clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Portland's Early Soccer History: Part II

New, comments

City and interscholastic leagues were present through the first two decades of the twentieth century.

The Oregonian, October 4, 1908

(Continued from Monday...)

In December 1907, a city league formed with three distinct teams. Cameron and the executive committee of the PAFC arranged the league so that teams were not independent and the pool of players filling out each roster came directly from the PAFC membership. Though the first match of the season was delayed, due to the slow return of players from the Seattle game over Thanksgiving, the league kicked off its inaugural season with the Columbias, Crescents and Hornets competing for the city championship. An association with the Cricket Club, first established through the playing of the 1907 international series that spring, and solidified with a dinner between the two clubs, helped the PAFC fill out three full teams. As it was the off season for cricket, the Cricket Club promoted the Association Football Club to the expatriate community not necessarily already involved with soccer.

On February 8, 1908, a league All-Star team defeated the Columbias 6-5 before 250 spectators at Vaughn Street Park. The following week, another one-off match was played, pitting players from the West Side of the Willamette River against those living on the East Side. The East Siders won 4-3; Phillip Chappell Brown refereed the match.


By 1908, Phillip Chappell Brown was a fixture in the sporting and architectural scenes in the Portland area. Born in England in 1865, Chappell Brown moved from New Zealand to Oregon in 1889, opening an architectural firm. Though he had a career in Portland spanning nearly 40 years, his most famous commission was for the St. James Lutheran Church on SW Park Avenue in 1891, a structure that still stands.

After receiving acclaim for his work in the final decade of the 19th century, Chappell Brown shifted his focus to schools, banks and apartment buildings. He was also intimately involved in the English expatriate community, serving as president of the British Benevolent Society for many years and helping reestablish the Portland Cricket Club in 1906.

The Cricket Club was one of the earliest sporting clubs in Portland but by 1906 was in need of new grounds and a reorganizing effort. Chappell Brown was one of four investors to file for incorporation and the 41-year-old architect was given the job of designing the new clubhouse. Through the aforementioned gathering between the cricket and football clubs, Chappell Brown's inclusion in the story of soccer in Portland commenced. When the 1908 association football season began in October, six clubs were registered with the renamed Portland Football Association (PFA), which based its bylaws on those present in the California FA and the Northwestern FA (Puget Sound). Each club was independent for the first time and the inclusion of teams from established organizations strengthened the league.

Perhaps the most important addition to the city league was the MAAC, though the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company (OR&N) fielded a team of clerical workers as well. The Columbias returned, as did the Crescents, while exclusively Scottish and previously non-league Albina Thistles were rebranded as the Caledonians and the Cricket Club entered its own team. Not every player in the six-team league was of British extraction, but so many were that the 1908 campaign reinforced the prevailing notion that the game was a foreign sport, played by expats.

The most important game of the season took place on Christmas Day 1908, when the MAAC played the Cricket Club for the state championship as the Multnomahs aimed to complete a perfect season. The game was the first league fixture to be played at Multnomah Field, the home ground for the MAAC and the best rectangular field available in the city. Instead of a battle worthy of the top two sides, the Multnomahs destroyed the Cricketers 7-0. The rout left the MAAC with an 8-0-0 record and the coveted city championship.


Despite placing members in some of the highest reaches of Portland's public and private spheres, most notably through Cameron's position as district attorney, the British community in the Rose City was actually quite small. Five social organizations catered to the expats from Great Britain and Ireland early in the new century, with the British Benevolent Society serving as the largest. The organization of which Chappell Brown was president of for more than a decade-could claim just 387 members by 1917, of which 250 had attended a gathering hosted by the St. Andrew's Society in 1905 to celebrate the anniversary of the late Queen Victoria's birth. The British expats were certainly a vital presence in the soccer and cricket communities, but represented a small fraction of Portland's booming population, which reached 200,000 by 1910.

However, by March 1909, such was the popularity of soccer among the British expat community that The Oregonian printed the results of English FA Cup and Football League scores from the previous weekend. With soccer increasingly important in Portland's expat community, George Cameron, along with longtime players K. K. Baxter, himself an Englishman, and D. A. Pattulo, purchased a trophy valued at $100 to award to any club winning the city championship in three consecutive seasons. The silver cup with stag horn handles was put on display in a downtown jeweler's window until such a time that a club became three-time champions. Meanwhile, Cameron was re-elected president of the Portland Football Association, continuing his vital leadership over the steadily growing organization.

In addition to donating a cup for three-time champions, Cameron personally provided a second cup, to be awarded to the city champion each year. The MAAC won the city league again in 1909/10, defeating the new Queen's Park club in its final game to secure its second consecutive crown and the initial Portland Football Association (PFA) Cup. Later, it was this cup, not the original, which was named the Cameron Cup. Nationals, a new club in the 1910/11 season, won three consecutive PFA titles following the back-to-back successes of the MAAC. Yet the more interesting story is the development of the game among younger players.


In 1910, an interscholastic league was created with teams based in several high schools and colleges. Phillip Chappell Brown coached Washington High School while other teams were formed at Portland Academy, Lincoln High School, Jefferson High School and Columbia University (now the University of Portland). The aim of the soccer league for younger players was to extend the reach of the game to a new generation who had not necessarily immigrated. Though several schools, including the Portland Academy, had experimented with soccer earlier in the new century, it was mostly in response to the rise of violent deaths in the collegiate football game.

This new movement in Portland was to encourage a proactive, rather than a reactive, introduction to soccer. Champion of the debut season of 1910/11 was Columbia University, easily winning its four games. In fact, Columbia was not scored upon while recording twenty-two goals in the process. Chappell Brown's Washington High finished second in the league, despite losing 7-0 to Columbia in the season opener.

In 1911/12, Columbia again went undefeated, winning all four games to retain the interscholastic title. Meanwhile, Chappell Brown had been elected president of the newly named Oregon Soccer League (OSL), presiding over not only the Washington High School players, but the adult league as well. In 1912/13, unlike the previous two seasons, Columbia University did not monopolize the league table, finishing third behind Jefferson High School and Chappell Brown's Washington High. Indeed, Jefferson won the title after Washington stunned Columbia 3-2 on the final day of the season.

But controversy ensued, ultimately leaving the results of the final game of the season void. One of Washington's players, Lark Brown (no relation to his coach), was also a member of the Cricketers adult team in the OSL, rendering him ineligible. By reversing the result of the match, Columbia University finished level on points with Jefferson and the interscholastic league title was left empty for the 1912/13 season.

''In a steady rain the Columbia University soccer team trounced the Jefferson High School, 3-0, on Multnomah Field. This victory gives the collegians the 1914 championship of the Portland Interscholastic Soccer League and the permanent possession of the Cameron trophy," proclaimed The Oregonian on March 4, 1914. A third undefeated season in four was completed for Columbia, and the trophy earned 98 years ago is still in the possession of the University of Portland.

Despite the game receiving consistent coverage and participation from some of the oldest and biggest schools in town, only 16 games were contested over the first four seasons of the interscholastic league combined. Having passed the great ebb in youth involvement in the collegiate game, football was on the rise again by the middle 1910s. Baseball was as popular as ever and a newer sport, basketball, threatened to keep young athletes away from the soccer fields. Though certainly not a school, players at the MAAC were increasingly encouraged to play football instead of soccer. Despite having a successful team of youngsters in the soccer league, the financial facts were glaring. In 1911, the club recorded $25.15 in gate receipts for soccer matches. The football team poured in $5,731.85 in the same calendar year. Soccer was fine for those interested, but it was not a sport worth advancing for financial gain.


While Phillip Chappell Brown's report in the January 5, 1913, Oregonian referenced 35 grammar schools with soccer teams, troubles in the adult league provided top-down frustration for all involved in the game. The fact remained that soccer continued to be popular with recently emigrated British players but not in a serious enough way by enough younger players to replace those departing adults ahead of them.

The Oregon Soccer League never grew past five teams, with a rotation of clubs taking turns losing to the Nationals between 1910 and 1913. After Columbia University claimed the Interscholastic Cup in 1913, neither of George Cameron's trophies was awarded again until the 1919/20 season.

In November 1914, Chappell Brown was elected president of a Portland Soccer Football Association (PSFA) with just four entrants: Multnomahs, Thistles, Beavers and Archer-Wiggins-Weonas. A fifth club, Portsmouth, was later added to the schedule. Each club was to include at least four Americans on its roster, a practice foreshadowing similar tactics in the NASL half a century later. While Chappell Brown was simultaneously president of both the Portland Cricket Club and PSFA, not to mention his role as president of the British Benevolent Society and undertaking a series of architectural commissions, Cameron slowly faded from the fore of the Portland soccer scene as his political career intensified. But before departing, Cameron sent a letter to Glasgow club Celtic FC in February 1915, requesting that the famous club stop in Portland on its way to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco that May. While the league completed its 1914/15 season, with the MAAC winning its first title since 1908/09, the soccer community waited anxiously for Celtic's reply.

Perhaps the arrival of the Scottish League champions could have spurred the growth of soccer among adults in Portland. Instead, Celtic failed to appear in Portland and the city league struggled to draw even four teams in subsequent seasons. The absence of Cameron did not help, as the longtime local politician had been elected a delegate to the 1916 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Cameron did make a desperate plea upon his return in November 1916 for any players to fill out a fourth team to join Rose City Park, MAAC and Mount Scott, but to no avail.

In December 1916, Chappell Brown held a meeting in Cameron's office to plan a benefit game for the British Red Cross Fund on New Year's Day 1917. In The Oregonian's report, Chappell Brown was referred to as "'the father of soccer football in Oregon." That statement alone showed just how much time had taken its toll on the efforts of the earliest organizers of the game in Portland. While Chappell Brown certainly was a vital figure in the game's story over the previous decade, the players who established the game before that first season of 1907/08 were mostly gone. Indeed, twenty-three years had passed since Cameron and company traveled to Astoria in the summer of 1893. Only Cameron, by 1916 a figurehead, remained.

Thanks to the efforts of Chappell Brown, the game did return in earnest to Portland just before the United States entered World War I. Yet America's entry into the war, declared on April 6, 1917, put a halt to organized adult soccer.

The third decade of formal soccer in Portland came to a close in December 1919 as Chappell Brown was elected president and Cameron vice-president of the newly re-formed six-team league. Though Cameron's cup was awarded again the following spring, and every year after, except during World War II, until the mid-1970s, the game in Portland lagged far behind other cities. For all of the efforts to introduce the game in to the wider community, soccer remained a niche sport confined to the various ethnic communities in Portland. While the mid-century leagues had a wealth of noteworthy players, teams and stories, soccer never quite catapulted to anything beyond amateur status in relation to other sports in the city until the arrival of the Timbers. Portland's geographical isolation also kept local soccer players far away from their Midwestern and East Coast counterparts, both in spirit and in physical distance.

George Cameron died on July 17, 1921, predating the debut of the original American Soccer League by exactly two months. Chappell Brown remained in his role as president of the Portland Soccer Football Association until his retirement in 1924. His career as an architect continued until 1927, when he disappears from record. Though it took 51 years after Chapell Brown' s retirement for a professional club to arrive in Portland, the groundwork was laid over the 30 years between 1890-1920. The majority of soccer played in the next half-century came through ethnic clubs, extended beyond its traditional British roots to include, in particular, the emerging German Sports Club. The second of Cameron's cups was a staple in the city, while the Bennett Cup was first awarded in 1925, appropriately enough, to a team called the Camerons. That trophy also changed hands between local clubs over a 50-year period.


While soccer has proven a success in Portland over time, its growth was frustratingly slow and fragmented. When the Timbers debuted in 1975, a 70-year-old fan was quoted in the Oregon Journal, expressing his excitement: ''Ever since I came here from Scotland in the mid-1920s, I've dreamed of having this kind of soccer here." For a city with such an early history in the association game, Portland kept off the national grid for an exceedingly long time.

Yet perhaps it was exactly that exclusively local nature of the game in Portland that made the success of the NASL Timbers so explosive. The game is certainly not limited to British expatriates anymore, but it is worth noting that 17 of the 24 seasons of Timbers soccer have featured coaches of English or Scottish birth, including the first 15. More than a century after the first organized league in Portland, soccer is alive and well in the Rose City. The focus is inward, not in comparison to larger markets or more famous clubs. Soccer is a game of civic consequence and involvement for Portlanders, just as it always has been.

All images via Historial Oregonian

(this article was originally published in the now defunct XI Quarterly)