A Vigorous Youth
"Our lives were lived in the open," he remembered, "winter and summer. We were never in the house when we could be out of it. And we played hard. I emphasize this because boys and girls who would grow up physically fit adults must lay the foundation in a vigorous youth."
Before the turn of the last century, a star rose to prominence and radiated with so much splendor that nothing was able to eclipse it. In the late spring of 1888, this star was born not in heaven, but in a one-room cabin made of cottonwood and hickory, in the Plains country of the Oklahoma Territory. The time was six-thirty in the morning of May 28.
The nine-and-a-half pound infant, a member of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox tribe, was called Wa-tho-huck, which meant "Bright Path." To the world, however, he became known as Jim Thorpe.
With most Indian tribes, it is the custom for the mother to name her newborn child after a notable experience during her pregnancy or immediately following the birth. Since his mother, Charlotte View, gave birth to Jim shortly after sunrise, her first sight upon looking out through her bedroom window was
Hiram P. Thorpe, Jim's father, a direct descendant of the famous warrior Chief Black Hawk was the greatest athlete on the reservation. Like Black Hawk, Hiram defeated all comers, Indian or white, in contests of strength, speed, coordination and endurance. Jim beamed with pride as he recalled: "My father was the undisputed champion in sprinting, wrestling, swimming, high jumping, broad jumping and horseback riding."
Of all Jim's activities as a boy his favorite were catching wild horses and playing "follow the leader." At ten, he mastered the lasso and at fifteen he had "never met a wild one that I could not catch, saddle and ride. It was great sport and I know it made me strong and active and alert and helped me to quick judgement and decision."
When Jim led in "follow the leader," the followers were in for a grueling experience that included swimming rivers, running under horses and climbing hickory or tall cedar trees, getting on the top, swinging there and leaping to the ground.
He was in bed every night at nine---"not because I had to go but because after the day's activities, I was usually tired and wanted to go. And I slept until I was called and told to dress for school."
It was not the local mission school, however, where young BrightPath would complete his formal education nor the Oklahoma farmland where he seemed destined to live his life.
When Jim was four months shy of his sixteenth birthday, a recruiter from the athlete department of the Carlisle Indian School visited Jim's school and enrolled him. Soon Carlisle was racing along its own bright path to athletic prominence.
All quotations from: Jim Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete by Robert W. Wheeler, University of Oklahoma Press.
[Photo captions, from top to bottom and left to right, read]
Jim Thorpe as a teenager.
Thorpe as a basketball player, Carlisle, 1912.
Thorpe as a football player, 1912.
Thorpe became a star for the Carlisle football team.
Thorpe became a star for the Carlisle track team.
Hiram P. Thorpe, Jim's father
Renovation Project Completed
By The Students Of The
Carbon County Area Vocational Technical School,
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Education • Native Americans • Sports. A significant historical date for this entry is May 28, 1888.
Location. 40° 53.062′ N, 75° 43.535′ W. Marker is in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in Carbon County . Marker is on North Street (Pennsylvania Route 903) 0.1 miles north of 13th Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Jim Thorpe Memorial, Jim Thorpe PA 18229, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Carlisle Years (here, next to this marker); The 1912 Olympics (here, next to this marker); The Professional Sportsman (here, next to this marker); James Francis Thorpe (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named James Francis Thorpe (within shouting distance of this marker); Jim Thorpe (Wa-tho-huck) (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named James Francis Thorpe (within shouting distance of this marker); World War II Honor Roll (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Jim Thorpe.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Jim Thorpe Biography. (Submitted on April 19, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. (Submitted on April 19, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Kill the Indian, Save the Man [Carlisle Indian School review] (Yu, 2009). (Submitted on April 19, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 19, 2018. It was originally submitted on April 19, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 120 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on April 19, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.