Athletic Biography of James Frances Thorpe
On the morning of May 28, 1888, one of the most versatile, and arguably the greatest of athletes was born in a one-room cabin made of cottonwood and hickory, on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation located in Prague, Oklahoma. His name was Wa-tho-huck, which means "Bright Path" , in the Native American language spoken by the Sac and Fox Tribe. His father was Hiram P. Thorpe an Irish trapper, and his mother was No-ten-o-quah, and Indian member of the Thunder Clan of Chief Black Hawk, better known as Charlotte Thorpe. It was a customary tradition for Native Americans to name their children after something seen just before giving birth or even just after giving birth. Since the first thing Wa-tho-huck’s mother saw, shortly after giving birth at 6:30 in the morning, was the Sun rising over a walkway leading to the cabin, hence the name "Bright Path." Because Hiram Thorpe wasn’t a full-blooded Indian, Wa-tho-huck needed to have a name given to him at the time he was christened. They agreed on the name James Frances Thorpe, or as many came to know him as, Jim Thorpe.
Jim wasn’t the first child of the family, in fact he had an older brother named George and a twin brother named Charlie. George was nearly seven years older than Jim, so the only person that Jim had to play with was Charlie. Although Jim and Charlie looked very much dissimilar, they soon began to show similar interests. They took after their father in the fact that they both enjoyed such activities as hunting, trapping, and fishing; and as the years went on, they became inseparable. Jim also had a younger sister named Mary, and a younger brother named Eddie.
Hiram Thorpe was undoubtedly the most gifted athlete on the Sac and Fox Reservation. Nearly every weekend, competitions such as, wrestling, swimming, high-jumping, and broad-jumping, were held, and every weekend. Families from all over the Reservation and area would come to watch these events, and nearly every weekend they saw Hiram win. Perhaps this talent and love of athletic competition was inherited by Jim, or perhaps by watching his father compete, Jim became so compelled to make his father proud, that he developed a love for competition. Either way, Jim’s passion to compete helped him in the years to come.
At the age of six and a half Hiram enrolled Jim and Charlie at the Sac and Fox Indian Agency School, near Tecumseh, Oklahoma. Jim wasn’t a very good student, but Charlie was. Jim often daydreamed about slipping out of the classroom and stalking a deer through the forest or spearing bluegills beside an imaginary fishing pond. Jim seemingly could not bear school, but what kept his hopes up was "prairie baseball." It was the same as regular baseball, except the games were played in a field that was the equivalent to a sand-lot of today. He also played basketball, and was interested in track, but there was no track team, so Jim had to run against friends in unofficial meets. As...