Posts Tagged ‘David McFarland’

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.

A False Report

January 18, 2010

In August 1897, a newspaper article with a dateline of Chicago was widely reported:

With sly and careful steps David McFarland, halfback of the famous Carlisle Indian football team, came into the corridor of the Palmer House yesterday afternoon, glancing from side to side in a nervous manner. On reaching the hotel desk the Indian heaved a sigh of relief and said to Chief Clerk Grant:

“I am all right at last. I guess they won’t catch me after all,” and then the Indian asked for some paper, saying he wanted to write a letter.

After being held five days by members of his tribe, the Nez Perce Indians, in Idaho, near Spokane Falls, McFarland managed to escape and make his way to Chicago, and last evening he left for the school at Carlisle. According to the story he told a reporter the members of the tribe did not want him to return to his school, but to stay on the reservation and become a chief. At present the father of the young football player is chief of the tribe, but he is growing old. Young McFarland is the popular choice of the members of the once famous tribe and they want him to become their chief. But the influence of the school, along with the glory of football, according to his own confession, is more attractive than being chief of 1,000 Indians.

 About a week later, eastern papers contradicted the earlier report:

David McFarland, the half back of the Indian school football team, has arrived at Carlisle, Pa., from the West. He emphatically denies the telegraphic reports which stated that he was captured and held a prisoner for five days by the Nez Perce Indians, who desired to keep him away from Carlisle school and make him their chief.

This just goes to show that newspaper reporting has never been as accurate as some would have us believe.

Rare, Pristine Football Program

June 22, 2009

Saturday night, Frank Loney contacted me about a new item he had just acquired. Never before had he been so excited about an acquisition. Yesterday, I went over to look at it. It is simply beautiful. I’ve seen a few old football programs before but none were in the condition of this one for the 1897 Thanksgiving Day game between the University of Cincinnati and the Carlisle Indians. Never before have I seen a 100-year-old program in perfect condition. This one must have been stored out of the sunlight most of its long life. Could it have been a reprint? Frank called the University of Cincinnati archives for an answer to that question. No, no reprint had ever been issued. That Cincinnati didn’t win may have had something to do with that.

In addition to being a historical artifact, it is beautiful. The program is decorated in an Indian motif, likely due to Carlisle being the opponents. This program may not have been in the hands of a spectator because the game was played in a drenching rain. The Indians won 10-0 less than five days after playing a night game against the University of Illinois in the Chicago Coliseum. Carlisle scored all of its points in the first half. According to one newspaper report, “Most of the time of the last half was taken up with fighting.” Isaac Seneca played right tackle. Two years later he would be a first team Walter Camp All-American at halfback. Two days later, missing quarterback Frank Hudson and center Edwin Smith due to injuries, the Indians beat The Ohio State University Medical College for their third victory in a week. The Indians were the only team to defeat Cincinnati, a team that beat Ohio State, Miami, Center College and LSU that year. Chicago was the only other team to beat Illinois.

The program includes a team photo I haven’t seen before and demographic data for the starters. It also includes a photo of W. G. Thompson, the unsung hero of early Carlisle football.

1897 Cincinnati-Carlisle program