In Corsicana's Hebrew Cemetery one grave marker simply reads, “Rope Walker, 1884.” Exactly who is buried there has remained an enduring local mystery — until now. While researching her latest book, 6 Feet Under Texas, Tui Snider claims she discovered the real name of this unusual character.
In the late 1800s, a traveling salesman came to Corsicana. To advertise his wares, he devised an eye-catching stunt to draw a crowd. After stringing a line between two buildings on Main Street, he strapped a wood stove to his back and climbed to the roof. As if that wasn’t enough, the man had only one leg!
Unfortunately in the middle of this stunt, an iron bar holding one end of the rope broke off. When the performer hit the ground, his stove landed upon him, breaking his right arm and severely battering his good leg. The unlucky daredevil was quickly whisked to a nearby hotel.
A doctor was summoned and tried to save the stranger by amputating his remaining leg. In spite of these efforts, the mysterious man succumbed to his injuries. Other than requesting a rabbi, little was learned about him before he died, including his real name - until now.
“I never expected to find Rope Walker’s true identity,” Snider explains, “My big break came when I realized that his Corsicana accident occurred in 1883, not 1884. From there I learned his stage name. This helped me connect the dots when I found newspaper articles describing an earlier tightrope accident in 1869 which mentioned his stage name and also revealed that his real name was Joseph Berg.”
Since his accident was in 1883 and his headstone reads 1884, Snider still wonders exactly how long Joseph Berg lived after his tightrope fall in Corsicana and what became of his family in New York. “Mystery still surrounds this man,” Snider admits, “but I am now confident that ‘Joseph Berg’ and Corsicana’s ‘Rope Walker’ are one and the same.”
Tui Snider is a North Texas author, speaker, and researcher. Her new book, 6 Feet Under Texas: Unique, Famous, and Historic Graves of the Lone Star State is currently available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook form.
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