Brady’s Rangers were very effective in their pursuit of the Indian raiding parties. Numerous times, they rescued women and children who had been taken captive by the Indians. When Brady’s Rangers encountered an Indian raiding party, they usually killed all or nearly all of the Indians. Because of the success of the Brady’s Rangers, the Indian raids in the region diminished rapidly until they nearly ceased in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia. As a result, Brady’s Rangers were spending more and more time in the Ohio territory chasing down raiding parties and mapping the Indian villages.
One of Brady’s most famous exploits took place around the year 1780. General Broadhead sent Brady and a small force of rangers into the region of Ohio around the Sandusky River to scout the Indian villages and get an idea of the number of Indians in that area in preparation for launching a military campaign against the Indians in that region. As you may recall, Colonel Crawford would lead a failed attack on the Indians in that part of Ohio territory in June of 1782.
Around the year 1780, Captain Brady led a small force of rangers into the Sandusky region. The Indians discovered their presence and launched a surprise attack on the rangers killing most of them and taking Brady prisoner. He was taken into an Indian village where he was stripped naked and sentenced to be tortured to death. To signify the death sentence, his body was painted black using soot from the fire. At dusk, Brady was being restrained by four Indians who were gripping his arms as the women and children tormented him with burning sticks from the fire. Brady forced himself to relax his struggles against the men who were holding him. In response, they loosened their grip enough that he was able to suddenly rip himself free. Before they could react, Brady grabbed a baby from the arms of its mother and threw it into the blazing fire. The mother was the chief’s daughter, so the baby was the chief’s grandson. The horrified Indians let go of Brady and dove after the baby. (Side note: I dug long and hard to find any information about the baby. Although his face was burned leaving him with a couple of small, permanent scars, he survived and lived to an old age.)
Brady immediately sprinted for the woods and was out of sight before the Indians could react. The Indians were quickly in hot pursuit. Rounding a bend in the trail, Brady spotted a large chestnut tree off to the side. He jumped up and caught the lowest branch about 10 feet above the ground. In one motion, he swung himself onto the branch and pasted himself onto the back of the tree as the Indians ran by. Since the deepening dusk has already begun to darken the woods and his body was painted black with soot from the fire, Brady was virtually invisible to the pursuing Indians. When he was sure that the pursuing Indians were all well past his hiding place, he carefully climbed into the upper branches of the tree until his location was invisible from the ground below.
Brady wedged himself into a space in the branches where he could watch the village. He waited until well after midnight when the forest and the village were both fast asleep. Then, he silently descended from his hiding place and slipped unseen into the village where he recovered his belongings that were still piled where they had been thrown when he was stripped. Then he started running east.
Brady knew that the Indians would be on his trail at first light, so he ran all night and all of the next day stopping only to grab some berries or to drink form a brook or spring. By the evening of the next day, he had reached the Cuyahoga River near a place known as “Standing Rock,” where the city of Kent, Ohio, is now located. The nearest crossing was about a mile to the south, so Brady headed south. However, he soon spotted a party of Indians in front of him, so he reversed his direction and headed toward a crossing a few miles north of Standing Rock. Unfortunately, the pursuing Indians from the village caught up with him as he neared Standing Rock, trapping him against the river.
At that location, the river flowed through a deep and somewhat narrow gorge. The bank on the west side where Brady was trapped consisted of a rocky cliff some twenty or more feet above the water. The bank on the east side consisted of a rocky outcropping above which was a steep muddy bank. With no other option, Brady ran toward the cliff and jumped. He landed on the far side about 10 feet below the rim of the bank. He began to claw his way up the muddy bank. Just as he was reaching the top, one of the pursuing Indians took careful aim and shot him through the thigh with the goal of slowing him down enough to allow the Indians time to go down to the crossing and then recapture him so that they could finish the torture.
In spite of the painful wound, Brady headed for a small pond near there that is now known as “Brady’s Lake.” A large sycamore tree had fallen into the water near the far side of the lake. Brady hid his gun and other belongings and waded into the water. His plan was to try to hide among the branches of the tree. When he dove under the tree, he discovered that it was hollow with a large opening under the water. He was able to come up into the air pocket inside the tree. He was hiding inside the tree when the Indians arrived. They saw the tracks and drops of blood in the mud showing where he had entered the water. The Indians searched the area until darkness fell. Brady could even hear them walking on the log where he was hidden. The Indians assumed that he had drowned himself to avoid the torture. Since they could find no sign of him in the surrounding woods, they eventually left.
After waiting several additional hours to be sure the Indians were gone, Brady emerged from his hiding place and headed east. His legs were almost numb from being in the cold water, but the cold water may have saved him from bleeding to death from the wound. Because of the wound, it took two days for Brady to reach Fort McIntosh. Brady never fully recovered from the wound to his thigh, and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.
His story was so incredible that a party of men went out from Fort McIntosh to see for themselves. They were able to see where Brady had clawed his way up the muddy bank, and they measured the distance of the jump at 22 feet. They named the area “Brady’s Leap.” The location of Brady’s Leap is in Kent, Ohio. Although there is a city park there today, the area does not resemble what it was like when Brady made his leap. In 1840, the engineers building the Ohio-Pennsylvania Canal cut down the high river banks to make towpaths for the canal. They also built a dam below the leap location to slow and deepen the water. The only remaining landmark in the area is Standing Rock. The lake where Brady hid is still known as “Brady Lake.” Today, Brady Lake is surrounded by houses.
When the Revolutionary War ended, the Indians agreed to an armistice officially putting an end to the Indian hostilities in Pennsylvania and Virginia, but not in the Ohio territory, so Brady’s Rangers continued to scout Indian villages in Ohio and to pursue the raiding parties that were still active in the Ohio territory.
Early in the spring of 1791, an Indian raiding party struck the home of Francis Riley in eastern Ohio just across the river from Wellsburg. The Indians killed Francis and several members of his family including a two year-old child. After plundering the home, they left with two of the Riley daughters as captives. As soon as Brady heard of the raid, he and a company of his rangers set off in pursuit of the Indians. A few miles northwest of the Riley homestead, the raiding party split into two groups. One group headed west and the other continued to the north. Brady split the group of rangers to pursue the two groups of Indians. Brady followed the larger group of Indians who had gone north. Unknown to the rangers, the two Riley sisters, Abigail and Ruth, were with the Indians who headed west. After a few miles, the rangers found Abigail’s body, but they never caught up with the remainder of the raiding party. Abigail had been killed when she tried to escape. Ruth was kept captive by the Indians. She was adopted by the Indians and survived to tell her story many years later.
Brady and his party pursued the Indians who went north until they caught up with the raiding party at the Beaver River near a place known as “The Red Front Trading Post.” William Wilson and John Hillman ran the trading post. In today’s lingo, they ran a fencing operation where the Indians could trade or sell the plunder they stole during their raids. When the rangers caught up with the Indians, a firefight ensued during which the rangers killed several of the Indians. Hillman and Wilson were not very happy that Brady and his men had killed some of their suppliers. Because of the armistice with the Indians in Pennsylvania, Hillman and Wilson contended that the shooting of the Indians constituted murder, so they complained to the Governor of the state of Pennsylvania and to anyone else who would listen telling them that Brady was ignoring the agreement and murdering Indians. They sent out word that Brady and his companions had murdered the Indians in cold blood so that they could have the plunder for themselves.
Subscribe to Weelunk
As the word of the killing of the Indians at the Red Front spread, some of the Indian chiefs lodged a formal complaint with the American war department. Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania put out a warrant for Brady’s arrest and put a reward on his head. Two bounty hunters showed up at a tavern in Wellsburg where Brady was having breakfast and asked if anyone knew where they could find him. Both men had put their pistols on the table when they sat down. Brady introduced himself. The tavern owner and several of the other patrons showed the men their guns and advised the two men to leave Wellsburg. Both men left without their guns!
Gov, Mifflin, of Pennsylvania, ordered the sheriff of Allegany County to go down to Wellsburg and arrest Brady. The sheriff and a couple of his deputies went over to Wellsburg. During the middle of the night, they kicked in the door of Brady’s cabin and barged inside with rifles cocked. Sam was out in the Ohio country on a scouting mission for General Broadhead at the time. The three men scared Drucilla and the two boys, and she immediately ran to her father’s house. Van Swearingon put together a party of armed men to go after the sheriff and his deputies, but they were long gone by the time the party was mounted. Swearingon sent word of the raid on Sam’s home to his friend, Governor Randolph of Virginia. Randolph put an arrest warrant out for the Allegany County sheriff and the two deputies. The warrant authorized anyone who saw any of the three men in Virginia to shoot them on sight. Tensions between the two governors were high, and they exchanged a lot of angry letters with each other over the situation.
By 1792, President Washington had asked General (Mad) Anthony Wayne to come out of retirement and return to military service to wage a campaign against the Indians in the Ohio country who were continuing to terrorize the settlers in the west. Wayne wanted Brady and his rangers to scout for his army and provide information about the locations of the Indian villages and the strength of the Indian forces in the Ohio territory. However, the murder charge on Brady’s head was a problem, so Wayne sent word to Brady in West Liberty asking him to come to Pittsburgh and stand trial for the charges. By then, Wayne had rebuilt his army and had relocated his headquarters to Fort Necessity. Brady agreed, so Wayne also sent a request to his friend, Van Swearingon, asking him to escort Brady to ensure his safety. Van Swearingon hired the well-known young attorney James Ross to defend Brady. Ross later became the governor of Pennsylvania.
It was the trial of the age. Chief Justice Thomas McKean and two other powdered wigged justices from back east were sent to Pittsburgh to preside over the trial. Every man who could went to Pittsburgh for the trial. General Wayne gave leave to any man in his command who wanted to attend the trial as did General Broadhead. By the evening of the first day, more than 500 men were camped out on the hills surrounding Pittsburgh. That evening, more than 200 men gathered around a bonfire on one of the hills above Pittsburgh and vowed that they would tear Pittsburgh apart brick by brick to rescue Brady if the verdict came back guilty. They would not allow him to be hanged. Many of the men gathered on the hill that night owed their lives or the lives of their loved ones to Brady and his rangers. One of the men on that hill was a young lieutenant who was an aide-de-camp to General Wayne. His name was William Henry Harrison. As you know, he later became a renowned Indian fighter and President of the United States.
So many men wanted to attend the trial that it was moved from the courtroom to a large tavern nearby. Jenny Stupes was in the courtroom. She provided water for the jurors and the justices and provided brandy and water for Brady. All of the jurors and everyone in the courtroom, except for the three judges, knew her story. She remained in the courtroom throughout the trial.
Justice McKeen was known as a hard-nosed no-nonsense judge who ran his court with an iron fist. He told the jurors that sentence would be carried out immediately if they returned a guilty verdict. If they returned a not-guilty verdict, he told them that he would not publish the verdict. Somewhere in the back of the crowd, a voice shouted out, “Then you will be a dead man.”
The first two witnesses were Wilson and Hillman from The Red Front Trading Post. Both men were clearly very nervous and uneasy. They stammered and sometimes contradicted themselves during their testimonies. As soon as they had testified, they mounted their horses and got out of Pittsburgh in a hurry. There were no other real witnesses for the prosecution. The next couple of days were filled with defense witnesses. One after another, they told of how Brady and his rangers had saved them or their homes and families from the Indians. Several women who had been rescued from the Indians by Brady and his rangers testified including Jenny Stupes. On the last day, an old Indian entered the courtroom. He was walking with difficulty with the aid of a walking stick and a younger Indian man. Upon seeing him, Brady immediately arose as did every juror quickly followed by everyone in the room except the three judges who had no idea of the identity of the two Indian men. Ross introduced the old Indian as Chief Guyasuta who walked to the table where Brady was standing and handed his walking stick to his companion. The old chief then stood tall and took Brady’s hands. He then addressed the court announcing that Brady was a good man and that the Indians who he killed at the Red Front Trading Post were evil men who hurt the Indians as well as the whites. He told the court that the Indians were thankful to Brady for saving them from those men. Many of those present in the courtroom also recognized his companion as his nephew, Chief Cornplanter.
Eventually Justice McKean told the jury that they could retire to consider their verdict. One of the jurors announced that they did not need to retire and ask his fellows what was the verdict. As one voice, they announced, “not guilty.” That anonymous voice in the back of the crowd shouted, “Now, publish that!” Brady was asked to rise. Jenny Stupes was standing a few feet behind the judge’s table as Justice McKean announced the findings of the court informing Brady that he had been found not guilty and was free to go. Many years later, Jenny told her daughter that she had a tomahawk hidden under her skirt that day. If the judge had pronounced Brady guilty or had not accepted the verdict, she said that she was prepared to sink it into his skull. Messengers were sent to West Liberty to inform Drucilla of the verdict.
According to the word on the street, Brady, Guyasuta, Cornplanter, and Ross celebrated the verdict by going to a tavern, on the other side of town, and having a few rounds of drinks with Brady and Van Swearingon picking up the tab! Knowing that Guyasuta and Brady were good friends, someone asked Cornplanter several years later if Guyasuta had lied in court to keep his friend from being hanged. Cornplanter said that Guyasuta had told the truth, but would have lied to save his friend if it had been necessary! Guyasuta was the great chief of the Iroquois Confederacy and was also a personal friend of George Washington.
With the murder charge cleared, General Wayne put Brady in charge of all of his scouts in preparation for his campaign into Ohio in 1794. By the time Wayne entered the Ohio country with his army in 1794, he was well informed about the numbers and locations of the Indians in that territory thanks to the work of between 70 and 100 scouts under the command of Captain Samuel Brady. On August 20, 1794, Wayne’s army crushed the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Northern Ohio. Because of the scouting reports, Wayne knew exactly where and when to attack the Indians. Because of the defeat at Fallen Timbers and the subsequent actions of Wayne’s army during the following months, the Indians were forced to sign the Treaty of Greenville a year later on August 3, 1795. If the Indians had refused to sign, they would have faced complete annihilation by Wayne’s Army.
During the late fall of 1795, Brady and some of his scouts were crossing a stream on the way home from one of their expeditions in the Ohio country when Sam slipped on an icy rock and landed head first in the swollen creek striking his head on a rock. He almost drowned before the other men could get to him and pull him out. The fall may have been partially caused by his bad leg from the old rifle wound. Sam developed a lung infection which the old timers called pleurisy. For the next two months, he would get better and then worse. He died at his home in West Liberty on Christmas day in 1795. He was just 39 years old. At the time of Sam’s death, Drucilla was 26 years old. When she had married Sam Brady, she was just 15. Dru’s father Van Swearingon did not live to see his worry about his daughter becoming a young widow come true. He had passed away in 1793.
Capt. Samuel Brady is buried in the old West Liberty Cemetery which is located near the curve in WV Rt. 88 just above the West Liberty fire house. There are two markers on his grave. One of them erroneously lists the date of his death as Jan. 1, 1796.
I hope you have enjoyed this account of the life and adventures of Captain Sam Brady. If you are a true historian with a different slant on some of the facts in the story, please remember that I am a storyteller rather than a historian. I never let the facts get in the way of a good story! – Earl Nicodemus