The Oregon Trail

Jan 25, 2017

The Old Oregon Trail was a 2,000 mile route that wagon trains took from Middle America to the Pacific Ocean.  There is another meaning for this term when applied to early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.

In 1901, Notre Dame founded Columbia University, on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, in Portland, Oregon.  Years later, the name of the school was changed to the University of Portland.

In those early days, there was a lot of sharing between ND and Columbia, and the related Multnomah Athletic Club……….and some pretty good players from the city of Portland and its environs.

Here are some of the mini-bios I have written for my book on early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football:

Mathews, Robert Lee 

b. 8/6/1887, Leadville, CO; d. 9/1/1947 (60).  Portland, OR.  5’10, 170.

At ND, 1908-1911.  Transfer from Willamette College.  Wrote "The Gridiron Season of 1910 at N. D.", a post-season review.  Head Coach-St. Edward’s College* (1911); Kenyon College, 1912-1914 (13-9-3); Willamette College, 1915-1920 (14-7-2); University of Idaho, 1922-1925 (16-14-2); St. Louis University, 1926-1927 (8-11); Gonzaga University, 1929 (4-3); Seattle Athletic Club, 1931-1932; University of Portland, 1937-1942; and Lewis & Clark College, 1945-1946.  *The SCHOLASTIC reported, in November, 1911: “Lee Matthews, our star end of the famous '09 team, developed a team at St. Edward's College, Austin, Texas, that walloped everything in the Lone Star state except the buzzards and ‘northers’."  Also was Athletic Director at Kenyon, Idaho and Gonzaga.  Mathews is said to have used the forward pass at Idaho, while leading the Vandals to three consecutive wins over their Palouse-region rival, Washington State.  The two teams are only eight miles apart.  He coached the West Seattle Athletic Club, in 1930-1931 was an Athletics Supervisor for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of Washington, during the late 30’s.  P.E. Professor at Willamette.  Coached American Football League’s Portland Rockets, 1944 (3-4).  Matty was one of several ND players who coached Columbia University (now called the University of Portland) Purple & White, “on the Bluff”:  Frank Lonergan, Dom Callicrate, Bill Schmitt, “Slip” Madigan, and Maurice “Clipper” Smith were the others.  

Philbin, David

b. 7/22/1893, Los Angeles, CA; d. 10/11/1919 (26), Portland, OR.  6’1, 215.

At ND, 1915-1918, LLB.  Transfer from the University of Oregon, where he was the catcher on the baseball team and teammate of Carson Bigbee, who began his 11-year Major League career with the Pirates the following Spring.  In Oregon motor vehicle registration records, Philbin owned a “Davis Cyclecar”.  Dave was President of ND’s “Brownson Literary and Debating Society”.  His WWI Draft Registrar, at ND, was Fr. Mike Quinlan, former ND footballer.  Attorney.  Died of pneumonia, contracted while playing for the Multnomah Athletic Club.

Philbrook, George Warren

b. 10/10/1884, Sierra Valley, CA; d. 3/25/1964 (79), Vancouver, WA.  6’3, 225.

At ND, 1908-1912, B.S. Biology.  Transfer from Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA, where he starred in football and track for three years, after having previously attended Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR.  Chosen All Northwest tackle.  He held the Pacific Coast Championship in the discus (131 feet 5/6 Inches).  He also held the Whitman record in the high jump (5’10 inches); the high hurdles (16.01 seconds); the 16 pound shot (41 feet 2 inches); and the low hurdles at (26 1/5 seconds).  He had been declared ineligible for future participation because of his four years combined at both schools.  As 1912 Olympian, he finished 7th in the discus.  Also entered in the decathlon, where after five events, he trailed only legendary Jim Thorpe.  After nine events, George was still in fifth place.  George’s discus through in the Decathlon was greater than the world record prior to the games.  He was unable to finish the 1,500 meters and ended with the 13th highest overall score, three spots above Avery Brundage, who would go on to head the International Olympic Committee for 20 years.  Assistant Track Coach-ND.  Coached Multnomah Athletic Club.  Football Coach, University of Nevada, Reno, 1929-1931 and Whittier College.  After serving as Line Coach and Track Coach at Portland, he was named Athletic Director, in 1937.  The SCHOLASTIC reported on one of his returns to campus: “Familiar footsteps echoed on the campus for several days around the middle of July when GEORGE PHILBROOK, former football star and track champion, was a visitor.  George put the shot 46 feet at the A.A.U. meet in 1912, when 46 feet was about as far as it was being put.”  Later, he was general agent for the Mutual Trust Life Insurance Co., of Portland, Oregon.    

Schmitt, William Charles

b. 8/19/1886, St. Paul, MN; d. 7/13/1969 (82), Portland, OR.  5’11, 165.

At ND, 1904-1910, Civil Engineering Degree.  President, Civil Engineering Society.  Taught math and Coached football, Columbia University (University of Portland).  Captain of the Multnomah Athletic Club.  President, Schmitt Steel (formerly, Consolidated Railway Equipment Company).  Member of Advisory Councils of ND’s Colleges of Science and Engineering.  Bill was present, in Portland, when the USS Notre Dame cargo vessel was launched, in the Spring of 1945.  Member, Alumni Association board of Directors, 1951-1954.  Shortly before his passing, he was awarded the Edward F. Sorin Award, for distinguished service to the University.  His obit in the ALUMUS stated:  “Schmitt's home during the Irish football season wasn't Portland, but the Morris Inn on the University campus. He was one of the few men allowed to travel to games with the team and held a seat of honor on the Irish bench for all home games”. 

Callicrate, Dominic Leo

b. 9/17/1885, South Bend, IN; d. 5/30/1979 (93), Curry Co., OR.  5’10 ½, 165.

At ND 1901-1908, Civil Engineering Degree.  Class President. Taught Math & served as Athletic Director, 1909-1917, Portland University.  Played for Multnomah Athletic Club Football Team-1910. Construction business.  Chief Engineer on Washington irrigation project.  Irrigation supplier.  In her book, Notre Dame’s Grotto, Dorothy Corson wrote that Callicrate’s father, a stone mason, is likely to have helped build the Grotto.  Elected President, Notre Dame Club of Portland, 1930.  Worked for Foster & Kleiser Advertising, during the 50’s.

Dimick*, Ralph Chester *Name has usually been spelled with two “m’s.  

b. 4/4/1884, Hubbard, OR; d. 10/21/1911 (27), Portland, OR.  6’0, 225.

At ND, 1908-1911, LLB.  Transferred to ND along with Whitman College teammate, George Philbrook.  As a senior, in Walsh Hall, he told his dorm mates:  "Among the deepest inspirations of my life will be the thought that I have received my diploma from this grand old University."  Played for Multnomah Athletic Club Football Team-1911 and coached Columbia University (Portland).  Suffered a tragic death, after a football injury.  When the sad news reached Notre Dame of his passing, the SCHOLASTIC reported: “There was a very noticeable gloom everywhere. At once the different halls appointed committees to decide upon a suitable memorial, for the well-loved friend whom death called away thus early. A bronze memorial tablet was selected as the most appropriate expression of the students' affection.”  Showing the religious spirit of that time, it was also reported “It is a source of great consolation and joy to all of us that just before Ralph died he received the sacrament of baptism from one of the devoted sisters who nursed him.”  Columbia University discontinued its schedule, and former ND players Bill Schmitt and Dom Callicrate turned in their uniforms to the manager of the Multnomah Club-out of respect to Ralph's memory.  

“When the flag floated at half-mast Monday morning, the thoughts of many leaped, over miles of continent out to Portland, Oregon, where Ralph Dimmick (Law '11) was sleeping his last sleep. Not for a long time has the news of death given students and teachers, at Notre Dame so great a shock. The deceased was in the rosy hour of life and the future held large promises in store for him. He had hosts of friends, here as well as in his field of work out West. He was young and full of vigorous health. The accident in a football game which befell him some days before, we took philosophically, feeling sure it would be only the matter of a week or so till we, received the welcome news that Ralph was around again. When, on Sunday the telegram of President Joseph Gallagher of Columbia University was received, it was hard to accept its full meaning. And when the word was passed around among the students there, was a very noticeable gloom everywhere. At once the different halls appointed committees to decide upon a suitable memorial, for the well-loved friend whom death called away thus early. A bronze memorial tablet was selected as the most appropriate expression of the students' affection.” 

Dolan, Samuel Michael Patrick, “Rosey”

b. 8/14/1884*, Folkestone, ENGLAND; d. 12/30/1944 (60), Bend, OR.  5’11, 210.  

*Birth year variously reported as 1884, 1885, and 1887.  

At ND, 1905-1910, Civil Engineering Degree.  Class President:  1,2,4.  Attended Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State)-1909, but did not play for them.  Played for the Multnomah Athletic Club-1910.  On the Civil Engineering faculty of O.A.C. for 30 years and coached their football team for two years, leading them to an 8-6 record.  Each year, the big rivalry game for O.A.C., called “the Civil War”, was with the University of Oregon.  It was cancelled in 1911, because of a riot which occurred in 1910.  The game was resumed in 1912, but held in a neutral site in Albany, OR.  Dolan’s brother in law was Billy Eagles, who manufactured cigars in Albany and suggested that location.  On November 23, Dolan led his team to a 20-7 win.   Engineer.  He later became a prominent football referee, for 29 years, including officiating in Rose Bowls.  As a tribute to his integrity, he was approved by the University of Oregon to referee their big rivalry game with the O.A.C. school where he worked.  According to the “Portland Oregonian”, Dolan “lived up to his reputation of honesty and ability."  After his death, a classmate wrote in the ALUMNUS:  "Sam was a superlative example of a great Notre Dame man. His greatness was himself, unattended by any position in life which in the confusion of living is called success."  

Quinlan, Rev. Michael Aloysius

b. 1/14/1874, Rockford, IL; d. 8/29/1944 (70), Chehalis, WA.

At 1886-1893, B.A.; M.A.-1897.  Won the “baseball throw” (369’ 20”) at the 1894 Spring “Field Day”.  Secretary of Alumni Association (1908-1909).  C.S.C. Priest.  Served ND as English and Mathematics Professor, Rector, and Prefect of Discipline.  Administrator, St. Edwards College.  Second President, University of Portland, 1902-1906.  His first new building at Portland was an indoor track.  From 1915 onward, he is listed in University records with a PhD.  During WWI, he served as a “Special Registrar” to handle draft registrations for ND students.  In 1920, he published an article, "Poetic Justice in the Drama”.  The notice of his death in the ALUMNUS included the following: “As hall rector, prefect of discipline, and teacher, Father Quinlan was of the old school of stern but respected counselors, who knew his boys, a friend to whom many of them turned in later years for continuing advice.  Always a sports enthusiast.  Father Quinlan had records of early Notre Dame sports which formed the basis for the first publication of such records in 1929.”  This book, “Notre Dame Athletic Record” (covering all sports through 1929), has been heavily used in 

Smith, Maurice Francis “Clipper”

b. 10/15/1898, Manteno, IL; d. 3/18/1984 (85), Laguna Beach, CA.  5’10, 162

At ND, 1916-1918+.  Before WWI, he was George Gipp’s back-up at LH.  After the war he was a guard on the 1919 and 1920 teams.  Head Football Coach at Portland, 1922-1924; Gonzaga, 1925-1928 (23-9-5); Santa Clara, 1929-1935 (38-22-5); Villanova, 1936-1942 (41-17-3); San Francisco, 1946 (3-6); and Lafayette, 1949-1951 (4-21).  Smith’s 1933 Santa Clara won the post season “New Year’s Classic” Bowl game, versus Hawaii.  His 1937 Villanova team (8-0) finished 6th in the country.  Served as Athletic Director at both Gonzaga and Villanova.  In 1940 he was elected president of the ND Monogram Club.  Later worked for the Mercantile Trust Co., of San Francisco, California. 

Sinnott, Roger Brass

b. 7/15/1872, The Dalles, OR; d. 3/16/1920 (47), Portland, OR.  

At ND, 1890-1894, Litt.B & LLB.  His father was born in Ireland and eventually became Chief U.S. Deputy Marshal, in Portland, Oregon.  Younger brother of Nicholas, 1892 ND valedictorian, who became a prominent 8-term Republican U.S. Congressman and Federal Judge.  The family owned the Umatilla House, a luxury hotel, overlooking the Columbia River.  It was called "the best hotel west of Minneapolis and north of San Francisco".  Among the famous guests who stayed there were President Ulysses S. Grant, General W. T Sherman (whose sons attended Notre Dame), Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Edison, author Rudyard Kipling, Boxers John L. Sullivan and James Corbett, U.S. Vice President Schuyler Colfax (from South Bend), and writer Mark Twain.  In 1908, Roger sought the Republican nomination for District Attorney of Portland, OR.  Well known Portland attorney for the final 20 years of his life.

Fitzgerald, Freeman Charles

b. 8/21/1891, Gervais, OR; d. 5/6/1942 (50), Milwaukee, WI.  6’0, 195

At ND, 1912-1916, Mechanical Engineering Degree.  Transfer from Columbia University (now the University of Portland), where he played two years.  Also played varsity baseball and basketball.  Reputed to be a Major League Baseball pitching prospect, once striking out 19 batters in a game and allegedly offered a contract by the Yankees.  Seine fishing both built up and then injured his throwing arm.  Like a lot of ND athletes, spent a summer (1914, the year after Rockne-Dorais) as a camp lifeguard at Cedar Point (OH).  Football Captain-1915, receiving All American recognition.  WWI-2nd Lt, Flight Instructor.  Pro Football, 1916-1917; NFL-1920-1921.  Line Coach, Marquette Hilltoppers, 1922-1929.  Because of changing eligibility rules, Fitzgerald was the final ND four-monogram football player for more than 20 years.  The DOME had this to say about him:  In the Notre Dame yearbook for the Class of 1916, the following tribute was paid to Fitzgerald: “Fitzgerald is a big Oregonian — big in body, in mind, and in heart. During the last four years, he has been one of the most prominent and popular men at Notre Dame. As captain of the great 1915 football team, he won the recognition which his athletic ability deserved — a place on the all-American. His ability to shoot goals from the field and the foul line have made his presence on the basketball team invaluable. After four years of success in meeting the difficulties of the mathematics classes and the other troubles of the engineers, he has succumbed (according to rumor) to the charms of one of the fair ones in the neighboring city.”

Lonergan, Frank John “Happy”

b. 5/27/1882, Polo, IL; d. 10/4/1961 (79), Portland, OR.  5’10, 168.

At ND, 1901-1904, LLB.  In 1903, Lonergan scored three TD’s in a game three times.  Against DePauw, he scored four rushing TD’s and kicked six extra points.  Three-sport coach and teacher (Commercial Law and History) at Columbia University (now the University of Portland).  Served six terms in the Oregon Legislature (1925-1933 and 1939 until 1941).  He was acting Governor in 1933 while holding office as Speaker of the House (Republican).  As Judge of the Circuit Court of Oregon, he was one of the first Judges to permit news photography during trials in his courtroom.  Elected VP ND Alumni Assn, 1929.


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