In a recent post, we promised more details on Lake of the Ozarks’ own Lover’s Leap and one account of the legend that gave it its name
J.W. Vincent, owner, editor and publisher of the Linn Creek Reveille, published the story of Lover’s Leap more than once in his newspaper. It was a popular tale—one he reprinted in his newspaper twice – “in 1879 and again, by oft repeated request in 1886.” His author’s note to his booklet, Tales of the Ozarks (1913) his tone is almost apologetic:
It was written on a regular assignment in the course of the author’s early newspaper work and bears many marks of the writer’s youth, which fortunately for himself if not for his readers, he has never entirely outgrown. The migration of the Delaware Indians and their subsequent contact with the Osages and other tribes is historical though little known—the local incidents are mainly fictitious.
This particular Lover’s Leap legend strayed somewhat from the standard issue tale of an overbearing patriarch preventing the marriage of a beautiful daughter to the handsome brave she loved. In J. W. Vincent’s tale, the maiden herself rejected a powerful suitor for her own true love. No father is mentioned. The unwelcome suitor is a friend of her brother.
In the picturesque and salubrious valley, where “dwelt a powerful branch of the Osages, one of the great nations of the aboriginal inhabitants of our country,” came a band of weary Lenapes, or Delaware, who had been forced westward from their home on the eastern seaboard. The Osages welcomed them and the two groups lived as congenial neighbors in the valley of Linn Creek.
The Chief of the Osage, Okema, was young and handsome, giant in stature. He and the Lenape chief, Marabo, were close friends—and Marabo had a beautiful sister, Winona. Unfortunately for Okema, Winona’s heart belonged to another, Minetas. The players are named; the stage is set.
The denouement takes place at night on the high bluff above the valley, overlooking the junction of the Osage and Niangua rivers far below. Winona leapt from the cliff to escape Okema. An intense fight ensued between the contending suitors and Okema’s braves. Both braves went over the cliff, as well as another of Okema’s braves. It was a dolorous end to unrequited love, but the dramatic tale has left its mark on the spot.
Netflix’s Marty Byrde undoubtedly did not understand the hallowed and bloody ground on which he stood as he launched his own desperate enterprise in Ozark. He should know, though, the fall today mercifully is forty feet less and ends in water.