The strange story of the ‘Jersey Jumper’
Have you ever heard of Sam Patch, better known as the “Jersey Jumper?” I hadn’t until I saw this article on Only in Your State.
According to Only In Your State, he is considered America’s first daredevil.
He was born in 1807 and moved to New Jersey as a young man where he took a job at a mill in Paterson. He would entertain his friends by jumping off high spots, all the while garnering more attention.
His first jump that was covered by the newspapers was at the Great Falls in Paterson, jumping off a covered bridge that was being built. The accounts of the day had him “dodging town constables” to make it to the precipice of the falls before leaping 70 feet into the water below. His feat proved to be so popular that he repeated it at least two other times.
He then moved on to an even higher leap, jumping off a 100 foot platform on a ship’s mast in Hoboken into the Hudson in front of a reported 500 spectators. The press began calling him “Patch, the Jersey Jumper” as his fame grew; he even had his own slogan, “some things can be done as well as others.”
To follow that up, he then successfully jumped at Niagara Falls from 125 feet in front of a crowd reported to be 10,000 strong that held their breath as he disappeared into the water. The crowd cheered when his head appeared and he was whisked by boat to the shore safely.
In November of 1829, Sam made his last jump. Like many daredevils, he did not live to a very old age. It was his second jump at the Genesee River from a 125 foot platform and it did not go well: “But this time the descent lacked its usual arrowy precision. One third of the way down. Sam’s body began to droop, his arms parted from his sides, he lost command of his body, and he struck the water obliquely with arms and legs extended.” The crowd watched in horror, waiting for Sam to appear from underneath the water, but he didn’t. The river was dragged with still no sign of Sam Patch; his body was not recovered until the following March in the frozen river.
There were some who believed the final jump was a hoax and that Sam Patch lived on, but he is buried in the Charlotte Cemetery in Rochester, NY. The “Jersey Jumper” died at 22.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.