The truth about ‘"Sam Patch"’--his last leap.
A correspondent of the Rochester (N. Y.) Democrat takes exception to a statement concerning the renowned Sam Patch which recently appeared in an English book, and gives the correct version of the story of that individual's last leap.
"Sam Patch's last leap occurred on the afternoon of the 15th of November, 1829, on a cold, cloudy, and dismal autumn day. The heavens, as if in keeping with the melancholy spectacle, were almost clothed in sack-cloth.
The sun refused to look upon the mournful tragedy.
But ten thousand human beings, more thoughtless, lined the banks of the river on both sides, perched also upon the mills and houses, and in trees, above and below the high banks, to cheer and encourage the poor drunken suicide in his self-immolation.
A scaffold was erected thirty feet high, on the island above the falls, as they then were, standing very near where the saw-mill upon the brow of the cataract now is. From that scaffold poor Sam dropped into the deep water, as it then was, below.
Ten thousand eager eyes watched him as he went like an arrow down against the dark ledge of rocks, a distance of one hundred and twenty- six feet. Ten thousand eager eyes gazed with breathless anxiety upon the spot where he fell, expecting to see him emerge from the water; as he had done most gracefully just one week before, after jumping from the precipice without the scaffold, a distance of 96 feet; boats were put out below and sailed around near the spot, ready to pick him up. Ten thousand people, like a great crowd of witnesses still lining the cliffs, still straining their eyes to catch the first glimpse of any dark speck on the waters, no one daring to move or draw a long breath, for near half an hour, until one by one they began to turn away and give him up, many with tearful eyes, many with words saddened and subdued upon their lips, 'Poor Sam — it was his last leap.
How winched?' And some were heard to say, 'How wicked to countenance a miserable man in such suicide!
If we had not been looking on, he would not have done it!'
"For two long hours, at least, until darkness stopped their work, eager men hunted all over and through the waters below the falls, to find the poor remains of the miserable victim of his own folly; but found them not.--Next day the search was renewed.
Indeed, it was kept up with more or less diligence for some time; and yet all in vain for that season.
Searching, fishing in the waters day after day, revealed nothing.
But the next spring the body was picked up by some unknown person near the mouth of the river, seven miles below, as it was floating out into the lake.
It had lain in the water all winter; had gone down over the lower falls also, and still was in such a state of preservation as to be readily identified.
It was taken up, and decently buried in a spot of ground near at hand."