Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota had been slaughtering thousands of antelope and deer each year along with some cattle and sheep. The authorities mounted a determined effort to stop this poaching that particular year. “Several weeks ago a large party of Sioux Indians under Eagle Feather, otherwise known as Charlie Smith, the full-blooded Sioux and a graduate from the Carlisle Indian School, appeared in the game country south of New Castle.
The party consisted of twelve wagons with twelve horses and an unstated number of men, women and children. “Eagle Feather and Black Kettle, the latter one of the most notorious warriors of the Sioux tribe, resisted arrest and a battle began. Sheriff Miller was shot through the left thigh and died within half an hour. Black Kettle was killed at the first fire and Eagle Feather fell with bullets through both legs. Six Indians in all were killed and ten wounded, and all laid on the battlefield all night.” Eagle Feather was described as a “Bad Indian,” having sent word to Sheriff Miller that he wouldn’t be taken alive. “The Carlisle graduate is well educated and he is said to have good knowledge of law and the rights of Indians. He was an old offender, having been under the ban of authorities for several years.”
The December 11, 1903 edition of The Red Man and Indian Helper, a Carlisle Indian School publication, included “A Carlisle Ex-student’s Account of the Wyoming Pale-Face Uprising.” Clarence Three Stars wrote from the Pine Ridge Agency, telling a very different story: “The following are former pupils of Carlisle who were in trouble—Charles Red Hawk (Smith) and wife, William Brown and wife, all of whom were of good reputation and were doing well under the circumstances they were in.” Brown and Red Hawk were on a pleasure trip in Wyoming, according to Brown, who shared the details of the incident with Three Stars. I’ll leave reading the details of this atrocity to the reader and continue to search for someone actually called Eagle Feather and alive in 1922.
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.
The 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.
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.”
Receiving 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.