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UndisBUTTEd: Iowa Agricultural College at Butte Athletic Club (1896)

Wait, we played Butte A.C. twice?!

If you go on and check out the 1896 football schedule you’ll find that we played at Nebraska on Nov. 19 and then at Des Moines YMCA on Saturday Nov. 21.

That isn’t true. We’ve covered the YMCA game here on WRNL and have it being played on Nov. 11.

Originally, Ames was to take on Butte on Nov. 14, but the Butte team was “too sore after playing Denver and Lincoln clubs.

New map of the Union Pacific Railway, the short, quick and safe line to all points west.
Rand McNally and Company. Union Pacific Railway Company. Chicago, 1883

Based on the below Ames Times article, the team left for Lincoln on Nov. 17. After arriving in Lincoln and taking on the Bugeaters (who lost 20-6 to Butte) at M Street Park (with the game starting at 3:21 p.m., 21 minutes later than it was scheduled) in a snowstorm, they would leave and go straight to Butte.

So, the last paragraph in the above clipping shows something interesting, Ames almost went on a cross country tour playing football as Nebraska State Journal (Nov. 18, 1896) expands upon below.

Ames had one problem that led to the 12-4 loss to Nebraska, and eventual poor performance against Butte.

The absence of captain (and oldest member of the team at 24) J.W. Wilson, the starting fullback.

Ames Times | Nov. 19, 1896

This game, unlike the 1895 classic was viewed only by about 800-1000 fans, by the end of the game, only about half this number remained. Another hindrance for the Ames team was that the dirt field they saw last year was covered in snow and the temperature was right at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still, the game was played but it was all Butte, all game.

George Dygert (Nov. 25, 1870 – April 4, 1957), a five year player at Michigan from 1890 to 1894 and a practicing lawyer in mining law almost had the first touchdown of the day, but he fumbled it crossing the goal line and William Lasswell (1873 - March 16, 1900) fell on it to put Butte up within six minutes of play, but he missed the goal to make it Butte 4 - Ames 0.

Dygert cropped from 1893 Michigan football team photograph

Both teams would have a good balance of offense and defense until Butte turned it over on downs on the Ames 10. There, B.W. Wilson fumbled and diminuitive in stature Mickey Harrington took it in the ten yards and Lasswell connected on goal to extend the score Butte 10 - Ames 0.

Five minutes after that score, Lasswell scored again, this time on a 15 yard run around left end and connected on goal, Butte 16 - Ames 0.

The deluge wasn’t over as Dygert got another score and Lasswell made the goal so Butte is up 22 - 0.

Bucky Hall scored next for Butte, but Lasswell missed the goal and Butte has a 26 - 0 lead.

Finally, Ames gets a break. Lasswell lines up to punt on their own 10 yard line and, as Sean McDonough might say if he was calling this game “Whoa, he has trouble with the snap. And the ball is free! It’s picked up by Ames’ M.J. Hammer, and he scores!” Hammer also kicked goal and Ames was only down by 20, Butte 26 - Ames 6.

M.J. Hammer in 1896

However, the jubilation felt by scoring was quickly silenced as Lasswell scored again and kicked goal and Ames was down 32-6.

Not much changed in the second half apart from some lineup changes from Butte. Neither team scored and the half was only 15 or 20 minutes.

Ames Times | Nov. 26, 1896

The team played without Dodd and Griffith, which probably exacerbated the issues faced by the team, read what Captain Wilson and Manager McMillan said here.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat

The only casualty on the day was a broken arm by Mortimer Sullivan (Sept. 13, 1875? - Jan. 6, 1936?) of Butte in the first half. He was replaced by Daniel “D’Gay” Stivers, the team’s general manager as seen in the above clipping.

Pete Snelson wrote this article in 1931 with his memories of the game, Snelson is the only primary source I’ve come across covering what happened to Butte players after the mid-1890s heyday of amateur football in Butte, Montana. Thanks to him, period articles from Butte Miner and the Anaconda Standard, as well as Nikole Evankovich, Assistant Director of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Thank you for either writing about these two interesting, relatively unknown games from the infancy of Iowa State football and/or for replying to my e-mail to see if you had anything else in your archives. I hope I shared your stories as well as they were presented to me.