With some account of Sam Patch's last step


One the morning of the day Sam agreed to jump down the perpendicular rock of the Genesee Falls (exactly where Galt makes Hoskin's "Skow" topple over, himself and Todd clinging to the branch) there was not a hotel bar in all the town but witnessed a double activity in the serving out of julep, sling, toddy and negus; great was the coil of betting and disputing whether he would do it or not. The rock is certainly 90 to 100 feet high. and at this spot, between the greater and lesser branch of the cataract, it is covered with a green carpet, and shadowed almost to the verge by very picturesque and pretty trees; the few left of the identical old foresters of "Zerubables" days of exploration. On this very verge the knowing ones had erected a scaffolding of at least 20 high, as Sam said a few feet more or less in the leap down was "no odds." Sam was poor and couldn't muster many dollars to risk on his own head; but a few he did muster - borrowed, for all his own had long made part of the pelt of the various tavern-keepers all along that line, from the Great Mohawk Falls to the big Niagara; in short, Sam was given to drinking, and led a sort of vagabond life, such as one may well imagine a young fellow would fall into, who got his living thru the summer, by diving into the various gulfs and rapids for the amusement of the fun-hunting ladies and gemmen of the various parts of the Union. I mentioned in my last Sam's greatest feat was jumping off a scaffolding just below Goat Island/ at Niagara, some 120 feet into the foaming eddy below. The summer before (1829) Sam, had he stuck to his axe and plough, was to have married a neighbor's daughter; and on this day he had some conversation with his brother about it. Giving him a nudge at the bar. Giving him a nudge at the bar, they walked out under the stoop (piazza) to say a word or two in the case; Sam felt queasy; he was out of order; he was not so sanguine as he always had been. To remedy this, he had already drank so many drams among those who backed him, that he was by this time in a staggering condition, and his brother, who appears to have been more considerate, begged him to forfeit, as he was in no condition to jump that day; but that ambition which sways us just as much in little as great things, to evil or to good, made this ill-fated obstinate as a mule; jump he would, and after giving his watch to his brother, to hold, or to keep if he should rise no more, back they went to the bar; and just then the grand procession of all the town, man, woman and child, headed by the more noisy "fancy" of the place, took their way, cheering as they went along, down to the place. It created a sort of mixed sensation, between a horserace and an execution ! for the leap if he did take it (which many at the moment doubted) was the most ugly he had yet adventured.

They saw poor Sam was very drunk; but like all drunken men in moments of great excitement, he staggered less and walked down with his brother, in the midst of all the hubbub, in the very spirit of bravado. At the foot of the scaffolding he stripped off his clothes: and tying a handkerchief around his waist, clambered up and stood a moment on the upper scantling, thwart which fumed the raging gulf below. And now was all hushed in breathless anxiety! His brother to the last held him by the hand and urged him not, but he would not be advised. Waving his hand as a signal to look out, he sprang off feet foremost as he always went, and as is best in leaps of this kind - the feet close together, and arms by the sides - head erect. As he descended those who were on the left bank close to the many mill-races, said he appeared bent up; and so gave him over at once - for falling on the waters below from such a height must have been like falling on solid rock, striking with any flat surface of the body, and so it turned out; he was never seen again; indeed if I mistake not; was never found at all, though they had several boats below the falls waiting to pick him up in the nearest circling eddy. The fact was the leap was too hazardous, he had drank himself out of that steady coolness fit for such danger, and losing that upright position as he went down, was quite enough to kill him. I have never heard the mood the betting people went home in; doubtless it was various, - those who won might feel as our sporting men do who win, though the losing jockey very possibly has broke his neck, which is not their business. So ended Sam Patch! Most of the taverns and canal -boats have a picture of him in his last act.

The Sam Patch section ends here.