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WARREN COUNTY’S OLYMPIC GOLD
by John Zimkus, WCHS Historian/Education Director
Warren County, Ohio made it's first mark in Olympics history with three gold medals in the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. The Modern day Olympics were eight years old at the time, and this was only the third time the revised international competition was held. The winner of the gold medals was Matilda Howell. Her sport was archery.
Matilda Flora Scott was born on August 28, 1859, in Lebanon, Ohio. Called Lida by her family, she was the only daughter of Thomas and Amelia Scott. Her father was a merchant who grew up in Union Township, where his father had a successful wagon making business. Lida's mother was a member of the locally prominent Sausser family who were mostly merchants in Lebanon. Lida attended the Lebanon Union School, where Pleasant Square Park is today. By 1880, her family had move to Cincinnati.
Lida became interested in archery around 1878 as a result of her reading a compilation of witty essays called The Witchery of Archery by Indiana-born poet, essayist, naturalist and archer, Maurice Thompson.
It did not take Lida long to become extraordinarily proficient in archery. She won the Ohio State Archery Championship in 1881 and 1882. Also getting very involved in competitive archery at this time was her father, Thomas Scott.
In the spring of 1883, Lida married Millard Cecil Howell a Norwood Ohio native. By trade he was a coffee broker. Together they would have three children. Millard Howell was also a competitive archer.
It has been said that Lida Scott Howell “had one of the most incredible records ever to be recorded in archery (or for that matter in any other sport.)” Between 1883 and 1907, Lida shot in 20 National Championships, winning 17 of them. Her scores in the 1895 championship set records which were not broken until 1931 – 36 years later.
Lida and Millard, won the National Archery Association's National Championships in 1899, the only time in the history of the association that husband and wife won both titles in the same year.
Out of the nearly 100 sports at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis Missouri, archery was the only event in which women were allowed to compete. The competition took place on September 19 and 20 and involved six contestants, five of whom were part of Ohio’s
Cincinnati Archers Club. Lida Howell, at 45 years of age, was the nation’s undisputed top lady archer, and coasted to the gold medal in both the Double Columbia and Double National rounds. She also received a gold medal as part of the winning United States archery team.
Also competing in the St. Louis Olympics in archery was her father, Thomas Foster Scott. He competed in the men's double American round and the men's double York round, but did not medal. He was 71 years and 260 days at the time, making him the oldest person known to compete in an archery event at the Olympics. Born in 1833, Scott was also the 3rd-born known Olympian of the modern era, and the 1st-born known US Olympian.
Lida Scott Howell retired from national competition in 1907. She died on December 20, 1938, and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. Lida was inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame & Museum in 1975.
In 1904 a reporter from the Cincinnati Times Star interviewed Lida Howell. When asked why she preferred archery over other sports, she replied, "Archery is a picturesque game, the range with its smooth green and distant glowing target with its gold and radiating red, blue, black, and white, the white-garbed players, with graceful big bows and flying arrows, makes a beautiful picture.”
Adding to that beauty, no doubt, would be the privilege of watching the grace, form and extraordinary skill of an Olympic Champion archer like Warren County’s Lida Scott Howell.
Various staff and volunteer writers.