When this photograph was donated to the Society, no one was sure that the picture was of an Acton team. The only person identified was Ernest R. Teele (front row, second from the left). He was born in 1877, so the picture was probably taken in the mid-1890s to early 1900s.
Scanning and enlarging the picture showed that some of the light uniforms are marked “W A.” Guessing that they might have been from West Acton, we searched for mention of a village team in Acton newspapers available in online archives. Available West Acton news items yielded nothing. However, newspapers of the time tended to publish “locals” from nearby towns. It turned out that for the period in question, searching the archives of the Concord Enterprise was much more productive for us. The earliest confirmation of the existence of a West Acton village football team was in the December 5, 1895 issue that reported that West Acton had played Maynard on Thanksgiving. (An October 25, 1894 issue mentioned a practice game between Maynard and “Acton.”) The September 24, 1896 issue stated that “the West Acton football eleven, Captain Wm. G. Rodway” was about to play its first game of the season against the Concord High School team. Other games were announced in the October 10, 1896 Boston Post (with Burdett College) and in the November 5, 1896 issue of the Concord Enterprise (with Maynard). The Concord Enterprise of November 12, 1896 even yielded the team’s roster at the time: Rodway (captain, back), Steele (center), Smiley (guard), Perkins (tackle), Barteaux (end), Losaw (guard), Littlefield (tackle), King (end), Holt (quarterback), Allen (fullback), and Guilford (halfback). Apparently, a Boston Daily Globe article (Sept. 27, 1896) had reported on the Concord game, listing the team as the “Actons;” the roster had seven identical players (Bateaux, Rodway, Smiley, Holt, Littlefield, Gilford and King) and four others; Blood (end), Beach (tackle), Sawyer (halfback), and Souther (fullback).
The Boston Daily Globe, November 21, 1896 stated that the West Acton eleven were looking for a Thanksgiving afternoon opponent and would pay half of the expenses for 14 men, inquiries to be addressed to B. S. Holt.
Maynard's news items had a different perspective. In the November 5, 1896 Concord Enterprise, West Acton's victory over Maynard was reported, along with a statement that the referee had favored the West Acton team in every decision. We found only one mention of the team after 1896, a Maynard news item in the Acton Concord Enterprise of December 2, 1897:
“The football game scheduled for Thanksgiving morning between the Maynards and West Actons did not take place, as the visitors failed to show up.”
Thanks to the Concord paper and an aggrieved Maynard reporter, we now know that West Acton did indeed have a football team in at least the late 1895-1897 period. There were also, at various points in time, a baseball team that played in the summers and a basketball team that seems to have played indoors at Littlefield's Hall according to a February 17, 1904 Enterprise article. We would love to know more about Acton's early teams; if you have more information or pictures from that era, please contact us.
More discoveries about early Acton football can be seen here.
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