|Patch, Sam, 1807-1829|
Sam Patch was born in North Reading, Massachusetts, one of six children produced by the stormy union of Samuel Greenleaf Patch and Abigail McIntire Patch.
Following several family moves to northeastern Massachusetts towns, the Patches arrived in the mill village of Pawtucket at the falls of the Blackstone in 1807. Shortly after their arrival Sam began work in Slater’s “White Mill,” where he rose to the coveted position of mule spinner–one of the first American-born workers to achieve this status. Sam’s fame, however, would be made not in the mill but at the falls outside it: he eventually leapt feet-first from the six-story “Stone Mill” into a deep hole called “the pot,”a descent of 100 feet.
In 1827 he moved to Paterson, New Jersey, where he became a boss mule spinner and leapt many times from the Clinton Bridge at Passaic Falls–a mere 70-foot drop. By 1829 Patch–now known as “The Yankee Leaper” and “the Great Sam Patch”–had become a showman, a celebrity, and one of America’s first sports heroes (if one can classify height jumping as a sporting event).
In October 1829 he conquered the drop next to Niagara Falls twice, but a month later he met his Waterloo at Genesee Falls in Rochester, New York. On November 6 he plunged 100 feet at the falls, but a week later, when he increased the height to 125 feet via a platform, Sam Patch jumped to his death.
(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley