Did You Know Tonawanda Had Its Own Professional Football Team?
I had to read it a few times myself…but it’s true!
There was once a professionally-licensed football team that only lasted for ONE game in the NFL…and they were from Tonawanda!
The Tonawanda Kardex Lumbermen (also known as the Tonawanda Lumbermen and the All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks) were active from 1916 and joined the NFL in 1921 for a brief time…a VERY brief time (more on that in a second).
The team played home games at Tonawanda High School, garnering sometimes as many as 3,500 fans! Lead by head coach Walter “Tam” Rose, the team beat the Rochester Jeffersons in a state championship game, and went on the make state playoffs in 1919, losing the semifinals to the Buffalo Prospects, who later took home the title.
In 1920, the then “All-Tonawanda Lumberjacks” had a 7-1 record against two American Professional Football Association teams (the predecessor to the NFL). After officially joining the NFL in 1921, their sole away game was the first — and last — game they played.
That game was November 6, 1921 in Rochester against the Rochester Jeffersons. It was the worst game in the team’s history…a 45-0 blowout in front of 2,700 fans. The team folded after that, in part due to trouble scheduling games with a lack of opponents. Plus, the NFL’s hefty franchise fee of $1,000 (increased from $50 in 1922…today, it’s closer to hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars) made it too hard for them to play a second NFL season.
While the NFL team is no more, the “Lumberjacks” name lives on as the mascot of North Tonawanda High School.
And now you know.