Copyright Rochester Public Library Sam Patch, who lived from 1799 to 1829, was a famous daredevil initially known for leaping from the Passaic Falls in New Jersey. Later, he became known as the first known survivor of the Niagara Falls. Some time after that, he came to Rochester to jump from our 98-foot High Falls of the Genesee River1. He did successfully, once. It was his second jump, however, that secured his name in local history. He jumped November 13th, 1829. It was a Friday. His body was found in Charlotte on St. Patrick's day of the following year (according to legend). 8,000 had gathered to watch on the day of his final jump 2. The Federal census record for the following year lists Rochester's population as 9,207 total.
His care-worn features, wild and fever-tinged
Bespoke a soul ambition's fire had singed.3
He traveled with a pet bear on a chain and a fox on a rope. Sam Patch could take any of you in a fight, without even trying. Allegedly, these were his final words:
"Napoleon was a great man and a great general. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn't jump the Genesee Falls. Wellington was a great man and a great soldier. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn't jump the Genesee Falls. That was left for me to do, and I can do it, and will."
And jump he did.
Information on and from the Sam Patch book by Paul E. Johnson
High Falls, Brown's Race, photos and description on the commercial website nyfalls.com
Sam Patch on Wikipedia.
Today, a tourism boat in Pittsford is named after Sam Patch.
- 1In all fairness, he pretty much just came here to drink whatever his fame would afford him, and then unfortunately met his fate in the process of trying to extend his credit.
- 2Congregations were chastised for contributing to his death, encouraging his leap, and in turn murdering Sam Patch
- 3Excerpt from: "The Great Descender" by Flaccus. In response to this poem Edgard Allan Poe described Flaccus as: "The very worst of all the wretched poets that ever existed on the earth."