Historical bits...

Mauch Chunk, now Jim Thorpe, was established on the Lehigh River as a shipping depot for anthracite coal in 1818 by Josiah White, a Philadelphia Quaker and brilliant engineer, and his trusted business partner, Erskine Hazard. 

By 1829 White and Hazard had founded the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Comapny and built an efficient transportation system that moved coal nine miles over the mountains to mauch Chunk by Switchback Gravity Railroad, and forty-six miles along the Lehigh Canal to Easton.

With the arrival of the railroads, the Switchback became a major tourist attraction.  As rail excursionists descended on Mauch Chunk to experience a hair-raising ride on America’s first roller coaster and enjoy the magnificent scenery, the coal shipping town, billed by the railroads as “the Switzerland of America”, became a tourist destination second in popularity to Niagara Falls.  

In a story stranger than fiction, Mauh Chunk exchanged its name for the name of Jim Thorpe when the 1912 Olympic hero was laid to rest there in 1954.  Jim Thorpe, the man, an athlete of Native American (Sac and Fox) and European ancestry was born in Prague, Oklahoma on May 22, 1887.  Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Gold medals in the 1912 pentathalon and decathlon, played American football (collegiate and professional), and also played professional baseball and basketball.  He lost his Olympic titles after it was found that he was paid for playing two seasons of semi-professional baseball before completing in the Olympics, thus violating the ameraturism rules that were then in place.  In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee restored his Olympic medals.

Lots more history and trivia at the Mauch Chunk Museum.


The Parsonage B&B ~ 61 West Broadway ~ Jim Thorpe, PA  18229

e:mail us at: innkeeper@theparsonagebandb.com  call us at: 570-325-4462

© Jeffri Coleman 2015