History Within History Itself

At this point, we’ve heard a lot about the Cuyahoga River’s history — how it burned more than a dozen times decades ago, the way it helped fuel an environmental movement and how it went from hazardous to one of the most recreationally used rivers in Ohio.

If you’re walking along the Portage Hike & Bike path in Kent, you might come across a sign labeled “Brady’s Leap.” The story goes like this, according to The Cleveland Memory Project: Captain Samuel Brady led a group of soldiers down to Lower Sandusky to spy on the British and Indians in attempt to figure out their next move in the late 1700s. The plan went sour, and the soldiers were captured — but Brady escaped.

After several days of hiding and traveling, Brady ended up in Kent, where enemies spotted him. Brady ran toward the river and jumped over it to the other side, once again narrowly escaping. At least, that’s the story that’s told.

If you go down to the area where Brady presumably jumped, some visitors think the gap between the side they’re on and the other are too far apart — not nearly a small enough distance for anyone to jump and make it without plunging into the river. But as history states, he took the 22-foot leap and successfully escaped. Historians for years have argued that because of erosion, the gap was not nearly that large back in the 1700s, which could explain how he got away from the British and the Indians.

The Cuyahoga River along the Portage Hike & Bike is full of historic landmarks. Traveling down further on the trail near Beckwith Orchard, a 15- to 20-foot tall, large rock stands in the middle of the river. It’s been attracting curiosity for decades. The Kent Historical Society wrote that many tribes once held meetings on that rock centuries ago. It also served as a form of communication between the tribes on their journeys.

The river is well known for the fire 50 years ago, but if you look a little closer, it’s more than just a body of river that burned — it’s the site of other smaller pieces of history that tends to be overlooked.


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