Saturday, September 3, 2016

Get Ready for Some Football! Sarah Remembers the Wildcats of 1893

Today marks the kick-off and the first home game of the 2016 University of Kentucky football season – the perfect day to share Sarah Eva Howe's perspective on the sport and this wonderful picture pasted into one of her scrapbooks.

Sarah wrote these comments:
We knew very little about football in the early ‘90s in Carrollton, even baseball was seldom played by the “elite” till a team was formed about 1897 of some boys from CHS [Carrollton High School] . . . 

I do wish we had the names of these boys. I feel sure we knew some of their children, perhaps grandchildren! Boys were older in college then, especially football boys who had to be really tough. . . . There was a poem appeared around this time called “Eliakim.”[1] I enjoyed it so much as it always reminded me of Brother Rowland and Will [2] — he and Vachel [3] afterwards played on the “amateur team” that played in the “old college” yard.  

Why do the jerseys in the picture say KSC? Until 1913, the University of Kentucky was known as Kentucky State College. The Wildcat mascot and team nickname came about before that, in 1909. By considering the history and the caption on the photo in Sarah's scrapbook, we know she clipped it from a newspaper or magazine published after 1909. (As I've bemoaned in previous posts, Sarah was a marvelous storyteller and keeper of ephemera, but not at all good about dating the items she kept.)

Sarah's reference to knowing descendants of the men in the Wildcats team photo was written much later than 1893 and rings true. She moved with her husband and children (then in their teens and early 20s) to Lexington – I think it was in the mid- to late 1930s. (I'm sure later scrapbooks will help determine the year.) Descendants of the players of 1893 might well have lived in Lexington.

Sarah, of course, wrote the words of the poem in her scrapbook.
I’m a college man, my friend, and sixty was my year,
But as a Christian minister you’d scarcely think it fit
That I should view a football game as I am doing here.
But I’ve a son who’s in the game, and that quite alters it!
See, that is he at tackle there — I see they’ve stopped the play
To put a new man opposite and bear the first away.
I sometimes feel my son pursues the sport with too much vim,
For no one ever lasts a half against Eliakim!
A sober youth, Eliakim, he’s studying to be a parson like his father.
He is meek and slow to wrath,
A very proper type of humble minded piety.
But when he bucks the center, sir, he always clears a path!
What’s that you say — three minutes left?
The score is tied, the game is near its close?
They’ll surely send Eliakim. Yes, bless him! There he goes!
He’s through! The game is ended! We have won and all through him!
Rah!! Whoop her up for Sixty and my son Eliakim!
Now for some Wildcat football history from sources other than Sarah's scrapbooks. This information comes from a Wikipedia entry titled Kentucky-Tennessee Rivalry. Note that the rivalry began the year the photo was taken: 1893. Kentucky won that first game 56-0!

Tennessee and Kentucky have faced off on the gridiron since 1893, making it one of the oldest rivalries in major college football. It was close in the early years, with Kentucky holding a series lead after the first 22 match-ups. But since the early 1930s, Tennessee has dominated the cross-border rivalry. . . . Both schools were charter members of the Southeastern Conference when it was established in 1932. Since that season, Tennessee has a 53–14–3 record against Kentucky, including a streak of 26 straight victories from 1985 to 2010, which is one of the longest such streaks in NCAA history. The Wildcats did not win any games against the Volunteers during the 1940s, 1990s, or 2000s. The only decade of the SEC era in which UK posted a winning record against Tennessee was the 1950s, when they went 6–3–1. The series was not without disappointment even during that period for Kentucky fans, however, as the Vols dealt Bear Bryant's 1950 Wildcat squad their only defeat during their school-best 11–1 season.

Unfortunately, in games played from 1893 through 2015, Tennessee leads the series 78 to 24 with 9 ties. Let's hope UK boosts its wins to 25 when they play Tennessee on Nov. 12.

Are you a descendant of a Wildcat football player in the photo? If so, please send me his name and his position in the photo – plus any other info you want to share – so I can add it to the post.

[1] A Biblical name meaning "whom God will raise up." Source:
[2] W.T. Rowland, the pastor of Carrollton Methodist Episcopal Church of Carrollton, Kentucky. Will was his son. The Howe family attended and supported this church.
[3] Vachel Rowland, likely the brother of Will Rowland and son of the pastor. Will was a bit older than Sarah, and Vachel was her classmate. Both are mentioned in other posts.

No comments: