The rivalry between the two largest and most prosperous towns in northern Dauphin County boiled over in December 1904 as the football teams of Lykens and Williamstown battled for a championship. The spoils of victory? Bragging rights. Oh, and $1,000.
That hefty chunk of change demonstrated just how much money was floating around in these mining towns in the prosperous first decade of the 20th century. The $1,000 purse for the victors is equivalent to more than $30,000 today.
The events leading up to and during the game on Saturday, December 3, 1904 at Williamstown’s Stoney Park were shared by the Lykens Standard newspaper and another paper in Harrisburg. Those descriptions do far more justice to the story than this blogger ever could.
From the Lykens Standard, December 9, 1904:
Upper End Football Championship Remains Undecided
The question as to which is the champion football team in the upper end of Dauphin County still remains unsolved.
It was claimed by both the G.A.C. [Germantown Athletic Club]* team of this place, and the Frontiers of Williamstown, but for some reason or other a game could not be arranged between them until two weeks ago, when an agreement was entered into between representatives of both teams to meet on the Williamstown field last Saturday, neutral officials being selected in order to insure an impartial game.
So great was the interest manifested in the affair, and so confident were the friends of the G.A.C. that they would prove easy victors, that they were willing to wager any amount on the result. It is said that at least $2,000 of Lykens and Wiconisco money was on the field looking for takers at 2 to 1, but without success.
The G.A.C. team with several hundred rooters of both sexes wearing the G.A.C. colors and carrying flags and blowing tin horns, left for Williamstown at 3 p.m. on a special train over the Williams Valley R.R. and special trolleys were run in order to accommodate those who did not desire to go up on the train.
Arriving at the ball park all from Lykens and Wiconisco were invited to take up positions on one side of the field and those from Williamstown on the other side. This was done in order to prevent friction between the parties, and was a wise precaution.
Space does not permit going into the details of the game, which was a fierce battle for the mastery from beginning to end. It was clean-played, however, and the decisions were just. To make a long story short, neither side scored, and the championship remains undecided.
The G.A.C., however, are not satisfied, and demand a game either on Monday, December 26th or on New Year’s Day in order to decide the championship question. They are willing to play for any amount for the winner, or for charity. In case the Frontiers refuse to give them another game, they will consider it acknowledgement on the part of the Frontiers that the G.A.C. are the champions…
And here’s a better description of the action on the gridiron that day from the Harrisburg Daily Independent, December 5, 1904:
NEITHER SIDE COULD CROSS THE OTHER’S LINE
The Lykens and Williamstown Football Teams Played a Tie Game in the $1,000 Championship Match
One of the largest crowds that ever attended a sporting event in the Lykens Valley was present to witness the $1,000 football game between the Williamstown and Lykens elevens.
The rivalry had run so high that neither side was willing for any local men to officiate at the game, and Martin Shannon, former captain of the Steelton YMCA eleven and Coach Balsbaugh, of the Lebanon High School, were chosen as the men to act as referee and umpire, respectively.
The game resulted is a tie, neither of the elevens being able to force the ball over the other’s goal line. The ball was kept moving from one part of the field to the other and whenever either side would get it within striking distance, it would be lost on a fumble or the team would be held for downs, and the ball would be kicked out of danger.
The Lykens team was the stronger on the line while the Williamstown eleven presented a back field that could make gains that evened matters up with the opposing eleven. The two elevens kept hammering each other for two 20 minute halves and the championship of the Lykens Valley will remain undecided for the season of 1904.
The 1904 championship remained undecided. The two sides never met again that year or on New Year’s Day.
Featured Image: A 1904 football team from Williamstown, PA. (It’s quite possible that this was the junior team or even the high school team by their young age)
*Germantown was a neighborhood in Lykens.