Posts Tagged ‘Jonas Metoxen’

Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals is Out Now

September 2, 2010

The second volume of the Native American Sports Heroes Series is now out and available to readers. Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals was released yesterday and is expected to be of interest to libraries and readers interested in Native American history, sports and government Indian boarding schools. This book follows the following players from their youths on the reservation, through their times at Carlisle to their later lives:

  • Chauncey Archiquette
  • Wilson Charles
  • Wallace Denny
  • Lone Star Dietz
  • Louis Island
  • James Johnson
  • Frank Lone Star
  • Jonas Metoxen
  • Thomas St. Germain
  • Caleb Sickles
  • George Vedernack
  • Gus Welch
  • Hugh Wheelock
  • Joel Wheelock
  • Martin Wheelock
  • Charles Williams
  • William Winneshiek

Readers will learn who became doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs. Some became musicians and led all-Indian bands. One was invited to join Richard Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition. Another was instrumental in establishing the Rose Bowl. Readers will also learn more about the naming of the Washington, DC NFL team and about the all-Indian NFL team. Several served in WWI even though non-citizen Indians were not drafted. Most lived long, productive lives but some didn’t. Some married girls they met at Carlisle, others married white girls and still others married girls from the reservation. One even married a congressman’s daughter.

The reading level is such that anyone from seventh grade through senior citizen can appreciate it and It is my hope that school children will read it to gain a better understanding of their history.

John B. Warren

June 4, 2010

A collector contacted me about two cabinet cards he had purchased from what was purported to be the estate of John B. Warren in an attempt to verify that they were in fact photographs of Carlisle Indian School students. The collector wasn’t familiar with Warren and I only knew that he played on the Carlisle Indian School football team at some point. Identifying the first one was easy. The collector was correct in that it was a photo of Martin Wheelock. He was a star on the teams from 1894 to 1902, serving as captain of the 1899 and 1901 teams. In 1899 and again in 1901, Walter Camp named Martin Wheelock as a tackle on his All America second team. Thus, his face was well known and readily identifiable. This was not the case for Warren.

Steckbeck, the first place to look for information on Carlisle Indian School football, listed a Warren as being a member of the 1899 team. The photo of the 1899 team in Steckbeck’s book identified him as being the person second from right in the middle row, next to Jonas Metoxen. He was not mentioned in the book’s text, so more research was required.

Newspaper coverage of the 1899 games had Warren as playing right guard and tackle in parts of some games. Although not a starter, Warren got some playing time that year. That was probably the extent of John’s varsity play because he graduated in March of 1900 and is included in his class photo in the commencement issue of the school newspaper.

The June 26, 1903 issue of The Red Man and Helper mentioned that “John Warren, class 1900 Carlisle, who has been attending the Minnesota State University is home.” The October 3, 1902 edition reported that his sister, “Grace Warren married a white man and is disappointed.” More research is clearly required.

Correct Information Is Hard to Find

January 8, 2010

A November 27, 1949 newspaper article by Deke Houlgate discussed the problems Warner Brothers were having with a screenplay for Jim Thorpe’s biopic. Several scripts had been written and discarded but a new one, titled “All-American,” was expected from the screenwriters soon. However, he questioned how good it would be given the problems the writers faced. He wrote, “One of the present problems at the Burbank studio seems to be that the records for this famous team–records that must reach back prior to World War I—no longer exists or are easily obtainable. The Army of the United States took over the school or campus, without asking, for the use of its fledgling doctors in 1917 and scattered students plus pertinent data all the way from Lawrence, Kansas, to Riverside, California.”

Like most newspaper reporters, Houlgate had some details wrong but he did better than most. First, the Army took Carlisle Barracks back in 1918, not 1917. Second, the facility wasn’t used for “fledgling doctors” as that came later. In 1918 it was used as a hospital to treat soldiers wounded in WWI. Houlgate went on to attempt to set the record straight on some legends that unfortunately still persist:

First off, Carlisle never had an undefeated, untied season. The Indians came close to a perfect record many times but always managed to lose at least one game. Next Jim Thorpe was not the first or only All-American. Third, Pop Warner did not bring Carlisle from obscurity to fame because Bemus Pierce and Metoxen were recognized as All-Americans by Walter Camp in 1896 or years before Glenn Scobie ever coached there.

Houlgate is correct about everything in the last paragraph except that Walter Camp first recognized a Carlisle player as a first team All-American in 1899 when he selected Isaac Seneca as a halfback. He may have named Pierce and Metoxen to his second or third teams but I don’t have a reference at hand to verify that. Whether or not Camp named Carlisle Indians to his All-America teams does not mean that Houlgate’s point is incorrect. The team and its star players were indeed famous before Warner was hired to coach them.

Be Careful What You Read

January 5, 2010

While reading a December 1928 newspaper, I came across an article by the great sportswriter Grantland Rice in which he credited the Carlisle Indians with doing more to popularize the game of football than anyone else:

“It was Pop Warner and his Carlisle Indians who did more to spread the gospel of football to crowds around the country than anything else. Wherever the Indians roved and roamed the multitude flocked. Those were the days of Bemus Pierce, Metoxen, Hudson, Mount Pleasant, and later such stars as Thorpe, Guyon and Calac. Old Boy Jim, meaning Thorpe, was the king of the lot, a great football player for 20 years….Warner’s teams are always interesting to watch. As a rule, they have something unexpected ready to reach for in case they need it. Even a rival lead of two touchdowns can be wiped out in one period if the other side isn’t abnormally cagy.”

Because of the Indian School’s fame, reporters often created links where they didn’t exist. Included in Jonas Metoxen’s death notice in a 1942 newspaper was the statement that he “…won fame as a blocking halfback for Jim Thorpe….” Little research is needed to determine that this statement is incorrect. Metoxen and Thorpe were not at Carlisle at the same time. Metoxen played in the late 1890s where Thorpe played dome, but not all, the years between 1907 and 1912. A smaller error is that Jonas generally played fullback.

One needs to be very careful when reading books and articles about the Carlisle Indians because many are loaded with errors. Relating a former player with Jim Thorpe is probably the most common of all. The school operated from 1879 to 1918 and Thorpe but Jim Thorpe was a student for only a small portion of those years. Also, very few of the boys were good enough to play on the varsity squad, so very few that were at Carlisle when Jim was played alongside him. Many, if not most, played on shop teams or the like, but only the very best played on the varsity. Newspaper clippings often list the starting line-ups and the substitutes that got into the games. If a person can’t be found in one of those, he probably didn’t play for Carlisle.

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