Captain Samuel Brady (1756–1795) was a frontier scout, notorious Indian fighter, and the subject of many legends in the history of western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. He is best known for jumping across a gorge over the Cuyahoga River to escape pursuing Indians in what is present day Kent, Ohio. The location is known as Brady's Leap.
Brady was born in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a a surveyor and in April, 1760 at the time of the war against the French and the Indians received his a commission with the colonial troops. He was killed in on April 11, 1779 in an Indian attack.
The French and Indian War was a colonial war fought between the British, French and their Indian allies. The British territory was on the Atlantic Coast and the French territory was in present-day Canada, mostly in Quebec. Both the British and the French made conflicting territorial claims principally in present-day Michigan, western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Britain declared war on France on May 15, 1756. The War between Britain and France was fought on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, it was called the Seven Years' War. Indians fought for both armies. The French and Indian War ended on February 10, 1763 with the Treaty of Paris in which France lost of all its North American territory east of the Mississippi and most of Canada.
However, the Indian threat on the Pennsylvania frontier did not end with the end of the French and Indian War. In 1763, Pontiac's War began pretty much where the French and Indian War left off. Ottawa Chief Pontiac persuaded the Indian tribes, which had been the French allies, to unite to continue battling the British.
Samuel Brady was commissioned as a Captain on July 19, 1763 in the Second Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiments and actively fought against the Indian forces that were attacking and killing many frontier families in Bedford and Cumberland Counties, Pennsylvania.
The Indian Chief Pontiac captured many frontier forts and settlements in what is now Michigan and Ohio and besieged Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh), Fort Ligionier and Fort Bedford in Pennsylvania. A force was organized to lift these sieges, which it did. In the fall of 1764 an army of colonial militia and regular British troops from Fort Pitt moved into the Ohio Country and forced the Shawnees, Senecas and Delawares to make peace. Captain Brady participated in this expedition.
In 1780 the general charged with defense of the area received a letter at Fort Pitt from General Washington instructing him to select a suitable officer to lead a patrol in the Ohio country to spy out the strength of British and Indians assembled there.
Captain Brady was, as we used to say in the military, "volunteered." Brady set out on his mission with a four men and four Chickasaw guides and when they arrived west of the Cuyahoga River they finally got a good look at the enemy strength.
Now, Brady was not a tall man, but he was an extremely powerful man, broad, big boned and muscular, a loner and self-reliant. He also hated Indians; he was arrested three times in Western Pennsylvania for killing them. In all three arrests there was no doubt that he was guilty, but in every case he was allowed to escape.
According to the story, his hatred of Indians stemmed from the time as a boy growing up in his uncle’s cabin, he returned from hunting to find the cabin burning and his uncle’s family slain. People said that Brady promised himself a lifetime of seeking revenge.
Some of his battles with the Indians were so impressive that there are several battlegrounds named for him: Brady’s Run and Brady’s Hill near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Brady's Island Fremont, Ohio, Brady’s Island and Brady's Lake near Akron, Ohio.
Brady and his men found the Indians without being detected and set up an ambush for the following morning along a trail coming out from the Indian camp. They achieved complete surprise and killed at least ten warriors, wounding several others. About 50 warriors then took off after them. On the run, Brady turned and fired a second volley which killed several more pursuers.
In those days the preferred method of escape was for the group to separate and when he separated, Brady accidentally ran into an entirely separate Wyandot hunting party as he was crossing a river and was captured and transported to the Wyandor camp where they roughed him up and tied him to a stake. They decided Brady would run the gauntlet in the morning and then be executed. In running the gauntlet, the guilty party was forced to run between two rows and be beaten with sticks.
As his hands were being untied in preparation for running the gauntlet, Brady threw and elbow in to the face of the warrior, grabbed a baby from the arms of a woman standing next to him and threw it into the fire then took of running for his life as he raced toward the American border which was the Cuyahoga River.
Running by day, and by night, Brady ran over 100 miles. He often found the going rough and the Indians close and at one point he turned back west in the night, hoping the Indians would go on past him, but they were straggled out in such depth behind him that he was in even more danger. He avoided them by hiding and waiting for night.
Finally, stopping after dark, he fell asleep and did not wake until he heard human voices and he began running again, but the Wyandots had him hemmed in. While hiding and with the Wyandots approaching, Brady broke out of his cover and headed for the river. When he reached the gorge, with the desperate action of a cornered animal, he made the jump. No Indians followed.
The leap was not level. In the jump from the high bank across to the lower east bank Brady dropped some. and landed on a shelf of rock about five feet below the top of the embankment, grabbed some bushes and began scrambled up the bank. Several Indians recovered from amazement and fired their rifles. One shot hit Brady in the right thigh, but he managed to make it to the top of the bank and drop out of their sight.
His bleeding thigh wound left a trail of blood, but when the Wyandots found it, the blood and footprints stopped at a tree which had fallen into the water. They combed the woods for the rest of the day, but couldn't find him. Brady had been hiding in the water where the top of the tree was floating in the river and eventually made it to safety.
How long was the leap? Two men later checked out his story and were of the impression that it was a few inches less than 25 feet. Later a surveyor measured the leap at 22 feet. The place came to be named Brady’s Leap and there are skeptics today, when viewing the spot, who believe there was absolutely no way he could have made the jump across the Cuyahoga River. But, it must be remembered that in Brady’s day the river was not as wide as it is today because of erosion.