A Leader Of Our Past, Remembered
By Dave Loucks

The NHPA has had many notable names entered into its Hall of Fame but for many pitchers, that have been around forty or more years and still remember, no individual had a greater impact on our sport than the late Archibald L. Stokes. From a letter in his own hand, let me share with you an interesting life story written 40 years ago for his granddaughter's genealogy class.

Arch Stokes was born July 24, 1886 in Draper, Utah, the son of Thomas Stokes and Ellen S. Canfield Stokes. The family owned an 80 acre farm in the southern section of town where Arch was raised with six brothers and sisters. The family, devout members of the LDS church, all worked on the farm when not in school.

Arch started his schooling at age 6 in a one room school house that taught grades 1-5. Each grade would get a turn each day in front row seats where it would be taught the subject for that period. Once you returned to your regular seat in back, learning became tough, as you had to try and concentrate on your grade subject while the next class in the front row was reciting their subject. Arch mentions that many students didn't do well in this environment but if you slacked off or got out of hand, the teacher had access to a hickory stick that helped bring you back to your studies.

After finishing the 5th grade, Arch went to the Central school where grades 6-8 were taught. When he graduated from 8th grade, he started study at the University of Utah as at the time there were no high schools in the area.

In January 1906, Arch left for an LDS Mission in England, returning home in February 1908. It was shortly thereafter that he married Mary L. Heward, who was the Draper postmaster. During the next four years, working with his wife in the Post Office, Arch and Mary Stokes has three children.

In June 1916, they moved to Burley, Idaho, where Arch had purchased a farm. Things went well for awhile until drought and depression took hold of the area. The Stokes managed to trade the equity in the farm for a home in Burley where Arch went to work in the Sheriff's office to make ends meet. In 1923, he returned to postal service work in Burley where he remained some four years before transferring to the Salt Lake City Post Office in 1927. During their time in the Burley area, five more Stokes children were born and another followed shortly after their move to Salt Lake City.

Arch Stokes enjoyed playing baseball, which was his main recreation as a young man. As time, age and family responsibilities began to increase, Arch started to pitch horseshoes and it was about 1940 that he joined the Salt Lake County Horseshoe Pitching Association. He helped promote new clubs in several nearby cities and was instrumental in getting his city to improve their courts and build a clubhouse. For 8 years, Arch served as president of the Utah State Association.

In 1946, Arch was on the Utah Centennial Committee and went to Des Moines, Iowa, where he bid for the 1947 NHPA World Tournament. The bid was successful and upon returning home, Arch set out to plan and supervise the building of new courts with lights in Murray Park. It was the first national tournament held under lights, which were installed by Utah Power and Light. The conditions and lighting were ideal as contestants at the 1947 event shattered many long standing pitching records.

Arch Stokes was elected 1st Vice President of the NHPA in 1947, the first person from Utah to hold a national office with the association. The World Tournament went to Milwaukee in 1948 but returned to Murray in 1949 where it stayed for 11 consecutive years before moving to Muncie, IN in 1960. During those years that the tournament was in Murray, Arch Stokes was elected NHPA President, not once, but twice - the only person to be so honored. He was first elected in 1951 and served two years, 1952 and ’53. In 1955 he was again elected and served in office in 1956 and ’57.

Arch Stokes passed away in October 1957. In 1958, Mary Stokes and her children started what has been become known as the “Stokes Memorial Award.” It is an award given annually to the person who has contributed the most during recent years to promote, foster and build the sport of horseshoe pitching. It is worth mentioning that this award preceded the start of the NHPA Hall of Fame awards by eight years. It was not until 1966 that the NHPA inducted the first seven charter members to the Hall of Fame, among them the name of Arch Stokes. Initially, the Stokes Award came from the Stokes family, but as it became difficult for Mary Stokes to travel, the NHPA took over the responsibility of selecting and presenting the award.