One of the United States’ first daredevils, Sam Patch was born in Rhode Island in 1799. In his early 20s, Patch moved to New Jersey, where he found work primarily in mills. He would entertain the other workers by doing daring jumps into the rivers.
As his notoriety grew, Patch became known for jumping from bridges, buildings, and even ship masts. He was most well known for jumping waterfalls. Sam Patch was the first man to jump Niagara Falls unprotected in 1829. Later that year, on November 13, 1829 he jumped the 92-foot-tall falls of the Genesee River in Rochester, New York. It is unknown if he tripped on the platform and entered the river below the falls not in his usual feet-first entry. He did not resurface.
Patch’s frozen body was later found in the Genesee River during the spring thaw of 1830. It was then noted that he had dislocated both shoulders, thus making him unable to swim. He was interred in the Charlotte Cemetery in a pauper’s grave bearing a wooden marker marked with “Here lies Sam Patch — Such is Fame.” This marker was replaced in the mid-20th century by the students at Charlotte High School, who raised the funds to place a proper gravestone.