Lovers' Leaps

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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