It was 185 years ago on October 7th that a 22-year old named Sam Patch from Pawtucket, Rhode Island jumped 85 feet into the lower Niagara River from a platform built on the edge of Goat Island in Niagara Falls N.Y. to become Niagara’s first daredevil.
Patch wore a black vest and white trousers to make his plunge feet first into the abyss below. He sank into the water like a rock. For a time a breathless silence hung over the crowd and finally to everyone’s relief bobbed to the surface and he waved to the crowd.
Patch went on to make another even higher jump, 130 feet, into the Niagara River on October 17th. He once again defied all odds and miraculously survived. He swam to the shoreline amid cheers and a storm of people waving white handkerchiefs.
He wasn’t so lucky when he performed a similar higher jump, 125 feet, into Genesee Falls, near Rochester, N.Y. on Friday November the 13th, 1829. He had billed it as his last jump and in front of a crowd of 12,000 it turned out to be just that. This time he didn’t surface. The jump had killed him.
To learn more about Sam Patch’s exploits pick up the excellent Niagara book, “Niagara-Daredevils, Danger and Extraordinary Stories” by Maria DaSilva and Andrew Hind.