CHARLES DALTON ‘DOT’ PHELAN
(October 21, 1887 – January 12, 1958)
Cornwall Colts (1906-1910; 1914-1919?)
Vancouver Lacrosse Club (1911-1913)
Another one of the long-forgotten obscure players of yesteryear on the cusp of greatness, the few fleeting passages written about Charles Dalton ‘Dot’ Phelan in the newspapers attest to him as “…elusive, shifty,” and “a slippery player”, “one of the fastest, headiest, and pluckiest small men who ever played for the Cornwall Colts”.
His senior career began in 1906 and he played five seasons in the National Lacrosse Union with his home-town Cornwall Colts. Then in 1911, he became one of Con Jones’ imports raided from the Ontario leagues as Jones set his sights on prying loose the Minto Cup from the clutches of the Salmonbellies.
A fitting testament to his playing skill is that none other than fellow Cornwall native and former Colts goalkeeper Édouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde recruited Phelan for Con Jones and the Vancouver Lacrosse Club – which, considering Lalonde’s high expectations demanded from teammates, is as fine a compliment as any of his ability.
Con Jones agreed to pay Phelan the sum of $1,800 to re-sign with his team the following season in May 1912 – after George Kennedy, the manager of the Montréal Irish-Canadians in the Dominion Lacrosse Union tried to lure him away from Vancouver.
Phelan played two full seasons in the professional British Columbia Lacrosse Association with Vancouver – in 1911 and 1912 – and one lone game in the 1913 season, unable to secure a regular starting spot on the roster, before returning to Ontario for good. During his time spent on the Pacific Coast, playing mostly as an attacking midfielder, ‘Dot’ Phelan appeared in 19 games and scored 10 goals. He won his only Minto Cup national championship with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club in 1911.
His likeness appeared in two sets of lacrosse player cards that were produced by Imperial Tobacco Company – his name unfortunately misspelt as “D. Phalen” in the 1910-11 set.
Phelan, like many of the players of the day, played multiple sports throughout the year. He played 3 games over two seasons (1907-1909) as a left winger with the Cornwall Hockey Club of the Federal Amateur Hockey League. He later had a try-out with the Montréal Shamrocks ice hockey team in December 1909.
After he arrived back in Ontario, ‘Dot’ Phelan soon returned to his old, familiar Cornwall Colts. The exact seasons in which he participated as an active player after 1913 are unknown – but he did play for the Cornwall Colts as late as 1919, the penultimate year for professional lacrosse in Eastern Canada. He was also listed as the club treasurer for that season.
With his lacrosse career now over by this time, Dalton Phelan then had to deal with the death and funeral arrangements for his mother in 1920. This event was then soon followed by an intriguing sojourn to Georgetown in British Guiana (modern Guyana) where he worked as an accountant at a bauxite mine on the Demerara River. His stay in South America was rather brief, especially considering the distance he had traveled to get there, as he booked passage in March 1921 from Georgetown to New York. By the end of that year he returned to his hometown of Cornwall, landing work as a bookkeeper. The following year saw him moving to Windsor, Ontario. In 1923 he registered for United States immigration and moved across the river to Detroit, Michigan where he took up residence as a boarder.
Two decades later, Dalton Phelan – who appears to have been a lifelong bachelor – is still boarding with the same couple in Detroit when he completes his mandatory registration with the United States Army once war broke out after Pearl Harbor in 1941. By this time, his employment is listed with the Chrysler Corporation in Wayne, Michigan as a machine operator.
According to parish records of the former St. Philip Neri Parish in Detroit, Charles Phelan passed away on January 12, 1958.
He was interred three days later at Mount Olivet Catholic cemetery, located around five miles north from the Jefferson Chalmers neighbourhood where Phelan had lived in Detroit for over three decades. He left no next of kin and the only other name associated with his entry in the death register is that Reverend Alfred Ferranato presided over his funeral mass. He was buried in an unmarked, pauper’s grave located at section M, tier 8, space 579.
‘Dot’ Phelan was inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.
(PHOTO SOURCES: CVA99-35; CVA 371-602)
Special thanks to Thom Racine at the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame for providing biographical information and to the Mount Elliot Cemetery Association in Detroit, Michigan for locating and providing burial details.