Stories and Legends

Tightrope walkers and other daredevils have risked great danger atop the chasm.  Even today there are those who take certain risks just to say, “I did that.” 

While Ausable Chasm does not condone risky endeavors, we find many of these incidents have become a part of our history nonetheless.

As the High Bridge was being built in 1793, it was discovered that oxen stood on one side of the river, ready to haul the huge timbers, but the ox yoke was on the other side. Since only one of the stringers (support beams) had yet been laid across the 30-foot gorge, Samuel Jackson threw the yoke across his broad shoulders and “tight-roped” the chasm to the other side.

In 1820, when High Bridge was in ruin, Stephen Stearn sallied across the last remaining stringer of the bridge in his stocking feet, holding a boot in each hand for balance. In the 1890’s more than one boy was said, on a dare, to ride his bicycle across the railroad trestle.

About where the wheel house of the AuSable Horsenail Company once stood, near the present Chasm entrance, was once a projecting rock.  Some boys, attempting to weigh the overhang till it collapsed, were carrying stones out to the edge. When Jim Hall delivered his load, the ledge did indeed collapse, carrying Jim along with it 110 feet to the waters below.  Luckily, Jim suffered only bruised limbs and ego.  Stoddard – 1870.

About 1870, a mammoth log served as a bridge to Table Rock from the opposite bank.  The upper side had been hewed flat but had become slippery with moisture.  It was a fine summer day and the Rev John Dyer, a young Episcopalian minister, was enjoying an outing with his sweetheart, Jennie Smith.  As John stepped out on the log bridge and reached back to take Jennie’s hand he lost his balance and plunged into the boiling waters below.  His horrified sweetheart watched him disappear beneath the water, never to return.  Local legend offers the classic storybook ending that Jennie stayed on at the Chasm until she pined away and died of a broken heart.

When voting time comes around, an old story about Ausable Chasm is brought to mind.  It appeared in the Readers Digest awhile back.  A farmer was asked who he was going to vote for and he scratched his head, saying he really didn’t know.   But he had seen a lot of bumper stickers and he kinda liked that guy Ausable Chasm. 

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