Play along with this little game for a minute: clear your mind, and then say out loud the first things that come to your mind when you think of the words ‘Jim Thorpe.’ What did you come up with? Just thinking about the name Jim Thorpe will conjure up many different images in the minds of many different people.
For some it brings to mind our town, a beautiful Victorian village set amidst the western Pocono Mountains, while others may think of the town’s namesake – the greatest athlete of the 20th century and one of the most famous Native Americans of all time.
Many people may have a more specific picture of Jim Thorpe (the place) that comes from a great memory of time spent here, a mountain bike ride on some of the area’s well-known trails, the thrills of a family whitewater rafting adventure on the Lehigh River, the first time they successfully rolled their kayak, or the view from atop Onoko Falls, or just a wonderful time strolling downtown enjoying shops, restaurants and unique historic attractions with friends.
Some older folks may actually think of ‘Mauch Chunk’ – remembering the story of the name change in 1954 when Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk joined together to make the ‘new’ town of Jim Thorpe. Still others will think of trains, as all parts of the town history have their share of locomotive-powered stories, and the trains still remain part of the town’s draw for many people.
History buffs have an endless supply of images to think about when they consider Jim Thorpe (or Mauch Chunk); they can imagine the old Switchback Railway bringing coal down the side of Mount Pisgah, which helped usher in the age of railroad transportation or the Lehigh Canal that opened up this area to commerce by taking coal and bringing supplies back to this ‘frontier’ town.
They might consider Asa Packer’s influence in railroading and business and politics, all of which helped put Mauch Chunk in the national spotlight, or the statistics about so many millionaires living here, when being one was an amazing accomplishment. They might also remember the extended Great Depression, when the town was really down for decades, which resulted in the Nickel-A-Week fund that led to the name change.
The point is, whenever you are around the area, there is sure to be some special story – old or new – about the spot, which contributes to the unique character of the whole area. In fact, all of Carbon County and much of the Western Pocono region have stories that relate back to Jim Thorpe and Mauch Chunk.
Whatever you thought of about Jim Thorpe, the point is that there is so much here to see and do and learn that whether your image was one that was listed here, or a visualization that came from your own unique experience, it is surely an important facet of the story of Jim Thorpe.
If you’re coming to the area, and would like to hear some unique stories about the place while also enjoying an outdoor adventure, look up the Jim Thorpe eXperience, theJTX.com, a guide service that offers historic interpretation while out on hikes, bike rides, kayak trips, or nature walks.