Published on January 12, 2013 by Amy
Martin Frederick Wheelock (1874 – May 25, 1937) was a member of the Oneida tribe of American Indians. He played American football for the Carlisle Indian School from 1894-1902.
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Wheelock was born in Oneida, Wisconsin in 1874. In September 1890, a recruiter brought a group of young Oneida Indians from Wisconsin to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Wheelock, at age 16, was part of the group. Wheelock played tackle for the Carlisle Indians football team from 1894-1902. He was captain of the team in 1899. The success of the Carlisle football team was a source of great pride for Native Americans. In 1897, the Indian Helper (the Carlisle school newspaper) described a celebration that greeted the football team on its return from a game played in New York City against Yale University:
”On Monday morning after breakfast, the football team, who returned the evening before from the Yale game which was played at New York last Saturday, was treated to a free ride across the parade, in the large four horse herdic, drawn by the entire battalion. Capt. Pierce, Frank Cayou, Frank Hudson, and Martin Wheelock occupied the small phaeton drawn by boys, and went in advance of the others. The band played lively marches, as handkerchiefs waved and mouths shouted. The demonstration was a great surprise to all making a unique scene for such an early morning hour. The school is proud of the record made for clean playing, and were gratified that the boys scored.”
In nine years playing for the Carlisle football team (from age 20 to 29), Wheelock was one of the school’s greatest stars. He played on the great Carlisle teams from 1899-1902 that were coached by football legend Pop Warner, teams that defeated many of the best football teams in the United States. He was selected as a first-team All-American by the New York Sun in 1899, a second-team All-American by Walter Camp in 1901, and to the All-University Team by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1902.
In 1897, Wheelock became one of the first football players to receive an x-ray for an injury. Wheelock was injured in a game against Brown University, and the following story appeared in newspapers across the country:
“Martin Wheelock, right tackle of the Carlisle football eleven, a big Indian, six feet high, became acquainted with the latest acquisition to the white man’s science, the X-ray, in the J. Hood Wright memorial hospital in New York city. … Wheelock was deeply interested in the performance. The bones in his hand were shown him, and he was delighted. Then the x-ray was turned on his injured shoulder, and it was plainly seen he had suffered a fracture. The physicians declared the man the finest specimen of humanity they had ever seen. …”
Wheelock left the Carlisle Indian School in 1902 at age 28. Wheelock later worked as a blacksmith and farmer. He married a fellow Carlisle student, Lena Webster, in 1913 and was living at the time in Seymour, Wisconsin.
In 1913, Pop Warner named Wheelock to the All Time American Indian football team. The team also included such legends as Jim Thorpe, Jimmy Johnson, Bemus Pierce, Joe Guyon, and Albert Exendine. Wheelock was also inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Honor in 1980.
In 1938, a Wisconsin newspaper reported that a Martin Wheelock of the Oneida tribe had returned home to Wisconsin for a month’s vacation. The Martin Wheelock referenced in the article (most likely this Martin’s youngest son) was then working in the government service among the Ute Indians in Utah.
In 1980, Wheelock was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.