Daily Sun photo/Michael Kormos The Corsicana Hebrew Cemetery includes the
grave on an anonymous 'Rope Walker' who in
1884 fatally fell from a tightrope, leading to a search for his identity
which gripped the community
Rope Walker -
The Short Version
In the late 1890s a one-legged tight-wire walker was performing
his act in downtown Corsicana as a promotion to bring people to town. He would walk
a rope stretched across Beaton street from the tops of two buildings. The rope
walker carried a cast iron stove on his back to add to the trick. On July 28, 1898,
the 69 year old man, who claimed to have been born in Princeton, New Jersey on February 6,
1829, was performing his tight rope performance when the rope sagged excessively and he
fell while halfway across Beaton
Street. Mortally injured, the man called for a
rabbi. There were none to be found but a Jewish merchant prayed with him in
Hebrew. The dying man stated his date and place of birth but no cone could remember
if he have his name and he was never identified. He was buried in the Hebrew
Cemetery in Corsicana. His headstone simply reads "ROPE WALKER"
The Rope Walker News
articles are posted below by Published Date
IDENTITY OF “ROPE WALKER” KILLED HERE 52 YEARS AGO REMAINS UNSOLVED MYSTERY
JOHN SAM HASLAM
On a little lichen and moss covered marble tombstone in the Hebrew cemetery
here are two simple words—“Rope Walker.”
There is no other information—no identity of the person buried under that
brick surrounded mound—no date of that person’s birth,--or even death.
Down on Commerce street, in the safe of the Goldsmith Brothers dry goods
store is a somewhat ancient volume of Hebrew burial records, an on the
yellowed pages of this book is the only clue to the identity of that person:
“___________Fell from Trapeze—1884.”
The space allotted to names is bland, and the succinct statement of how he
met his end is contained in the next space, and is followed by the year. The
records now are kept by Ben Goldsmith secretary of the Hebrew Cemetery
Association, but at that time by Max London.
Late Monday afternoon more than a dozen persons were visited and interviewed
before the following story could be pieced out:
Happened 52 Years Ago.
One afternoon 52 years ago, after children had been dismissed from Capt. J.
A. Townsend’s school, a rope had been stretched from the roof of an old
frame building which later was the site of the First State bank building, to
a similarly constructed building now housing the Louis Hashop Confectionery.
In the firs named building was Bernard Simon’s grocery store, while the
present Hashop location was the “Blue Front” drug store, operated by one Dr.
Tied from roof-top to roof-top the rope was about 20 feet from the ground,
and ranged “catty-cornered’ across Beaton street and Fifth avenue.
At that time in Corsicana the opportunity of seeing a daredevil walk a tight
rope was a carnival occasion, and practically everybody in town had come
from near and far over the dusty, unpaved streets and board sidewalks to see
As eyes were focused on the Simon building, a medium-sized man appearing to
be about 40 years of age, climbed to the roof; fastened a wood-stove on his
back, to begin his perilous trip across the rope.
To the surprise of the villagers, the man had but one leg, the other being a
wooden limb. The bottom end of the false leg was notched to fit the rope.
Fell To Ground.
As the rope-walker reached the middle of the street intersection, sliding
his notched wooden leg along the rope and cautiously pulling the other
after, he became overbalanced and fell to the ground landing on his
frontsides, with the stove crushing on top of his body.
Women and children screamed and fainted. Some of the older men surged
forward in a body to where the man had fallen. Some fathers and brothers
took their daughters and sisters inside nearby stores “for protection” and
then joined the other men to give what assistance they could.
The man was taken to the Molloy hotel, around the corner, where Dr. Gulick
was summoned and performed what first aid treatment was available at that
The broken man told some of the bedside attendants that he was a member of a
Methodist church, and asked for a minister of that denomination. Rev. Abe
Mulkey came and talked for some time to the man.
Later in the evening, Dr. Gulick reported the man was dying, and wanted to
talk to “a Jew man.” Mr. Simon, owner of one of the stores, was summoned,
and with the dying man, repeated the Jewish prayers in Hebrew.
The rope-walker told Mr. Simon that he had been “joking” when he said he was
a Methodist, but really was and Orthodox Jew, which was proven to Mr.
Simon’s satisfaction when he repeated his prayers in Hebrew. During his
several interviews he refused to divulge his name or residence, or any
information concerning his identy.
The broken body was laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery here through the
benevolence of a number of Corsicana Hebrews.
Not a word was ever learned of the man’s identity, and it was some time
later before the little marble tombstone was put at the head of the grave,
which now may be seen near the Third avenue entrance to the cemetery.
Most of the details of this story were related by Miss Rachel Mae London,
316 West Sixth avenue, daughter of the late Max London, the record keeper,
who as a girl was an eye-witness to the tragedy.
The Corsicana Daily Sun - Tuesday, February 25, 1936 - Submitted by Diane
The Dallas Morning News - July 20, 1958
The Dallas Morning News - February 26, 1968
The Dallas Morning News - May 18, 1968
The Dallas Morning News - August 7, 1973
Mystery of rope walker who fell to his death finally solved
Mystery stories have always seemed
to catch the eye of listeners and readers. For both Corsicana and Navarro
County residents who have heard the many different stories about the famous
Beaton Street rope walker and the bitter elephant
Black Diamond, mystery still remains a
Many questions can be asked about
the Peg-legged Rope Walker and his feeble attempts to tight rope walk across
Beaton Street in downtown Corsicana with a stove strapped across his
Through the years, many stories
about Rope Walker have been told. One story says that in 1884 a stranger
arrived in town, stretched a wire across Beaton Street from the southeast
corner of Collins Street to the opposite northwest corner of the street. The
most unusual part about the wire walker was the fact he had a wooden leg.
The man then attempted to cross the
wire on his one good leg and the wood peg-leg with a cook stove tied on his
The rope walker used a long bar in
his hand to help balance himself, but as he made it just halfway across the
wire, he lost his balance and fell to the street.
Of course, the heave weight of the
stove badly crushed the man. He was immediately picked up and carried
to a nearby hotel where Dr. J. T. Gluick, a pioneer physician tended to him.
When the rope walker first fell, he had stated he was Methodist and would
like to see a preacher, so Abe Mulkey, a famous evangelist was called upon
to pray for him.
When Rope Walker was asked his name,
he turned his head and did not answer. He was asked once again about his
relatives and home and again he did not answer. Finally, the man realized he
was dying and looked around and then to the doctor and said, "Doc, I wish to
talk with a Jew. I am a dying Jew."
The startled Protestants withdrew
from the hotel room and they rejoined the crowds on the street. Soon, the
strange story spread around town that this man who had denied his religion
and in the face of death had deserted his teachings, barely snatched them
back in time.
A Jewish merchant was called (there
were no Rabbis in Corsicana at that time) and he requested the dying man to
repeat a certain prayer, which the man did in excellent Hebrew and there was
no doubt he was a Jew.
Some other stories that have
circulated around over the years is that the man was a middle-aged artist
whose peg-leg prevented his working for big-time shows. One tale says he was
hired by a group of Corsicana merchants who thought his act would bring
crowds to town and stimulate business.
It has also been said it was the
first time he ever attempted to walk a rope with a heavy cook stove on his
back. Some stories say he walked across on a wire and others say it
was a rope. Another tale says he was accustomed to a wire rather than a rope
and he had not yet mastered the technique of balance. When the rope became
slack under the heavy weight, he fell. Supposedly, the man had the peg-leg
fitted to the rope.
According to different sources, for
years, attempts were made to uncover the identity he carried with him to his
grave. Descriptions sent to various circus and vaudeville troupes, theaters
and newspapers brought no information.
Different sources say the man was a
stove salesman who came to town on a Trades Day and volunteered to walk the
tight rope to attract attention to his goods for sale.
After saying the prayer, the man
died, and according to the Perpetual Record Book of the Jewish Cemetery,
which is located on the west end of Corsicana on Second Ave. behind Lee
Elementary School, the Jewish people of Corsicana made up a purse and buried
him with the simple marking of "Rope Walker" on his grave.
In other newspaper articles, there
is a story about a man who called himself "The Great Professor Berg" who was
a one-legged tight rope walker.
It was supposedly read in a Mesilla,
N.M. newspaper in either 1878 or 1879 there was an account of how Professor
Berg walked a tight rope, actually a lariat rope, stretched between Hogan's
Saloon and the roof of a barber shop. He did this despite several
One being the fact he only had one
leg, and wore a peg-leg. And another being the fact that some of the uncouth
onlookers had been expressing applause by firing their six-shooters in the
The idea of two different peg-legged
tight roe walkers performing in Texas in the 1870s and 1880s is pretty
farfetched. Professor Berg, according to the Mesilla newspaper, had quite a
troupe of performers. It could have been that between the late 1870s and
1884, he had some bad luck, lost his wagon show, and would up doing that
solo show in Corsicana.
So, it may be true that The Great
Professor Berg is the same fellow buried in the Corsicana graveyard under
the name of Rope Walker.
Corsicana Daily Sun - Sep 13, 1998