Photo from Laura Secord
Text From Laura Secord with interjections from me Linda Seccaspina after I read about her for a couple of days. Next time you bite into a Laura Secord egg think about this story…..
Secord, best known today as the namesake of a popular confectionary chain, led a fairly well-documented life. Born Laura Ingersoll in Massachusetts in 1775, she emigrated to Upper Canada with her father in 1795 and eventually settled at Queenston, part of present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
She married Canadian merchant James Secord in 1797, had seven children and — according to some accounts of her life — helped her wounded husband limp to safety during the October 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights, a home-side victory marred by the death of British commander Maj.-Gen. Isaac Brock.
It all began during the War of 1812 in the region of Queenston, now known as the Niagara Peninsula. Laura’s husband James was a sergeant in the militia; when he went missing after a battle, Laura searched for him among the dead and wounded in the battlefield. She found him bleeding from gunshot wounds and helped him home where she treated his injuries.
Author’s Note–That summer of 1813 was when the war became a secret war with soldiers from both sides disguised as civilians pretending to be on one side or the other. They all went back and forth across the border with ease, and since everyone spoke the same language; it was hard to decipher who was friend and who was foe.
During James’s convalescence, the war continued, and the region was captured by enemy troops. However, neither the Americans nor the British had firm control. One day in June 1813, American officers went to the Secord home and requested dinner. As she served them, Laura listened carefully as they discussed plans to launch a surprise attack on the British outpost at DeCew House, which was under Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon’s command.
The Secords, who had remained loyal to the British Crown and dedicated to the defence of the colony, knew that Fitzgibbon must be warned of the imminent attack – failing which, the Niagara Peninsula as a whole would fall to the Americans. As James was disabled due to his wounds and unable to walk, Laura took it upon herself to make the trek to DeCew House.
Author’s Note–Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon headed a group of soldiers called ‘The Bloody Boys” and on June 23 just after sunset a slight and delicate Loyalist by the name of Laura Secord arrived at the DeCew House with a message for Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon.
At dawn the next day, Laura began her 32-kilometre journey, which would require 18 hours. The roads she walked on led to the home of her sister-in-law where her half-brother lay ill in bed – a circumstance that would serve as an explanation for Laura’s journey should American patrols ask questions. When she arrived, Laura revealed the true purpose of her mission. Her niece Elizabeth offered to accompany her.
Now avoiding the main roads, Laura and Elizabeth chose a difficult path along the course of Twelve Mile Creek, which flowed past DeCew House. Elizabeth, however, was not endowed with her aunt’s stamina; after tramping through fields and woods, she collapsed, leaving Laura to complete the most hazardous part of the journey alone. In the evening, Laura arrived hungry and exhausted at a Native camp and persuaded the chief to take her to British headquarters. Once there, she alerted the Lieutenant of the surprise attack.
Author’s Note–At first the Lieutenant and his crew doubted her but— she had not struggled 19 miles through the dreaded Black Swamp in the boiling sun from Queenston through St. David’s and a treacherous morass on a whim. An unproven rumour flimsy as gossamer it could not be.
Two days later, on June 24, 1813, British and Native troops intercepted the Americans and forced their surrender at the Battle of Beaver Dams. In 1814, the peace treaty came into effect, and the border between the United States and Canada has never seen hostility since.
Author’s Note–Had someone whispered something in Laura Secord’s ear? Her invalid husband and children could have been easily the object of revenge in this peninsula of tangled loyalties. Everyone else the family had friends on both sides of the border as the people moved freely then between the both countries.
Although Laura Secord received 100 pounds from England’s Prince of Wales in 1860, many years would elapse before her brave feat was recognized as an act of heroism. After her death, two monuments were erected in her memory: one was built by the Government of Canada in Queenston; and the other by the Ontario Historical Society at Lundy’s Lane.
Author’s Note–Her story was told and retold adding to a myth that the war of 1812 was won by real true blood Canadians. But in reality, the story fit in with John Strachan’s writings that the Canadian militia, and not the British regulars or Indians, were the real heroes of the world.
In a tale told to every Canadian schoolchild ever since, Laura Secord is described hiking almost 32 kilometres through darkened woods — possibly leading a cow as a diversionary tactic. Laura added a cow to her story in later years even though not one animal was involved or hurt in this tale. However, the bravery of Laura Secord has always been part of our Canadian folklore.
“Heroes like Laura Secord helped define a Canadian national identity. We need to honour the sacrifice of our early settlers and celebrate their achievements.”– Kim Craitor
Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls
Paranormal activities include apparitional soldiers, light anomalies, orbs, mysterious mists, spooky footsteps and noises of the historical battle as well as feeling of being watched by the spectres. This is the final resting place of Laura Secord, as well as a lot of the heroes of the War of 1812.
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)
Related Canadian History reading–