Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Today is October 24, 2014 and it was this day in history that a woman named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Annie Edson Taylor was born in Auburn New York and her father owned a flour company. Her father had died when she was just 12 years old but her family was live comfortably because of the money he left from the flour business.
When she became an adult, Taylor took a four year training course to become a school teacher and she had received an honors degree. She had met a man during her training course and they eventually married. They had a son together but he died in infancy and her husband died shortly thereafter when he was killed during the Civil War. Being a widower, she traveled and worked at odd jobs to make ends meet. One of her travels took her to Bay City, Michigan where she opened a dance school. She had gone to to Bay City in hopes of being a dance instructor but when she found there was no school for it, she opened her own.
She traveled from Bay City, Michigan to the Upper Peninsula in a town called Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced soo saint marie) and then all the way south to Mexico City and eventually back to Bay City Michigan. She taught wherever she went but never found the spot to make a career and earn a good living. One day while on a boat ride on the Niagara River, she got the idea to go over the falls in a barrel and thought she could become wealthy from doing that. She had hired a manager to promote the event and had a special barrel made from a pickle barrel with padding in it. It was her 63rd birthday when she attempted this feat. There had been other daredevils before her who did things like walk a tightrope across the falls and some even barreled around in the rapids below the falls but no one ever took the plunge all the way down and she wanted to be the first in hopes that this would garner her money and fame.
Thousands of people gathered around to watch this daredevil at the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the Falls. She went over and when the barrel was eventually opened up, Annie Edson Taylor came out with a gash on her forehead and some bruises but she was alive. She didn't make a lot of money from the event and the money she had made was embezzled by her manager so she was poor again. In a newspaper interview, Annie told people not to attempt that feat as it was very dangerous and she would never do it again, however thrill seekers over the years had made the attempt in barrels, boats, inner tubes and even most recently on a jet ski. Most of the people attempting this feat had died but other survived and some of the survivors did it a second time. Now there is a 25,000 dollar fine levied against anyone trying to go over the falls on purpose.
Annie Edson Taylor died in 1921 at the age of 89 and she died broke and her name never became the household name she wanted but she did go down in history as the first erson and the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.