Ohio History Journal






In what is known as "Tract 29," issued in 1875 by the West-

ern Reserve Historical Society, the "tradition"-as the Tract calls

it-of Brady's leap is related. That a famous leap by Brady was

made, at the place generally designated as the site, there is little

or no doubt. The time and attending circumstances of the

achievement are much in dispute, and wrote Mr. L. V. Bierce,

in 1856, "the numerous traditions respecting Brady's Leap across

the Cuyahoga River, and many other hair breadth escapes and

adventures of that old frontiersman grow more and more vague

and conflicting with the lapse of time."

"Tract 29" consists mainly of a letter written at Akron, in

1856, to one Seth Day, by Frederick Wadsworth, in which letter

Wadsworth states that in 1802 he was residing in Pittsburg and

there met "a man by the name of John Sumerall," who had long

lived in Pittsburg and who had been an "intimate friend of

Brady," from whom he (Sumerall) learned the particulars of

his (Brady's) life and adventures. According to Sumerall's ac-

count Samuel Brady "a powerful strong man, kind hearted, but

an uncompromising and deadly enemy to the Indians," lived in

his youth in Pennsylvania. During an Indian raid the people of

Brady's settlement were killed and Brady escaping "swore etern-

al enmity to the whole Indian race." Sumerall relates to Wads-

worth many of the encounters Brady had with the red men and

among escapades the one involving the famous leap. Sumerall

gave Wadsworth the date of this feat but the latter failed to

remember it. This lapse of memory by Wadsworth is unforunate

as that is the main point in dispute by different relators of the

incident. Wadsworth recites the story at some length as he had

it from Sumerall who had it from Brady. Briefly the account

is that Brady-at the time in question, date not given-left Pitts-


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458      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


burg with three or four companions, "on a scout toward the

Sandusky villages," and arrived there only to be captured by a

party of twelve Indians. His companions were killed in the en-

counter. The Indian captors hastened their prize prisoner to

their village amid great rejoicings of the tribesmen. His execu-

tion at the stake was decreed. The tribesmen assembled to wit-

ness the burning. There seemed to be no hope for Brady when

he espied the renegade Simon Girty in the Indian crowd. They

had been boys together and had been companions in frontier ad-

ventures. Brady plead with Girty to rescue him from his fate

but to no avail as Girty, at first pretending not to recognize his

old friend, finally refused to aid him. He now "begged Girty

to furnish him with the means to take his own (Brady's) life"

and thus escape the horrible tortures awaiting him. But without

effect. Girty was implacable. The victim was tied to the stake;

the fagots heaped about him; "the fires were lighted and the

excitement among the Indians intense." The Indian circle around

him drew closer and he began to feel the flames. He watched

his opportunity, when in the confusion of the scene, a fine look-

ing squaw, belonging to one of the chiefs, ventured too near

him for her own safety. With a mighty effort, Brady broke the

withes that bound him, leaped over the burning fagots, caught

the squaw by the head and shoulders and threw her into the

burning pile and amid the consternation and panic following,

sprung forth and fled for the forest. Brady was a swift runner

and easily outdistanced his pursuers. The Indians were of course

soon in hot pursuit and a long chase, lasting a day or more,

ensued. It continued for a hundred miles until he reached

the Cuyahoga river in Franklin Township, Portage County,

at what is now    the town of Kent. The Indians were

close upon him, and a number of times came near over-

taking him. He had intended crossing the Cuyahoga at a place

called "Standing Stone" on the Indian trail from Sandusky to

the Salt Springs, a few miles south of Warren, Trumbull County.

He was obliged to change his course and followed down the river

until he found himself at the Narrows, the narrowest place in

the river channel, "the Indians close on his track behind him;

he had not a moment to spare and as it was life or death with

Brady's Leap

Brady's Leap.                  459


him he made the famous Brady's leap across the Cuyahoga


Some years before writing the letter, giving this account,

Wadsworth visited the site of this leap, accompanied by a Mr.

Haymaker who had personally known Brady: "We measured

the river where we supposed the leap was made and found it

between twenty-four and twenty-six feet. Brady jumped from

the west to the east side; the banks on each side of the stream

were nearly of the same height, the flat rock on the west side

descending a very little from the west to the east. Brady "caught

the bushes on the bank as he landed and fell some three or four

or five feet before he recovered and got out." By this time the

Indians were within a few rods of the river and when they saw

him on the opposite bank of the river they set up a terrible yell;

"but none of them attempted to follow in jumping the river."

Three or four Indians fired at him, and wounded him slightly

in the leg. The Indians then crossed the river at Standing Stone

and continued their pursuit until Brady arrived at the small

lake (Brady's Pond), about a mile east of the Cuyahoga River.

Here he found the Indians were gaining on him and as the

wound in his leg was troubling him a little, "he must either

secret himself in the lake or be again taken prisoner." He

plunged into the lake and "secreted himself under the water;

amongst the lily pads, or pond lilies; he found a hollow weed

which he could breathe through with his head under the water,

this was in the fore part of the day and he remained in the lake

until the next morning; he heard the Indians about the lake all

day and until late at night." The more likely account is that

Brady concealed himself in the water beneath the branches of a

tree fallen in the water's edge. In any event the Indians sup-

posed their pursued was drowned and gave up the hunt. Brady

escaped to be the hero of many other events.

Such is the story Wadsworth relates in "Tract 29." There

are other variations told by other reciters. The feature of the

leap is usually similarly told but the secretion in the lake has

different interpretations.

As to the date of this noted occurrence we are of the opinion

that it was in the year 1780, for it was May of that year that

460 Ohio Arch

460      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


General Brodhead, then at Pittsburg, having learned that an

army of British and Indians was assembling on the Sandusky

River, in preparation for an attack on Fort Pitt, directed Captain

Samuel Brady-same Brady-to go to the Sandusky and learn

the situation in the Indian center. On this particular errand

(1780) Brady was accompanied by two or three companions, all

dressed and painted like savages. The party reached the San-

dusky River at Lower Sandusky, the Indian center (now Fre-

mont). They waded, under cover of night, from the river on

to the Island now called Brady's Island-opposite the Indian

town-where they lay in a thicket all the next day, watching the

Indians enjoying a horse-race near the river bank. The tradition

is that the party were discovered, Brady's companions killed and

Brady himself was captured and escaped as recited in "Tract 29."

Butterfield in his "History of the Girtys" places the episode in

the year 1783. But that is too late for at that time the Revolu-

tion in Ohio was practically over and Brodhead had no need of

Brady's spying expedition at that time and the summer of 1782

was occupied with the Moravian massacre and the Crawford

Expedition. There is no intimation anywhere of the occurrence

of the event in that (1782) year. It may possibly have been in

1781. But all indications point to the summer of 1780 when

Brodhead sent Brady to the Sandusky town. The circumstances

all point to that date. Still the mist of mere tradition obscures

the certainty of history. One thing is certain, the leap was made

and the place is indisputably located.

Recently-September, 1911-the Editor of the Quarterly

journeyed to Kent to view the exact spot. But that visit was

somewhat disappointing as there are now no indications of the

natural conditions prevailing at the time of the famous achieve-

ment. The Cuyahoga River flows through the center of the

picturesque little town of Kent. At the exact spot designated,

the river, in early days, found its narrowest passage then

some twenty-two feet in width. The banks on both sides

were then of perpendicular height of twenty-five or more

feet-some writers say forty. But time and the encroachments

of civilization have leveled down these banks until they now

rise only a few feet above the water's surface; moreover the

Brady's Leap

Brady's Leap.                   461


rocky formation-formerly the base of the earthen banks- flank-

ing each side of the river channel has been worn away by the

water's current and by the blasting of engineers to facilitate the

river transportation, until the stream is today twice the width

it was when Brady cleared the chasm with a bound.

We have given above the substance of "Tract 29," concern-

ing Brady's Leap. Another authority, though not quite so explicit

is the account in the Draper Manuscripts, a copy of which we

secured from the archives of the Library of the Wisconsin His-

torical Society. It is catalogued in the Library as Draper Mss.

"S" Vol. 8, pp. 133-140, inclusive. By permission of the distin-

guished Librarian, Dr. Reuben G. Thwaites, we publish the





Gen. Harris came to the country in 1812; then heard the

stories of the Leap of Brady's, and his battle at Brady's Lake,

from his brother-in-law, Ralph Buckland, who came in 1799, and


This is Gen. Harris' strong recollection of these interesting

narratives: The Indians had committed depredations on the

frontiers, and Brady followed them to Cuyahoga Portage at what

is now Northampton. There came upon the Indians, and fired

upon them, but as the Indians were much the most numerous,

Brady found he had not force enough successfully to resist them,

and accordingly directed his men to disperse, which they did.

The Indians either knowing Brady, or at least suspecting him

as the leader, directed some of their fleetest runners and bravest

warriors after; they followed him, in hot pursuit, to the Cuya-

hoga, and finding himself closely pursued, and partly hemmed in,

and three quarters of a mile yet to the ford at the Standing Stone,

left the trail, & bent his course for the Narrows, boldly resolving

to leap the fearful chasm, and thus elude his enemies. And this

feat he successfully accomplished.

General Harris, as a practical surveyor, measured the spot

in the fall of 1812, and found it just 22 feet across; then there

462 Ohio Arch

462      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Click on image to view full size

Brady's Leap

Brady's Leap.                   463


was a bridge on the very spot, made by Ralph Buckland in 1800

or 1801; subsequently to 1812, a bridge was erected about 40

or 50 rods above; and near the leap spot, a negro woman fell

on a small footbridge, and they had to get her out with ropes.

The ground was gently descending on the west side from

the war-trail to the leap locality; the banks of the river here were

nearly on a level with each other, but on the east side was a shelf

or bench some three feet wide, and some four or five feet below

the top of the bank, and this bench was some thirty or forty feet

long-& upon this Brady probably alighted, which served to favor

his desperate effort. This ledge or bench was blasted off about

1840 when the canal was building. Both banks of the river, from

the Standing Stone down to the little island, about 120 rods

below the Narrows, were lined with scattering hemlocks of vari-

ous dimensions, some quite large, and back of this hemlock skirt

were scattering oaks.

As Brady rose the eastern bank, the Indians fired on and

wounded him-for they dared not follow the bold adventurer,

& had to go above three fourths of a mile to the ford at the

Standing Stone, or below to the little island, something over a

third of a mile-probably some went either way, hoping to head

Brady, weary & wounded as he was, and doubly exhausted as

they very well knew he must have been after making such a

herculean leap as he had accomplished. But Brady never flagged

in his efforts, but kept on rapidly to the beautiful pond or lake

which has ever since borne his name, just two miles from the

Narrows where he made his memorable leap. Weary & ex--

hausted, & well-knowing his enemies were yet pursuing him with

the ferocity of blood-hounds, he plunged into the water, where

it was some 12 feet deep, & hid himself under a large chestnut

tree which had fallen into the lake at its southern end, & close to

the battle-ground & where with pond lilies & flags to aid in

screening him, he remained in quiet, while the Indians trailing his

blood upon the prostrate tree, walked out upon its trunk, & con-

cluded he had sunk beneath the waters, like a brave warrior,

rather than suffer the loss of his scalp-lock at the hands of his

foes. The Indians, of course, now gave up the fruitless chase,

and returned-doubtless wondering at Brady's almost superhu-

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464       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


man leap, & exulting that the mortal foe of the Red Men would

trouble them no more. But they counted without their host, for

Brady yet lived to make many a one of their murderous and

treacherous race bite the dust in death. The chestnut tree which

served our hero so well on this occasion, was yet to be seen after

1812, and was seen by Gen. Harris.

Brady's Lake Ambuscade.-Brady, at another time, pursued

Indians who had been committing mischief; & as he and his party

neared Brady's Lake, the trail became so fresh, that Brady knew

he was close upon them. He placed his men in ambush on either

side of the bridge at the southern extremity of this beautiful

sheet of water,-which was a little over half a mile in length.

This lake is now used as a reservoir for the canal, & now extends

much farther to the north than formerly, nearly to Lake Pepin.

Having thus disposed of his men, Brady then proceeded with a

chosen few cautiously to the Standing Stone, & there discovered

the Indians encamped and eating; and he & his party boldly

fired upon the astonished Indians, who probably thought them-

selves beyond the reach of pursuit, eighty miles as they were

from the mouth of Beaver. (See Olden Time, Vol. II, p. 351,

Irvine's letter, 1788.) Brady knew well what he was about, &

resolved to play the Indians a bold game of their own kind, and

the moment he fired upon them, he and his men beat a quick

retreat as though alarmed at their own temerity. The ill-fated

Indians followed in hot pursuit, and in a few minutes were un-

consciously drawn into the fatal ambuscade, where on either

side of the trail & at the east end, Brady's intrepid warriors were

secreted with their deadly rifles all poised in waiting for the ap-

proach of the foe-and as Brady reached the eastern extremity

of the ambuscade, he fired his signal gun at the Indians as they

were now completely in the net set for them, when the whites on

either hand gave a general fire at the Indians now huddled to-

gether in stupid surprise, & nearly all were killed. Gen. Harris

saw plenty of bones scattered around after he came to the coun-

try. A broken sword was found by the Stewart family (Jona-

than Stewart found it) after the settlement of the country-say

about 1820-the hilt of brass was sound, & is yet preserved. It

was found in the swamp below.

Brady's Leap

Brady's Leap.                   465


The late Gen. Joshua Woodward, of Franklin, one of the

earliest settlers there, he and-Scott, of Youngstown, who

knew Brady well (Scott has been dead several years) relate about

the Leap just as here related-& all the early relators agreed

precisely in the particulars of the narrative.

The Cuyahoga at the Narrows where the Leap was made-

the Indian trail-the Standing Stone-Brady's Lake and battle-

ground-are represented on an outline map (See map opposite

page 154), made with much care by Gen. Harris for me, on a

separate sheet of paper. The Indian trail went to Old Cuyahoga

Portage, in Northampton; there the Indians took their canoes to

the Tuscarawas portage, about 7 miles.

Vol. XX.-30.