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Lovers' Leaps


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

So few States in this country--and so few countries, if it comes to
that--are without a lover's leap that the very name has come to be a
by-word. In most of these places the disappointed ones seem to have gone
to elaborate and unusual pains to commit suicide, neglecting many easy
and equally appropriate methods. But while in some cases the legend has
been made to fit the place, there is no doubt that in many instances the
story antedated the arrival of the white men. The best known lovers'
leaps are those on the upper Mississippi, on the French Broad, Jump
Mountain, in Virginia, Jenny Jump Mountain, New Jersey, Mackinac,
Michigan, Monument Mountain, Massachusetts, on the Wissahickon, near
Philadelphia, Muscatine, Iowa, and Lefferts Height. There are many other
declivities,--also, that are scenes of leaps and adventures, such as the
Fawn's Leap, in Kaaterskill Clove; Rogers's Rock, on Lake George; the
rocks in Long Narrows, on the Juniata, where the ghost of Captain Jack,
the wild hunter of colonial days, still ranges; Campbell's Ledge,
Pittston, Pennsylvania, where its name-giver jumped off to escape
Indians; and Peabody's leap, of thirty feet, on Lake Champlain, where Tim
Peabody, a scout, escaped after killing a number of savages.

At Jump Mountain, near Lexington, Virginia, an Indian couple sprang off
because there were insuperable bars to their marriage.

At the rock on the Wissahickon a girl sought death because her lover was
untrue to her.

At Muscatine the cause of a maid's demise and that of her lover was the
severity of her father, who forbade the match because there was no war in
which the young man could prove his courage.

At Lefferts Height a girl stopped her recreant lover as he was on his way
to see her rival, and urging his horse to the edge of the bluff she
leaped with him into the air.

Monument Mountain, a picturesque height in the Berkshires, is faced on
its western side by a tall precipice, from which a girl flung herself
because the laws of her tribe forbade her marriage with a cousin to whom
she had plighted troth. She was buried where her body was found, and each
Indian as he passed the spot laid a stone on her grave--thus, in time,
forming a monument.

Purgatory, the chasm at Newport, Rhode Island, through which the sea
booms loudly after a storm, was a scene of self-sacrifice to a hopeless
love on the part of an Indian pair in a later century, though there is an
older tradition of the seizure of a guilty squaw, by no less a person
than the devil himself, who flung her from the cliff and dragged her soul
away as it left her body. His hoof-marks were formerly visible on the

At Hot Springs, North Carolina, two conspicuous cliffs are pointed out on
the right bank of the French Broad River: Paint Rock--where the
aborigines used to get ochre to smear their faces, and which they
decorated with hieroglyphics--and Lover's Leap. It is claimed that the
latter is the first in this country known to bear this sentimental and
tragically suggestive title. There are two traditions concerning it, one
being that an Indian girl was discovered at its top by hostiles who drove
her into the gulf below, the other relating to the wish of an Indian to
marry a girl of a tribe with which his own had been immemorially at war.
The match was opposed on both sides, so, instead of doing as most Indians
and some white men would do nowadays--marry the girl and let
reconciliation come in time,--he scaled the rock in her company and
leaped with her into the stream. They awoke as man and wife in the happy

In 1700 there lived in the village of Keoxa, below Frontenac, Minnesota,
on the Mississippi River, a Dakota girl named Winona (the First Born),
who was loved by a hunter in her tribe, and loved him in return. Her
friends commended to her affections a young chief who had valiantly
defended the village against an attack of hostiles, but Juliet would none
of this dusky Count de Paris, adhering faithfully to her Romeo. Unable to
move her by argument, her family at length drove her lover away, and used
other harsh measures to force her into a repugnant union, but she
replied, You are driving me to despair. I do not love this chief, and
cannot live with him. You are my father, my brothers, my relatives, yet
you drive from me the only man with whom I wish to be united. Alone he
ranges through the forest, with no one to build his lodge, none to spread
his blanket, none to wait on him. Soon you will have neither daughter,
sister, nor relative to torment with false professions. Blazing with
anger at this unsubmissive speech, her father declared that she should
marry the chief on that very day, but while the festival was in
preparation she stole to the top of the crag that has since been known as
Maiden's Rock, and there, four hundred feet above the heads of the
people, upbraided those who had formerly professed regard for her. Then
she began her death-song. Some of the men tried to scale the cliff and
avert the tragedy that it was evident would shortly be enacted, and her
father, his displeasure forgotten in an agony of apprehension, called to
her that he would no longer oppose her choice. She gave no heed to their
appeals, but, when the song was finished, walked to the edge of the rock,
leaped out, and rolled lifeless at the feet of her people.

When we say that the real name of Lover's Leap in Mackinac is
Mechenemockenungoqua, we trust that it will not be repeated. It has its
legend, however, as well as its name, for an Ojibway girl stood on this
spire of rock, watching for her lover after a battle had been fought and
her people were returning. Eagerly she scanned the faces of the braves as
their war-canoes swept by, but the face she looked for was not among
them. Her lover was at that moment tied to a tree, with an arrow in his
heart. As she looked at the boats a vision of his fate revealed itself,
and the dead man, floating toward her, beckoned. Her death-song sounded
in the ears of the men, but before they could reach her she had gone
swiftly to the verge, her hands extended, her eyes on vacancy, and her
spirit had met her lover's.

From this very rock, in olden time, leaped the red Eve when the red Adam
had been driven away by a devil who had fallen in love with her. Adam,
who was paddling by the shore, saw she was about to fall, rushed forward,
caught her, and saved her life. The law of gravitation in those days did
not act with such distressing promptitude as now. Manitou, hearing of
these doings, restored them to the island and banished the devil, who
fell to a world of evil spirits underground, where he became the father
of the white race, and has ever since persecuted the Indians by proxy.

On the same island of Mackinac the English had a fort, the garrison of
which was massacred in 1763. A sole survivor--a young officer named
Robinson--owed his life to a pretty half-breed who gave him hiding in a
secluded wigwam. As the spot assured him of safety, and the girl was his
only companion, they lived together as man and wife, rather happily, for
several years. When the fort had been built again, Robinson re-entered
the service, and appeared at head-quarters with a wife of his own color.
His Indian consort showed no jealousy. On the contrary, she consented to
live apart in a little house belonging to the station, on the cliff,
called Robinson's Folly. She did ask her lover to go there and sit with
her for an hour before they separated forever, and he granted this
request. While they stood at the edge of the rock she embraced him; then,
stepping back, with her arms still around his neck, she fell from the
cliff, dragging him with her, and both were killed. The edge of the rock
fell shortly after, carrying the house with it.

Matiwana, daughter of the chief of the Omahas, whose village was near the
mouth of Omaha Creek, married a faithless trader from St. Louis, who had
one wife already, and who returned to her, after an absence among his own
people, with a third, a woman of his own color. He coldly repelled the
Indian woman, though he promised to send her boy--and his--to the
settlements to be educated. She turned away with only a look, and a few
days later was found dead at the foot of a bluff near her home.

White Rocks, one hundred and fifty feet above Cheat River, in Fayette
County, Pennsylvania, were the favorite tryst of a handsome girl, the
daughter of a well-to-do farmer of that region, and a dashing fellow who
had gone into that country to hunt. They had many happy days there on the
hill together, but after making arrangements for the wedding they
quarrelled, nobody knew for what. One evening they met by accident on the
rocks, and appeared to be in formal talk when night came on and they
could no longer be seen. The girl did not return, and her father set off
with a search party to look for her. They found her, dead and mangled, at
the foot of the rocks. Her lover, in a fit of impatience, had pushed her
and she had staggered and fallen over. He fled at once, and, under a
changed name and changed appearance, eluded pursuit. When the War of the
Rebellion broke out, he entered the army and fought recklessly, for by
that time he had tired of life and hoped to die. But it was of no use. He
was only made captain for a bravery that he was not conscious of showing,
and the old remorse still preyed on him. It was after the war that
something took him back to Fayette County, and on a pleasant day he
climbed the rocks to take a last look at the scenes that had been
brightened by love and saddened by regret. He had not been long on its
summit when an irresistible impulse came upon him to leap down where the
girl had fallen, and atone with his own blood for the shedding of hers.
He gave way to this prompting, and the fall was fatal.

Some years before the outbreak of the Civil War a man with his wife and
daughter took up their residence in a log cabin at the foot of Sunrise
Rock, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It seemed probable that they had known
better days, for the head of the household was notoriously useless in the
eyes of his neighbors, and was believed to get his living through
writin' or book-larnin', but he was so quiet and gentle that they never
upbraided him, and would sometimes, after making a call, wander into his
garden and casually weed it for him for an hour or so. The girl, Stella,
was a well-schooled, quick-witted, rosy-cheeked lass, whom all the
shaggy, big-jointed farmer lads of the neighborhood regarded with
hopeless admiration. A year or two after the settlement of the family it
began to be noticed that she was losing color and had an anxious look,
and when a friendly old farmer saw her talking in the lane with a lawyer
from Chattanooga, who wore broadcloth and had a gold watch, he was
puzzled that the city chap did not go home with her, but kissed his
hand to her as he turned away. Afterward the farmer met the pair again,
and while the girl smiled and said, Howdy, Uncle Joe? the lawyer turned
away and looked down the river. It was the last time that a smile was
seen on Stella's face. A few evenings later she was seen standing on
Sunrise Rock, with her look bent on Chattanooga. The shadow of night
crept up the cliff until only her figure stood in sunlight, with her hair
like a golden halo about her face. At that moment came on the wind the
sound of bells-wedding-bells. Pressing her hands to her ears, the girl
walked to the edge of the rock, and a few seconds later her lifeless form
rolled through the bushes at its foot into the road. At her funeral the
people came from far and near to offer sympathy to the mother, garbed in
black, and the father, with his hair turned white, but the lawyer from
Chattanooga was not there.

The name of Indian Maiden's Cliff--applied to a precipice that hangs
above the wild ravine of Stony Clove, in the Catskills--commemorates the
sequel to an elopement from her tribe of an Indian girl and her lover.
The parents and relatives had opposed the match with that fatal fatuity
that appears to be characteristic of story-book Indians, and as soon as
word of her flight came to the village they set off in chase. While
hurrying through the tangled wood the young couple were separated and the
girl found herself on the edge of the cliff. Farther advance was
impossible. Her pursuers were close behind. She must yield or die. She
chose not to yield, and, with a despairing cry, flung herself into the

Similar to this is the tale of Lover's Leap in the dells of the Sioux,
among the Black Hills of South Dakota.

At New Milford, Connecticut, they show you Falls Mountain, with the cairn
erected by his tribe in 1735 to chief Waramaug, who wished to be buried
there, so that, when he was cold and lonely in the other life, he could
return to his body and muse on the lovely landscape that he so enjoyed.
The will-o'-the-wisp flickered on the mountain's edge at night, and
flecks of dew-vapor that floated from the wood by day were sometimes
thought to be the spirit of the chief. He had a daughter, Lillinonah,
whose story is related to Lover's Leap, on the riverward side of the
mountain. She had led to the camp a white man, who had been wandering
beside the Housatonic, ill and weak, vainly seeking a way out of the
wilderness, and, in spite of the dark looks that were cast at him and
her, she succeeded in making him, for that summer, a member of the tribe.
As the man grew strong with her care he grew happy and he fell in love.
In the autumn he said to her, I wish to see my people, and when I have
done so I will come back to you and we shall be man and wife. They
parted regretfully and the winter passed for the girl on leaden feet.
With spring came hope. The trails were open, and daily she watched for
her white lover. The summer came and went, and the autumn was there
again. She had grown pale and sad, and old Waramaug said to young Eagle
Feather, who had looked softly on her for many years, The girl sickens
in loneliness. You shall wed her. This is repeated to her, and that
evening she slips away to the river, enters a canoe, casts away the
paddle, and drifts down the stream. Slowly, at first, but faster and
faster, as the rapids begin to draw it, skims the boat, but above the
hoarse brawling of the waters she hears a song in a voice that she
knows--the merry troll of a light heart. The branches part at Lover's
Leap and her lover looks down upon her. The joyous glance of recognition
changes to a look of horror, for the boat is caught. The girl rises and
holds her arms toward him in agonized appeal. Life, at any cost! He, with
a cry, leaps into the flood as the canoe is passing. It lurches against a
rock and Lillinonah is thrown out. He reaches her. The falls bellow in
their ears. They take a last embrace, and two lives go out in the growing

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