Lincoln County is the birthplace of one of the greatest athletes in American history, Jim Thorpe. He was born in, what was then called, "Indian Territory," in the small central Oklahoma county called Lincoln County. Lincoln County is located in the center of Oklahoma. The county was founded in 1891 and were the original hunting grounds for the Plains Indians such as the Osage and others. After Indian Removal, the Seminole and Creek were relocated here. The courthouse is located in the middle of Lincoln County in Chandler, OK.
Backstory and Context
However, a hero would rise in from the midwest plains and we would be one of the worlds greatest athletes at the time. In May,28th 1887 a man name Jim Thorpe was born into the Indian Territory and this is where his rigid journey would begin, in the middle of the midwest. Thorpe's early life was full of hardship and tragedy. When Thorpe was 8 him and his father left for his first legit hunting trip. After a successful hunt, upon arrival Thorpe and his father were informed that his younger brother had died due to an extreme fever. This set Thorpe into a downward spiral. Thorpe would get into trouble with the law and act out in school until he finally had his chance to escape this place that filled him with sadness. This sadness and anger would eventually overflow into his teens where he found himself constantly in trouble. After Jim graduated high school he was offered an opportunity to attend a predominantly Native American school in Pennsylvania.5
At Carlisle, Thorpe excelled in Football, Basketball, and Track and Field. His football team was dominating in every aspect. His college team went undefeated and won their championship. During his stint with Carlisle Bulldogs Jim played against the toughest competition at the time. Jim competed against Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Army, Navy, and many more and won 5. However, Jim struggled during the offseason where he would have to go back home. "Since his brother's death and then his mother's, Jim had become uncharacteristically silent and unable to mix well with new company"5. For Jim, returning home to Lincoln County was almost too much for him to bear. The impact his mother and brother's death had on him had was one that no one could comprehend until later in his life.
However, Jim was just now starting his ascent to his peak form. Jim would later go on to compete in the greatest athletic games known to humanity, The Olympics. in the 1912 Olympics in Sweeden Jim was getting ready to represent the entire United States of America. Coming into the games he was one of the most popular athletes at the event and one of the most skilled. Before Jim was scheduled to run in his events he noticed his track spikes were not in his possession. Just before his event started Jim found a pair of spikes in the trashcan and proceed to wear them in his events. Even wearing shoes he found in the garbage, Jim had one of the largest margins of victory in Olympic History. "Thorpe's overall score of 8,412.95 (out of 10,000) was better than the second place finisher Swede Hugo Wieslander, by 688. No one would beat his score for another 4 Olympics"2. Unfortunately, due to a technicality, Jim lost all his medals because he violated amateur rules by being paid to play in minor league baseball before the games.
Unfortunately, for Lincoln County, their story is not a story of triumph or victory. After the death's of Jim's entire family, he could not bear to return to the place that plagued his family with death.1 Jim moved to Philadelphia where he would occasionally play minor league sports when a team would come around looking for some help. Lincoln County hasn't had anything major happen since Jim Thorpe. Unfortunately, Jim Thorpe didn't have a happy ending either. Jim Thorpe would move to Los Angelos county after his days as a sports star was over, he was still widely considered a celebrity and fit right in with Los Angelos.4 Sadly Jim Thorpe battled chronic alcoholism and lost the battle. When Jim died he returned to Pennsylvania and his family laid him to rest. Lincoln County attempted to fight for the custody of his remains but ultimately the United States Supreme Court ruled he would stay in Pennsylvania.
Lincoln County was the birthplace of, who most consider, the greatest all-around athlete in the history of America. Jim Thorpe was an inspiration to all Native Americans in this country when Jim was the peak of his life. Years after Jim Thorpe died, the great depression hit the country hard. Lincoln County prided themselves on their agriculture and oil. It took a little over a decade for Lincoln County to recover from the Great Depression. However, the community bounced back. When they recovered, oil was producing 1/3 of their counties revenue.1 Lincoln County is important to western history because it produced one of the most recognizable athletes of all time. A Native American, from Lincoln County, Oklahoma winning the Olympics and becoming known as "The World's Greatest Athlete".
4.MarionMade! "Jim Thorpe." MarionMade. February 22, 2019. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://www.marionmade.org/2019/02/jim-thorpe/.
5.Wheeler, Robert W. Jim Thorpe World's Greatest Athlete. Washington, D.C: Library of Congress, 1975.
6."Jim Thorpes Grave." Google Maps. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jim Thorpe's Graveemail@example.com,-75.8163527,12z/data=!4m8!1m2!2m1!1smemorial park!3m4!1s0x0:0xab82326472c863bf!8m2!3d40.8847399!4d-75.7255411?hl=en.
7."Pro Football Hall of Fame." Pro Football Hall of Fame. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://www.profootballhof.com/players/jim-thorpe/.