Posts Tagged ‘William A. Mercer’

John Russeau Part 3

December 14, 2010

A 1951 Rice Lake Chronotype article about john Russeau stated that he had been at Carlisle Indian School from 1906 to 1910. The Carlisle Arrow article about him coaching the Painters football team in 1909 seems to support that he was involved in the football program and that he was at Carlisle in the 1909-10 school year. Further research is needed to learn more about his time there. The 1951 article also included some of Russeau’s observations of Pop Warner that, to my knowledge, haven’t been reported elsewhere but are consistent with what is known about “The Old Fox” including what he has written about himself.

Russeau described Warner as “a strict disciplinarian who would take no excuses for ‘holding back’ by his players and who enforce rigorous training by the whole team. His favorite penalty for rule infractions, according to John, was a long cross-country run, with the player in full football uniform. ‘Pop’ made sure the delinquent did not lag in his run—from one to five or ten miles—by following along on horseback.”

While this might seem far-fetched, it is quite possible because horses could still be found in the stables on Carlisle Barracks. The Model T Ford was not put into production until 1908 and few could afford automobiles before that. Cavalry officer Major William A. Mercer was superintendent of Carlisle Indian School part of the time Russeau was there and kept his horse on campus. Mercer’s successor, Moses Friedman, also had horses—or at least his wife did. The Carlisle Arrow of May 28, 1909 reported that Mrs. Friedman’s horse fell on her and broke her thigh bone. Also, horse were used on the school’s farms and were likely readily available for Warner’s use. It is quite possible that Mercer or Friedman welcomed Warner’s riding as exercise for their horses.

To be continued…

Warner Didn’t Do It

November 18, 2010

I was recently sent an article on a particular topic on the history of football—it doesn’t matter which article because this is a common error—that attributed or blamed, depending on one’s perspective on Pop Warner that he did not do. That Warner had a split tenure at Carlisle Indian School is either not widely known or is forgotten by many when they write about Carlisle football. In this instance, the matter has to do with the 1904 Carlisle-Haskell game and the mass transfer of football talent from Haskell to Carlisle that happened after that game.

For a little background, President Theodore Roosevelt was to spend a few days around Thanksgiving at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Promoters saw an opportunity to attract greater attendance by staging a football game for Teddy to attend. Their first choice was to host the Army-Navy game that year. That idea was turned down immediately. The next thing that came to mind was to have the two prominent government Indian boarding school teams play each other as both were running roughshod over the competition in their respective parts of the country. Carlisle was already scheduled to play Ohio State on Thanksgiving, so the game with Haskell Institute of Lawrence, Kansas, was set for the Saturday following the holiday.

Why did Warner have nothing to do with this game, one asks? Well, Pop Warner left Carlisle after the 1903 season to return to coaching his alma mater, Cornell. The reason for that move, according to his critics, was that he was paid more money. They are probably correct. Warner coached Cornell through the 1904, 1905 and 1906 seasons and, other than teaching his new formations to Carlisle’s Indian coaches in 1906, probably had little to do with the operation of that program. He had no reason to recruit Haskell players for Carlisle. He might have tried to entice the best ones to enroll at Cornell, but that seems improbable.

Superintendent Richard Henry Pratt had been relieved of command of Carlisle Indian School in the summer of 1904 and replaced by then Captain William A. Mercer. With no athletic director in place and the coaches hired just for the season, Mercer filled the void left by Warner’s departure and became involved with the football program. The next year, he arranged the first Carlisle-Army game but that is a separate story.

More on Oscar Hunt

February 10, 2010

Yesterday, I received an email from Bill Welge with some news about Oscar Hunt. He wrote that he or his staff at the Oklahoma Historical Society found information about the events leading up to Oscar Hunt’s death. Apparently, he found some newspaper articles that cover the death of someone else and his death. He was charged with murdering someone and, according to the newspaper coverage, may have possibly committed the crime. It will be interesting to see if the cause of his death was as reported in the Carlisle Indian School newspaper or was suicide as W. G. Thompson stated that it was. Major Mercer and W. G. Thompson appear to have been seriously at odds with each other at the time of Hunt’s death as Mercer had eliminated Thompson’s position, along with a few others, at the end of the previous fiscal year. Thompson’s 1907 letter to Dr. Carlos Montezuma, another person who had been supportive of the school when Richard Henry Pratt was in charge but became a critic during Mercer’s tenure, was quite critical of Mercer’s management of the school. So, Thompson’s charges cannot be accepted without confirming their accuracy. I am waiting with baited breath to see the newspaper articles Bill Welge found. After I receive them, I will share the information I find with the McDonald County Historical Society. Tiff City, Missouri, the location of Oscar Hunt’s reported death and one of the locations related with Mathias Splitlog, is in McDonald County. Unfortunately, their current curator wasn’t able to locate information on Oscar Hunt. His predecessor, Mrs. Pauline Carnell, had researched Splitlog but she died in 2007. I will also share the information here but don’t expect to see it much less than two weeks from now because of my personal schedule.

Oscar Hunt’s Mysterious Demise

February 4, 2010

While reading a letter from W. G. Thompson, who had been removed from his administrative position at Carlisle Indian School by Major Mercer, to Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Thompson claimed that former Carlisle football player Oscar Hunt had committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial for murder. An April 1907 issue of The Arrow reported that Hunt had died on March 22, 1907 in Tiff City, Missouri: “He was taken with a congestive chill and after four days of delirium, died….” Unraveling this controversy has been difficult but has uncovered some interesting information.

The always helpful Bill Welge of the Oklahoma Historical Society has read numerous old newspapers in an attempt to determine what actually happened to Mr. Hunt. He informed me that Oscar’s grandfather, Mathias Splitlog, was a very wealthy man. That explained why some newspaper articles during Hunt’s football career described him as a millionaire. Splitlog was more interesting for what he accomplished than for becoming wealthy.

Accounts of Splitlog’s origin vary. Some have him being born in Canada, others in New York. Some say he was Cayuga, others claim he was Wyandot. Somehow he later became a Seneca chief. Still others claim that he was stolen by Indians as a baby. According to one account, his mother named him Splitlog because his mother saw a split log nearby shortly after giving birth to him. How he acquired his Christian name is not known.

Although illiterate, Splitlog was extremely intelligent and was a visionary and a highly skilled mechanic. A story I find interesting is how, after looking at a steamboat, he constructed one of his own and operated it on the Great Lakes. Apparently, he was the only one able to figure out how to run its controls. That boat is depicted in a stained glass window in Kansas City City Hall:

More on Mathias Splitlog later.

Carlisle Indian School Weddings

July 31, 2009

The subject of weddings at Carlisle Indian School recently came up in a conversation with the granddaughter of a Carlisle Indian School student. This subject hasn’t received much attention in the past. Sure, Jim Thorpe’s marriage to Iva Miller was a major national media event in its day, but weddings of non-celebrities or non-celebrities have received little attention since the actual events took place. Let’s take a look at one that might be more representative of student weddings.

Charles Dillon, who is probably best remembered as being the Sioux lineman under whose jersey the pigskin was concealed in the hidden-ball play, was the groom. Rosa LaForge, Crow, was the bride. Because the boys at the school were organized as military cadets, they wore their dress uniforms for the nuptials which were held in the school’s auditorium. The auditorium was full of students and “a large number of invited guests.” The stage was arranged as the alter area of a church, presumably similar to a Presbyterian church because the Rev. Dr. Norcross officiated the Presbyterian ceremony. “The scene already gorgeous beyond description was greatly enhanced by color-sergeant [Nicholas Bowen] taking position with the national and school colors [Mike Balenti] on each side of the stage.”

As the orchestra began playing the Wedding March from Tannhauser, the doors threw open and the bridal party consisting of maid of honor Louise French; bridesmaids Christine Childs, Savannah Beck, Minnie Nick and Annie Goyitney ; and the bride on the arm of Superintendent Major William A. Mercer proceeded up the aisle. “The tall and stately bride was attired in a beautiful white silk gown with a long train. She wore a long veil and carried a gorgeous boquet [sic] of bridal roses. Miss French the maid of honor carried a boquet [sic] of white carnations. Major Mercer appeared in the rich full dress of the army.”

<continued next time>

1905 Inaugural Parade

January 23, 2009

The 1905 Presidential Inauguration was a big deal, especially for Carlisle. They had marched at inaugurations before, but this one was special. President-elect Teddy Roosevelt wanted to “make a big show,” likely because his first inauguration was a short, somber affair held in the home of Ansley Wilcox after President McKinley’s assassination. They pulled out all the stops to make his 1905 inauguration a day to remember. Already a staple of inauguration parades after appearing in two previous ones, the Carlisle Indian School Cadets (essentially the large boys) and the renowned school band were expected to march again. However, this time some celebrities would appear with them.

A week or so before the inauguration, six famous chiefs from formerly hostile tribes, arrived in Carlisle to head the school’s contingent in the parade. But, before they left for Washington, there was much to do. First, they spoke to an assembly of students through interpreters. A dress rehearsal was held on the main street of Carlisle to practice for the parade. The Carlisle Herald predicted that the group would be one of the big parade’s star attractions.

Those marching in the parade were woken at 3:45 a.m., had breakfast at 4:30, and were the special train to Washington at 5:30. As the train rolled out of Carlisle, a heavy snow fell, but later the sun burned through, making for a fine day weather-wise. Fortunately, the travelers had lunch on the train because it was late in arriving in Washington. They were hurried into the last division of the Military Grand Division. Originally, they were to have been in the Civic Grand Division, but Gen. Chaffee transferred all cadets under arms to the military division, putting them in a separate brigade. Leading the group was Geronimo, in full Apache regalia including war paint, sitting astride his horse, also in war paint, in the center of the street. To either side, on their horses in their regalia and war paint, rode the five other chiefs: American Horse (Oglala Sioux), Hollow Horn Bear (Brulé Sioux), Little Plume (Blackfeet), Buckskin Charlie (Ute), and Quanah Parker, (Comanche). Following them came the 46-piece Carlisle Indian School Band led by Claude M. Stauffer. Capt. William M. Mercer, superintendent of the school and member of the 7th Cavalry, led the 350 Carlisle Cadets from horseback.

All in President’s box rose when the Carlisle contingent passed. The old chiefs were the object of the most interest from the crowd. Roosevelt said, “This is an admirable contrast-first the chiefs, in their native costumes and then these boys from Carlisle.” Marching ahead of Carlisle in the Military Grand Division were the Cadets from West Point and the 7th Cavalry, whose band played “Garry Owen,” their regiment song, when they passed. President Roosevelt remarked, “That is a bully fighting tune, and this is Custer’s old regiment, one of the finest in the service.” Capt. Mercer surely heard his regiment’s song and may have requested the Carlisle band to play it on occasion.

Perhaps being in close proximity to the War Department and West Point officials gave Mercer the opportunity to discuss a football game between Carlisle and Army. About six weeks later a game between the two government schools appeared on a schedule published in the school paper. The historic event would take place the following November 11.

Six chiefs lead, followed by the CIIS band and 350 students

Six chiefs lead, followed by the CIIS band and 350 students