The Vagabond: Daredevils in Gadsden

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By Danny Crownover

Part II

In October of 1916, a young man from Alabama City was in negotiations with the Gadsden, Bellevue and Lookout Mountain Railroad Company for his attempt to dive from the brow of Noccalula Falls to the pool below.

Lowell Vickery, age 19 at the time, was a high diver who already had exhibited an ability at making death-defying leaps into water. Vickery inspected the falls and the water below and said the stunt could be completed without great risk or bodily harm. The distance from the brow of the falls to the water was almost 100 feet. The pool at the base of the falls was 20 feet deep.

The stunt was to be held on July 4, 1917. Along with Howard Shaneyfelt, Vickery made several jumps from the crest of the Falls on Saturday and Sunday afternoons prior to the event. The two boys were amateurs with no professional experience, and many wondered if they dared to make the attempt.

On his other attempts, Vickery usually would announce his intentions to jump in a loud voice while Shaneyfelt passed the hat around to try to raise money to bury the young daredevil in case something went wrong.

The boys were ready for the jump on the day of the event, but the collection was small, so they decided to put off the performance for one week in the hope of a larger crowd.

The following Sunday rolled around. The collection was good, and the boys made their dive, one after another. They stood in the water where it was pouring over the precipice over the falls and dived 90 feet or better into the pool below.

Shaneyfelt was bruised and battered but managed to swim safely to the shore. Vickery made a perfect leap and dive and suffered no injuries. It was a daring stunt that was never attempted before and has not been since.

Vickery exhibited his uncanny ability on other occasions. In a highly publicized stunt, he dove into a large tank of water from the clock tower at the Etowah County Courthouse on Broad Street in front of a large crowd of curious onlookers. This leap left Vickery badly bruised and shaken, because the water tank was leaking and not properly filled.

On another occasion, Vickery announced that he would jump from the L&N railroad bridge across the Coosa River. Local authorities intervened, and the jump was not allowed.

Shaneyfelt died on De-cember 18, 1947, while Vickery dies on August 6, 1966.

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