The Curious Case Jim Thorpe’s Remains

 

The brown granite tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked to the right by a statue of him, on a bright and sunny fall day.
The tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked by a statue depicting him.

When American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe passed away in 1953, his remains were sent across the country in an odd series of events directly out of a movie.

When he died in California, Thorpe’s body was sent to Oklahoma for funeral services. It was to be then returned to California with his wife and son for burial. The problem was, Jim was essentially broke at the time of his death, and his wife had no way to transport the body again. The citizens of Shawnee tried to raise the funds for the transport, but couldn’t get them together. Fearing that Jim would be buried in a porter’s grave, she spirited away the remains to, of all places, a town in Pennsylvania he had never been to.

The towns of East and West Mauch Chunk were financially strapped in the 1950s, and looking for a way to diversify the economy of the former mining town. Precilla Thorpe, Jim’s wife, heard about this and made them a deal: Jim’s body and rights to his likeness for an undisclosed amount. The town agreed, and that same year merged and renamed into what is now Jim Thopre, Pennsylvania.

Some sixty years later, Jack Thorpe, Jim’s son, wanted to see his father buried in his homeland in Oklahoma, as did the majority of the Thorpe family. In 2010, he sued the city of Jim Thorpe for his father’s remains, citing the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act as grounds. Ultimately, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals would rule in favor of the city, citing the town receives no direct state of federal aid that would designate the whole town as a museum, and that Priscilla sold the remains in good faith to the city as Jim’s direct beneficiary and proxy.

As painful as it is not honor a loved one’s wishes, the positive thing to come out of all of this is the fact Jim’s legacy is forever enshrined in a little town in Pennsylvania, and the fight for his remains provided publicity about the greatest athlete you never knew.

You can read more about the legal battle in Supreme Court Ends Fight Over Jim Thorpes Resting Place and Fight for Jim Thorpe’s Remains Continues 62 Years Later, or about the man himself with Encyclop√¶dia Britannica’s Biography

 

St. Stanislaus Church

 

St. Stanislaus Church's front entrance, taken from the parking lot on a sunny afternoon.
The front entrance to St. Stanislaus Church

Known for being the second oldest Polish parish in the United States, St. Stanislaus Church stands far from the busy main street in Bandera, closer to the original survey location and modern day suburbs. The current limestone structure was built in 1876 by Polish immigrants who first settled the area in the 1850s. Gothic styling dominates the exterior of the church, while the interior is much more conservative, reflecting the parish mission of being focused on Catholic teachings.

 

The church is flanked by several buildings on the surrounding streets, with two old rectories for nuns, now a museum and church office, an adoration chapel (Now the priest’s quarters.), and the now defunct St. Jospeh’s school, which serves as a meeting hall for local christian groups.

 

The Old Lone Star Brewery

The imposing front facade of the Old Lone Star Brewery, featuring it's two towers, battlements, and the modern skybridge connecting the east and west wings.
The front facade of the Old Lone Star Brewery from the public parking lot across the street. | Courtesy of Peter Coons.

Constructed between 1895 and 1905, the Old Lone Star Brewery is an imposing complex that does not spark to mind beer at first glance. The multiple-building site is more akin to a fortress with it’s towers and battlements. The complex has housed not only the original brewery it was built for, but also a cotton mill and several individual businesses after the passing of the Volstead Act made alcoholic beverages illegal in 1920.

In 1970, the complex was sold to it’s current occupants, the San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum, however, would not open to the public until 1981 with the completion of a $7.2 million dollar modern renovation.

The Geo-Political Battle for West Bank Antiquities

The front glass entrance to the Bible Land Museum, located in Jerusalem, on a bright, sunny day
Entrance to the Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

For the past fifty years, the Israeli government has been collecting confiscated artifacts from smugglers coming out of the West Bank region. Rather than sit on these ancient artifacts, the Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem has put on display 40,000 of these artifacts in an exhibit called “Finds Gone Astray”.

However, as many things are in this region, this exhibit was not without it’s controversy. Since 1967, following the Six Day War, Israel has occupied the West Bank territory. With the land under their control, they also control any archeological digs and artifact recovery operations. Thus, any and all confiscated artifacts since then have been in the possession of the Israeli government. Contesting the legality of the artifacts possession, the Palestinian Authority has demanded the immediate return of these artifacts to Palestine on several grounds.

Palestine claims that since the West Bank was their territory prior to the Six Day War, and since Israel is occupying it, then they deserve the right to own these items as the land is considered theirs. Palestine also claims that Israel is in violation of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which prohibits the display of cultural and historical artifacts by an occupying force. Lastly, Palestine also claims that Israel is using the exhibit as a propaganda tool to argue for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, another hotly contested issue and a tool used by both countries.

This begs the question: What will become of these items in the event of peace? Who owns what? Will the contention of these items continue to sour already strained relations? The public has a right to view these historical and cultural artifacts, but the main point of contention is who should display it? The ethnic owners of these items, Israel, or the land’s occupiers, Palestine?

 

For further reading on this topic, please refer to this link: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2019-02-05/stolen-smuggled-artifacts-on-display-in-jerusalem-museum

Chaminade Hall and Tower

The front entrance to Chaminade Tower and Chaminade Hall, taken from the sidewalk in front of the buildings on an overcast afternoon
The front entrance to Chaminade Tower, featuring it’s sculpted entrance way. Chaminade Hall can be seen to the left, where the lower building comes into view. | Courtesy of Peter Coons

Originally built as an expansion for the campus in 1921, Chaminade Tower stands across from St. Louis Hall and references the architectural notes of the older buildings on campus. The tower was torn down and re-built as an annex to Chaminade Hall (1953) in 1993. Today, the hall serves as housing for students while the tower provides space for many campus departments.

The front of the tower features two historical plaques, one detailing the history of the man the buildings are named for, Blessed Father Chaminade, and a history of the campus in celebration of it’s centennial anniversary, while the hall is much less pronounced.

 

Bandera County Courthouse

Bandera County Courthouse from a street level view on a clear afternoon, flanked by two oak trees on either side.
Bandera County Courthouse from the lower sidewalk | Courtesy of Peter Coons

Built in the late 1800s, the Bandera County Courthouse is one of the oldest and tallest structures within the Bandera city limits. Built of locally quarried limestone, the building was designed by B.F. Trestor Jr. and built by immigrant Russian stonemasons. A Renaissance revival styled building with colonial Spanish influence, the courthouse stands out from all other buildings of the same era in the city.

For a city that claims to be the “Cowboy Capital of the World”, the County Courthouse stands out as a living testament to the cities wild west heritage as a living reminder of the past.