Lacrosse exhibition in 1867
One of the earliest exhibitions of lacrosse in the United States was played at Rensselaer Park in the Village of Lansingburgh in 1867. A “Mohawk Club of Troy,” one of the earliest American lacrosse teams, was formed shortly thereafter. The club lasted through 1868 into 1869 at which point it may have dissolved. A game of Lacrosse played in 1871 by visiting Canadian teams makes no mention of a local team.
A number of articles about the exhibition in Lansingburgh, possibly in part trying to sell newspapers and tickets through a degree of sensationalism, made reference to visiting Native American teams as “savages.” Upon repeat matches that aspect of reporting seems to have disappeared, and in places where lacrosse reporting was fairly regular like in the Ogdensburg St. Lawrence Republican (just across the river from Canada) it appears to have been absent.
The Chief referred to repeatedly below, if not misidentified, would seem to have been Six Nations Chief Onwanonsyshon AKA George Henry Martin Johnson. However, see October 17 and October 29, 1867 items below identifying a “Chief John Robinson.”
☞ THE BASE BALL TOURNAMENT will commence on Tuesday next, the 15th inst., and continue for four days. It promises to be a grand success. Several of the leading clubs of the country have already entered and others are expected to come. The directors refuse from prudential reasons to publish at present the names of the competing clubs, but it is understood that the Unions of Morrissiana, now the champion club of the United States, the Atlantics, the Unions of Lansingburgh, the Knickerbockers of Albany, and others equally celebrated, are booked for an appearance during the continuance of the tournament. No entries will be received after to-morrow night. The great attraction, however, on account of its novelty as well as from its exciting nature, will be the game of LaCrosse played by the Indians of the Six Nations of Canada. This game will be played on Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday will be repeated by the Indians and eight base ball players. At the close of each day’s game, the former, attired in the war costume of the tribe, will dance a war dance for the entertainment of the crowd in attendance. Chief Onwassousyshon [sic], a Tuscarora Indian brave, will be in command of the “savages.” We hope to be able to publish a description of the game of Lacrosse previous to the day on which it is played, for the information of all interested in sports of this character.
Troy Daily Times. October 11, 1867: 2 col 2.
☞ THE BASE BALL TOURNAMENT.—The base ball tournament under the auspices of the Rensselaer Park Association is likely to prove a successful enterprise. Already a number of first-class clubs have entered to compete for the very liberal prizes offered by the Association. The grounds will be in fine condition, and should the weather prove favorable we may expect a fine tournament. In addition to the pleasure anticipated from the base ball contest, the Indian National base ball game of La Crossse, will be played by a company of Indians from the Six Nations, Canada, who have been engaged by the Association at a great expense. They are about fifteen in number, and will be accompanied by their chief, Oncoanonsyshon [sic], and will play the game of La Crosse for two or three days during the tournament, and perform their war dance upon a platform made for the purpose in the Park. We are informed that this celebrated field game is peculiar to the Indians, and that while engaged in the same they exhibit their national instincts and peculiarities, and that the game is one of the most exciting and intensely interesting of out-door sports. We congratulate our citizens upon the prospect of witnessing this beautiful game.
Troy Daily Whig. October 12, 1867: 4 col 4.
SECOND DAY’S PROCEEDINGS.
THE GAME OF LA CROSSE.
The second day of the Tournament was favored with a clear sky, genial sunshine, and a large attendance.—The number present at one time, yesterday afternoon, was estimated at between four and five thousand people—an increase over the opening day. A yet larger crowd may be expected to-day. The greater portion of the grounds are, as yet, in a comparatively unimproved state, but are to be graded and otherwise beautified. An artificial lake, numerous drives, &c., are to be introduced. It will require another season to put the Park in complete trim. The most perfect order was maintained throughout the day, by the excellent police arrangements, and that body is deserving of praise for their efficient service. […]
At this point, the band of Indians entered the field and played their peculiar game of ball, called La Crosse. The public has heard so much of this—the national game of Canada, that the spectators were full of curiosity regarding the modus operandi of playing it. It resembles very nearly, if our memory of our youthful days is reliable, the manly game of “shinny,” [a game similar to field hockey] but in a somewhat improved form, The “savages” are lithe and active, and throw a great deal of spirit into their play, thus rendering La Crosse more exciting than so simple a game would be expected to prove. They are all well formed, athletic fellows, and run as gracefully and as rapidly as reindeers. This portion of the exercises is a decidedly popular feature of the Tournament, and one well worthy a visit. The managers of the affair were lucky in securing so attractive a “card.” They play again this afternoon.
These Indians are a remnant of the historically notorious six nations, and are under the rule of their chief, whose name is Robinson. He is rather gentlemanly in appearance, and sports a very curlized looking mustache. He wears a large medal, which was presented to him in 1860 by the Prince of Wales. He also has in his possession a large solid silver pipe, which is intrinsically and historically valuable. The story of this ancient pipe dates back to 1769, when it was presented to a Mohawk chief of the Six Nations, at Schoharie, by the British. It bears emblems and inscriptions betokening amicable relations which then existed between the English government and the Indians. […]
Troy Daily Whig. October 17, 1867: 4 cols 2-3.
For the purpose of adding variety to the entertainment, after a game of La Crosse had been played, a match was got up between eight Indians and the same number of base ball players. This was a queer game all through, things being very much mixed. It was a decidedly “irregular” proceeding, resulting in a victory for the “red men.” This match was a good burlesque, and afforded a great deal of fun for the spectators. It wasn’t two “nines” that played, but two “eights.” The civilized “eight” was composed of five members of the Mutual club, of Albany, two of the Phil. Sheridan club, of Cohoes, and Mr. W[illiam] W. Willard, of this city. […] The only feature of the programme that was omitted, was the war dance by the Indians. This was not performed, on account of the want of time.
Troy Daily Whig. October 18, 1867: 4 col 2.
☞ PERSONAL.—Mr. John Robinson, chief of the performing tribe of Indians, who recently played the game of La Crosse on the Rensselaer Park, is sojourning in Albany. He is attired in the complete costume of a chief, and his presence attracts much attention.
Troy Daily Whig. October 29, 1867: 4 col 2.
☞ “LA CROSSE.”—We understand that a La Crosse club is being organized by several young men in the lower part of the city. The game will be played on the ice, and it is expected that it will be all the rage this winter, especially among the juveniles.
Troy Daily Whig. December 3, 1867: 4 col 3.
LACROSSE CLUBS.—Two lacrosse clubs have been formed in Troy, and the first trial game will take place on the 22d inst. Lacrosse is an Indian game, and is said to be a fine one, the ball being kept in constant motion.
“City and Vicinity.” Albany Morning Express. May 15, 1868: 3 col 1.
The Mohawk Lacrosse Club of Troy and the Senior American Lacrosse club are to play at Montreal on the 28th inst. Their principal object is to gain some insight into the game as played there.
“Telegraphic News Items.” New York Herald. July 11, 1868: 8 col 6.
☞ MOHAWK LACROSSE CLUB.—We acknowledge the receipt of honorary tickets of membership, from the Lacrosse club, for which they will please accept our thanks.
Troy Daily Whig. July 17, 1868: 4 col 1.
MONTREAL, Canada, Wednesday, July 29.
The Montreal Lacrosse Club defeated the Mohawk Club of Troy in three straight games, in less than thirty minutes. One of the Mohawk Club is dangerously ill here.
New York Times. July 30, 1868: 1 col 2.
☞ THE INTERNATIONAL LACROSSE MATCHES.—The members of the Mohawk LaCrosse Club arrived in town on Saturday evening, and report the complete recovery of their goal keeper, King, who was laid up ill during their stay in Montreal.—They were defeated successively by the Montreal, Crescent, Dominion, and Aurora clubs. The disadvantages they labored under are too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say that they have practiced La Crosse but four months, and played clubs that have existed from three to ten years. They were well treated during their stay, and altogether their trip was a success, as they went there expecting defeat, and to get a better insight into the game. They were disappointed in neither. The following is the Montreal Daily Witness’ account of their match with the champions of Canada.
LACROSSE.—The international match, between the Mohawk club, of Troy, and the Montreal club, of this city, took place yesterday, at four P. M. The players representing the “Mohawk” are youthful and mostly of small physique. Moreover, their experience of the game has been but limited in comparison with those of the Montreal. It was soon seen, after the play had begun, that the chances were all on one side. The ball was quickly thrown to the goal of the Mohawks by Ralston, and though the goal was well kept for a little while, the ball was before long sent through by Middlemiss.
The second game was brief, and through McDonald, ended in favor of Montreal.
The third game was longer, but the result was similar.
The clubs were then divided, and a scratch match, of more than an hour’s duration, was played.
The Trojans have not yet fully mastered the tactics of the game; but crowd together too much in their mode of defence, nor do they make those splendid and effective throws, which so often, at one bound, as it were, suddenly turn the fortunes of the game. All this, however will come with practice.
At four o’clock this afternoon, the strangers will play a match with the Crescent club, when the opponents will be more equally matched. Indeed, the Mohawks have, it is understood, existed but a few months as a LaCrosse club, and have had none of that rivalry which has done so much towards bringing the Montreal clubs up to their present proficiency.
The New York Clipper speaks as follows of the Troy La Crosse club:
Within the past few years several La Crosse clubs have been organized in the central portion of the Empire State by young men who have witnessed the game and admired its beauties, and from the enthusiasm they manifest, and the description given of its attractive features, it is probable that it will find many followers as it becomes better known to Americans. The leading organization among us is the Mohawk club, of Troy, N. Y. We give the names of the first twelve of the club:—Goal keeper, King; point, Laviolette; cover-point, Corps; centre, Doyle; home, Vinette. Fielders—Heavysege, E. Brown, P. Brown, Flack, Garrison, Brunelle and Groat.
Troy Daily Whig. August 3, 1868: 8 col 3.
The Mohawk Lacrosse Club, of Troy, returned home to-day. Though beaten in every match with our clubs, they expressed themselves well satisfied with their visit, and hope to have another opportunity of playing against Montreal when they have acquired more experience.
“From Montreal.” Newmarket Courier [Ontario, Canada]. August 6, 1868: 2 col 6.
LACROSSE.—The Dominion Lacrosse Club of Montreal visit Troy [Lansingburgh] on Friday next to play a Lacrosse match with the Mohawk Club of Troy. The game will take place on the Rensselaer Park, thus furnishing all who desire an opportunity of witnessing the beautiful game.
Albany Morning Express. August 25, 1868: 1 col 4.
DOMINION, OF MONTREAL,
MOHAWKS, OF TROY.
At the Rensselaer Park, TUESDAY, Sept 1st, Ball to be faced at 3 P. M. precisely.
Admission 25 cents aug29d31
Troy Daily Whig. September 1, 1868: 1 col 6.
☞ THE GAME OF LA CROSSE.—About one hundred spectators witnessed the match game of La Crosse, played on the Park grounds yesterday afternoon, by the Dominion club of Montreal, and the Mohawk club of Troy. The game was called at three o’clock. Two umpires were chosen on each side. Mr. M. Stearnes acted as captain of the Mohawks, and Mr. S. C. Stevenson as captain of the Dominions. The Dominions won three straight games, the first in fourteen minutes, by Hornsell; the second in eighteen minutes, by Ferguson and the third in twenty-three minutes, by Hornsell.
After the match was over, the Dominions offered to play six against twelve of the Mohawks, which offer was accepted, and the ball put through by Vinette. Time sixteen minutes.
Both clubs attended the performance at the Opera House, last evening, on the invitation of the Worrell Sisters, by whom they were handsomely received and entertained.
Troy Daily Whig. September 2, 1868: col 3.
CLOSE OF THE SEASON.
BASE-BALL, CRICKET, AND LA CROSSE.
It is a custom with base-ball and cricket players to “wind-up” the season on Thanksgiving Day, and the present year will not be an exception. Even the young aspirant for American votaries, La Crosse, will be shelved after that day. […] The programme for Thursday next, includes a game between the Mutuals and Eckfords, and other amusements at the Union Grounds; a members’ meeting of the New-York Cricket Club, to include various games, at Ninth-st., Hoboken; a game of La Crosse, at Troy, between the New-York Knickerbocker Club and a Troy organization, and meetings at all the grounds about New-York.
New-York Daily Tribune. November 15, 1869: 2 col 6.
The Mohawk Club, of Troy, N. Y., pioneered the game in the United States
Beers, W. G. Lacrosse: The National Game of Canada. Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1869. xiii. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100264118
“La Crosse. The National Game of Canada.” By W. G. Beers. This is a complete exposition of the interesting game of La Crosse, with twelve photographic illustrations. To students of this exciting amusement as well as practicioners it will be found very valuable. [New York: W. A. Townsend & Adams.
“New Books.” Troy Daily Times. December 22, 1869: 1 col 7.
☞ THE LACROSSE MATCH—THE SHAMROCKS WIN.There were about two hundred persons present yesterday at the Haymaker grounds to witness a championship game of Lacrosse between the Shamrocks of Montreal and the Caughnawagas, an Indian club, from Canada. The game was highly exciting owing to the frequency with which its probable result changed. The Shamrocks won the first and third innings and the Indians the second and fourth. The fifth was to decide the game, and both clubs entered with an earnest determination to win. For a long time the ball was thrown about the field, and frequently very near the flags, but one of the Shamrocks finally buried it with a swiftness which none were able to resist, and also between the flags, thus ending the game. The Indians were outrun in swiftness, but not in distance, and in the nice points of the game they were outplayed. Frequent comments were made by the spectators present relative to the tendency of the game to excitement, and consequent disturbance. These comments were caused by the numerous thumps which the players gave one another with their instruments of play, and which in one instance threatened to result in a fight. An Indian was struck upon the arm and made a lunge for the Shamrock who inflicted the blow, but his comrades interfered and the game proceeded. Both clubs left this city for New York last evening, where they are engaged to play to-morrow.
Troy Daily Times. August 24, 1871: col 3.
Though the idea is appealing that an exhibition of Lacrosse in Lansingburgh led to the first American lacrosse team, in the interest of accuracy there was at least one earlier team that had been formed in New York City in 1865 following a number of attempts to get people interested in it. Possibly the earlier NYC team did not manage to sustain itself. An exhibition in Saratoga also preceded the Lansingburgh one, but no team seems to have formed there at the time.
A respectable company of our citizens, to the number of about two hundred ladies and gentlemen, went on Saturday to Caughnawaga, to see the Indian games. […]
The play ground was a sort of common, a little distance from the village. On this was erected a stand for the spectators, together with a booth for refreshments. There were a considerable number of persons assembled. The Indians from the Lake of Two-Mountains were not present, but they are expected to be there today. The St. Regis. Indians were there; and these with the Caughnawaga Indians, the squaws and papooses, made about as large an Indian display as one may not often have the chance of seeing. The squaws decked out in their holiday attire, sat in groups around the ground; their husbands occupied the centre.
The first play was the Indian game of La Crosse. We understand that the game is purely Indian; it seems to be a very exciting one. It is played with a ball and a kind of battledor [battledore, an early form of badminton], and in some respects it is not unlike the game of shinny. About ten Indians played on each side. The goals were placed about half a mile apart. The ball was started from the middle; and the game was won by those who succeeded in getting it, with their battledoors, three times past one of the goals.
On Saturday, ten of the Caughnawaga Indians played against ten of those who had come from St. Regis. They were dressed for the most part after the aboriginal fashion—that is in a state of nature—with the exception of some Indian fancy work about the loins. Some of them had their bodies striped with red paint; some their faces with the same; and a number wore feathers on their heads. On the whole, those who played were fine looking, well made fellows. We suppose that these are nearly all that remain of the once powerful and warlike nation of the Iroquois, around which Mr. [James Fenimore] Cooper has thrown such a charm of romance.
And we must say that they played with wonderful spirit and agility. The ball was bandied about in a manner that would have been a caution to a gouty man; it was at one minute caught upon a battleboor, the next run away with it on the same by some fortunate player with the whole of the rest in full cry after him, and then flung to a considerable distance. The St. Regis Indians, after a pretty hard contest got the first of the three trials’ but not by getting the ball past the goal, but by one of the Caughnawaga players taking it in his hands, which was a forfeit. They also got the second trial. Lazar Warhare was the man who succeeded in passing the ball. The third was won by the Caughnawaga Indians. Hennias Kanatakeniate, the fastest runner on the ground, was he that could not be caught when he got the ball on his battledoor. The fourth was also won by the Caughnawagas. Jose Sakorontaketats, was he who passed the ball. And they also won the fifth, which made the game, the nimblest feet of Hennias again doing the business. But we must add that there was a dispute about this last. The St. Regis contend that they won it. Their opponents content on the other hand that the ball did not go where it was necessary to win the game. It unfortunately happened that there were none but interested witnesses present. We conversed with a number of squaws who were near the place, and who were the only witnesses. They stoutly maintained that the Caughnawagas were in the right. We believe this dispute is to be decided to day. We must add with respect to Regis Tetrariskwen, one of the Caughnawagas, that if he was not the fastest runner he was the best player. […]
[Montreal Gaz., Sept. 9th.
Buffalo Daily Republic. September 16, 1850: 2 col 4.
Farmer’s Cabinet [Amherst NH]. October 17 1850: 1 col 6.
MONTREAL, Canada, May 19, 1859.
Dear Spirit.—Knowing that your readers yearn for tidings from the land of snow-shoes and “papooses” I rise, “a spirit from the vasty deep,” to give you a short account of a game of Lacrosse which came off here between fourteen Indians from Caughnawaga, (euphonious name!) The game of Lacrosse (Anglice, the Shinny), is indigenous to the country, indeed, so ancient is it, that like some genealogies, it is lost in the dimness of antiquity. […]
Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature, Art and the Stage. December 3, 1859: 2 col 3.
MONTREAL, Aug. 27th.—[…]
This morning the Indian games came off at the cricket grounds. The Prince arrived at 10 o’clock. The first match was at Lacross, between two parties of Indians, and the second between Indians and whites, in which the former won. This was followed by a war dance in full costume. The Prince was much amused.
New-York Morning Express. August 28, 1860: 3 col 3.
FROM OUR CANADIAN CORRESPONDENT
MONTREAL, March 16, 1861.
[…] while on the subject of Lacrosse, I would remind you of my wish to see a Lacrosse Club started in New York. I will be in your city in June, and if you can guarantee to get me twelve or twenty four young fellows, I’ll be happy to bring “crosses” with me and start the game. If you could get some cricket or base ball club to [?] our Canadian game with theirs, I’m sure they’d like it. OCELA.
New York Clipper. March 30, 1861: 2 col 4.
FROM OUR CANADIAN CORRESPONDENT
DEAR CLIPPER: Since my last, we have inaugurated our summer sports, and everybody is practicing lacrosse, or cricket; while clubs are starting into life again, and everything seems fair for a great season of sporting in Canada. Old friends meet once more on the friendly play-ground, and new life pervades the feelings of every one.
Lacrosse bids fair to be the game of Montreal this coming summer; and no wonder, for it is a game that really has no equal. The number of Lacrosse clubs, and their strength, proves how much it is thought of. I hope your Lacrosse Club in New York will go ahead, and not despair of being able to raise a splendid [axe?] in your city.
Why do not your clubs shoulder their cricket bats, and “go in” and make cricket balls of the heads of those dastardly rebels? Such warfare would be good practice for the batters, and teach good manners to the battered!
New York Clipper. May 18, 1861: 2 col 5.
ATHLETIC FESTIVAL AT JONES’ WOODS.—The first annual pic-nic of the New York La Crosse Club, originally fixed for the 16th, has been postponed until Wednesday, the 16th inst., when, wind and weather permitting, the Club will no doubt have a sociable time. To induce our athletic young men to attend, $100 to prizes will be given for jumping, running, leaping, hurdle racing, etc., and to addition to the prize, the party who takes the greatest number of prizes will be presented with a Silver Medal, appropriately designed and engraved. After these contents, there will be a game of La Crosse, an Indian game, and we believe never before played in this vicinity—this alone will tend to secure a large attendance. For other particulars see advertisement.
New York Clipper. August 12, 1865: 2 col 2.
Programme of the
NEW YORK LACROSSE CLUB,
TO BE HELD AT JONES’ WOOD,
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16TH, 1865.
Where the following Prizes will be give and competed for by the members of this club and any other competitor who may wish to enter. Members of other clubs are invited to attend and take our Prizes, if they can; and the party who takes the greatest number of prizes will be presented by the members of this club with a SILVER MEDAL, and have his name engraved on the same.
Welcome all, both far and near,
Come and see us, do not fear;
And take our Medal if you can,
It will be given to the best Man.
The following is a list of PRIZES and GAMES, open to all
Standing long jump……….$10 | Running high jump……..$10
Three standing long jumps….10 | Short race…………….10
Standing hop, step and jump..10 | Hurl race, 3 ½ feet high..10
Running hop, step and jump…10 | Long race……………..10
Standing high jump………..10 | Bell race for boys………5
And several other prizes will be given (over $100 in prizes)
The prizes will be awarded on the following day at their Club Rooms, No. 70 East broadway. TWO QUADRILLE BANDS will be in attendance. Dancing commences at 11 o’clock. Games at 2 o’clock. TICKETS 50 CENTS EACH.
A Game of LACROSSE will be played by the Club in the evening. H. O’NEIL, President.
J. McGINNIS, Secretary.
New York Clipper. August 12, 1865: 3 col 2.
INDIAN GAME OF LA CROSSE.—A party of Iroquois Indians skilled in the famous game of La Crosse, have started in charge of an agent to give an exhibition of it in England. They will arrive here in time to give an exhibition to-day. The spacious Temple Grove Grounds have been engaged, and a charge will be made for admission. They are a picked band from Canada.
La Crosse is a ball game, between two parties armed with clubs or bats. The players are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands, but use the club or bat entirely. There is much excitement and interest in the game, much more, we understand, than in base ball, as all the players are required to be on the watch at the same time. The name comes from the form of a cross being taken by the ball and the players at certain points of the game.
Daily Saratogian. August 3, 1867: 2 col 3.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
SARATOGA, August 6, 1867. […]
THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS AND THEIR BALL-GAME OF LA CROSSE.
This band of Indians, numbering eighteen, played their game on the Fair ground on Monday and today—Tuesday—and will play again after the races to-morrow. They are a fine band of agile men, and the excitement attending the game is far ahead of base-ball. They intend leaving here for New-York where, if they can obtain the St. George’s Cricket Ground, they will give an exhibition at Hoboken, as well as others at Jones’ Wood, and the Capitoline Grounds, Bedford.
New York World. August 7, 1867: 5 col 4.
Correspondence of The Journal of Commerce.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, August 7, 1867.
Croquet is fairly beaten! at least at Saratoga. Two days since a party of eighteen Iroquios Indians on their way from Canada to Europe, stopped here and played their favorite game of La Crosse; since which, in the streets, and in the hotels, nothing is spoken of but this new game. Nor, by the way, is the state of things at all pleasant to the hotel keepers. The guests insist upon playing it (on a mimic scale, it is true,) and as it is a much rougher game than the gentler one of croquet, the landlords are forced to see, in imagination at least, their beautiful lawns ruined to satisfy the imperious demands of their fair guests.
The game of La Crosse derives its name from the residence of a tribe of Iroquois who invented it. It has been played now for three consecutive days on the fair grounds in the immediate vicinity of the village, and in the presence of large crowds of both sexes. The game seems to be a cross between the famous “Shinney,” of the Scotch, and the more modern one of base ball now so common among us. The implements with which it is played consist of the Crosse and the Ball. The former, the number of which is limited only by the number of the players, and which may be of any size to suit the holder, is shaped like [?], the [spoon?] between the bend being filled by a woven net work. The ball is of India rubber sponge, not less than eight, and not more than nine inches in circumference. No player is allowed to catch the ball with his hand, but it must in all cases be caught or secured by means of the crook. This, you at once perceive, renders the game much more difficult and complicated than base ball or even croquet; and it is therefore to be feared that it will be long before the fair damsels at the Union of American will become an expert in it as in the more polished and gentle game last mentioned. The sight, however, of the Indians—all magnificently formed fellows—with their nodding plumes and graceful yet athletic motions, was particularly animating and picturesque. Indeed, these eighteen Iroquois performers, as, clad in their aboriginal costume, they walk through the village streets, have become almost as great lions as the Japanese were in your city a few weeks since.
Daily Milwaukee News. August 24, 1867: 2 col 1.