Milepost 197.0 – Eastbound Between Exits 193 and 209
County: Portage How it got its name
Captain Samuel Brady’s 22-foot leap across the Cuyahoga River to escape pursuing Indians climaxed the frontier career of a scout who has been described as the Daniel Boone of the northeast Ohio valley. The famous broad jump occurred in what is now Kent, Ohio, about 12 miles southwest of the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza.
Brady spent his boyhood in western Pennsylvania at a time when Indian raids were only too common. His mother died when he was young, and the Indians killed his father and brother. Young Brady was then placed in a home with a family that had previously adopted Simon Girty, whose name later became a curse among American settlers when he sided with the Indians and the British and allegedly participated in many a massacre of his fellow-countrymen.
The two boys grew up almost as brothers, both fond of adventure and accustomed to hardships. About the time the two came of age their foster parents were slain by marauding Indians, but the boys escaped and began to go their separate ways – Brady as the terror of the Indians, Girty as the scourge of the white settlements.
Brady had many hair-raising experiences before he made historic leap for life. General Samuel Brodhead, who was in command of Fort Pitt during the Revolutionary War, sent Brady and some companions into the Ohio country in 1780 after hearing that the British and Indians were about to march on Fort Pitt. The Indians were siding with the British in the war in order to avenge the past grievances against the colonists. Brady, dressed and painted like an Indian, waded in the Sandusky River to an island (today called Brady’s Island) where he watched the activities of the Indians in the village that later became Fremont, Ohio.
But Brady’s scouting prowess was not invulnerable and he was captured by the Indians, who prepared to burn him at the stake. Among the Wyandots and dressed as an Indian was his old pal Girty, who only sneered at Brady’s pleas to be saved. As the flames began to lick about his feet an Indian maiden – so the story goes – rushed to his aid. In the confusion Brady broke the cords already weakened by the fire and shoved the squaw into the blaze. While the surprised Indians turned their attention to rescuing the girl, Brady made his escape.
Fleeing for many days, Brady reached the Cuyahoga River at a point where Kent, Ohio, is now located. With the Indians hot on his trail he followed the stream to its narrowest point and leaped across, pulling himself up on the other side grasping roots and underbrush. The Indians first halted in astonishment, then three or four of them fired their rifles at Brady, wounding him slightly in the leg. However, while the Indians searched for a shallow place at which to cross the river, Brady escaped to a pond about a mile east and hid under some lily pads, breathing through a hollow reed. Following the trail of blood, the Indians pursued him to the edge of the lake. There, being unable to locate him, they decided that he had probably drowned himself rather than be captured. The next morning Brady emerged from the water and escaped to safety. The pond is now called Brady Lake and lies between Kent and Ravenna on Ohio State Route 59.
This was the last expedition of its kind in which Captain Brady was engaged. He never fully recovered from the hardships of this ordeal. He was ever afterwards lame and also became quite deaf – an affliction which he attributed to his long stay in the lake.
The information which Brady brought back to General Brodhead concerning Indian power and movements in the Ohio country resulted in the latter’s decision to march west and attack the Indians, as General George Washington had been urging him to do. The march resulted in some minor victories but the Indians’ power was not smashed until after the Revolution, and as a result of General Anthony Wayne’s victory in 1794 over the Indian confederation at Fallen Timbers, near Maumee, Ohio.
Emulating Captain Brady, the Ohio Turnpike leaps the Cuyahoga River at two locations and on twin bridges at both points. One crossing, on structures 210 feet long, is five miles west of the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza. The other is on twin structures each a half-mile long just west of the Akron interchange. The latter are the longest bridges on the Ohio Turnpike. The Cuyahoga is the only river crossed twice by the turnpike.