Picture Rocks man hailed as 1912 Olympian, won gold medal
PICTURE ROCKS — Thanks to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, sports lovers and U.S. patriots are asking, “Can our guys beat the other guys?”
Back in 1912, folks in Lycoming County were rooting for one of their own — a man by the name of Warren A. Sprout.
Very little is known about Sprout, other than that he was good with a rifle. He won two bronze medals and a gold for riflery at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.
In addition to serving his country in the Olympics, he also served in the Navy.
According to the April 8, 1937, edition of the Sun-Gazette, Sprout was born to Judson H. and Cora Sprout on Feb. 4, 1874.
John F. Meginness mentions in his “History of Lycoming County,” that Judson was the grandson of Ebenezer Sprout, who came to the area in 1787 from New Hampshire. Judson was born after his father Amos married in 1826.
According to other records, members of the Sprout family were involved with local politics and their local church.
Judson made a living for himself as a turner, someone who works with a lathe to shape wood or metal into specific objects.
As for Cora, in 1937, the Sun-Gazette mentioned that she was born in Hughesville and attended the Muncy Normal School. After her graduation, she would return as a teacher.
Sprout would go on to develop of a love of riflery and become a marksman. It attracted the attention of officials, leading to his performance in the Olympics.
According to a report of “The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912,” which was published in 1913, the worldwide event officially was called the Games of the Fifth Olympiad.
Sweden possessed “the best conditions necessary for organizing the Olympic Games in a way that will perfectly satisfy all the claims that athletics and our expectations can demand,” said the report. “The Olympic Games of Stockholm are, even now, assured of perfect success.”
Of note in the 1912 Summer Olympics was the athletic performance of George S. Patton — who would go on to become one of the most decisive generals of World War II. In the 1912 games, he competed in the modern pentathlon, pistol range, equestrian and foot racing.
Of course, most famous of all was Jim Thorpe. He would go on to win gold in the pentathlon and decathlon. Later, he would go on to play in the NFL.
Other athletes competed in events such as tug-of-war, cycling, fencing, football, gymnastics, horse riding competitions, lawn tennis, mountain ascents, rowing, swimming, wrestling, yacht racing and game shooting.
Sprout competed in the 50-meter smallbore rifle and the 25-meter smallbore rifle events. He and his teammates had to shoot at a target 50 meters away and then shoot again from 25 meters away.
According to the report, legal event rifles were those that were “breech-loading … with a caliber not exceeding 6mm, using miniature ammunition intended for competition. Any back- and fore sights (were permitted), except magnifying or telescopic.”
The shooters aimed for a target that was “white with a black center.” Each rifleman had “40 shots in eight series, with five shots in each series.” Competitors were “one team of four men from each nation.”
Sprout and his teammates took bronze in each event.
However, Sprout would win gold when he competed on June 29 in the Rifle Team Competition at distances of 200, 400, 500 and 600 meters.
Sprout and his group of “six men … (were armed with) two sighters and (given) 15 shots at each distance.”
They would win gold medals for the United States.
The Picture Rocks native also competed in the 300-meter rifle event, but he finished in 32nd place out of 84 competitors.
After this, Sprout went on to join the military and served in the Navy. However, he went back to competitive shooting one more time.
In 1915, according to the Nov. 23 edition of the Pittston Gazette, Sprout was “awarded a gold medal as an expert team rifleman, the highest rank obtainable by a navy marksmen.”
It also confirmed that he was a hospital steward at the naval dispensary in Washington, D.C.
According to his burial records, Sprout achieved the rank of lieutenant junior grade and served in World War I.
At some point, he moved from Picture Rocks to Westfield, New Jersey, where he lived with his wife, Anna.
At the time of his death in 1945, he had two daughters, both of whom lived in Williamsport, and a son named Warren Sprout Jr. He also left behind seven grandchildren.
His remains were returned to Picture Rocks, where he was buried in the local cemetery.
When his wife Anna died in 1962, her obituary in the Jan. 10, 1962, edition of The Courier-News, of Bridgewater, New Jersey, stated that she joined him in the Picture Rocks Cemetery.
What was not mentioned in either obituary was Sprout’s medal wins in the 1912 Olympics. As to why that is, one could only speculate, but when it comes to interpreting history, it is possible one could miss the target.