My informant grew up in Kent, Ohio in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time the area was not rural, but it wasn’t urban in the modern sense. Neighborhoods were spread out with forests, lakes, and rivers dividing them. My informant spent much of her time walking and biking along trails to her friends’ homes, and in the summer they would spend much of their time swimming in the lakes. She lived most of her life in Ohio, attending college at Bowling Green State University and living for over ten years in Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She considers herself every bit a midwesterner, though she currently resides in California.
My informant told me this story while discussing her plans to visit her family in Ohio this summer.
Legend of Brady’s Leap
My informant remembers first hearing this story in the 7th grade because that was, “around when we studied the Revolutionary War.”
Brady’s Leap is the name for a particular spot on the Cuyahoga River. My informant’s story told of a Captain Brady, who was sent by the American army to scout for the British camp in the Sandusky territory, which today is a large swath of Northeast Ohio. Brady and his men were captured by the British, but Brady escaped and tried to make his way back to the army camp near Pittsburgh. My informant’s story goes that Brady was discovered by Indians (Native Americans), and he was forced to run. When he reached the banks of the Cuyahoga River he was stuck, but to go back meant either re-capture by the British or death at the hands of the Indians. So instead, he took a flying leap across the river and miraculously made it to the other side.
My informant points out that between Brady’s flying leap and today, the river has been widened at that point. She says it was widened to let large supply ships through when the Erie canals were being built. To look at the spot now the leap would be impossible, but back then my informant believes the gap must have been no more than 20 feet for him to have made it across.
Learning the story in school, my informant said it was a way to relate the nation’s history to the area – to give the students a sense of connection to their home and to their country. The story does seem to have a patriotic message about the abilities of the early Americans, and though the legend does not specifically say that Brady was born in or lived in the Ohio territory, by claiming him as a local hero through the naming of a place on the river, it can give the locals a sense of pride in their history.