War of 1812people

Laura Secord


Laura Secord is presented to the Prince of Wales

Women and War

In Canada, the name Laura Secord is inextricably linked with chocolates, sweets and ice cream. But many Canadians are unaware that the famous confectionery is named for a heroine of the War of 1812.

Laura Ingersoll was born in 1775 to a wealthy Massachusetts family. Her father supported the patriot side during the American Revolution and his business prospered during the war. However after Independence, an economic depression left the family in financial difficulty. Laura's father succumbed to the lure of cheap land in Upper Canada and moved his family across the border. Laura helped to raise her many brothers and sisters following their mother's death.

Laura met her future husband, James Secord, at her father's tavern in Queenston. Laura and James worked hard together and prospered. By 1812, they had five children, two servants, a modest frame house and ran a successful business selling clothing and household goods.

At the outbreak of war, James was already a sergeant with the 1st Lincoln militia. In October of 1812, the Americans attacked Queenston Heights and Laura and the family fled to safety at a friend's house. However, upon learning that her husband was critically injured and was calling for her, Laura immediately set off for the battlefield.

In the spring of 1813, the Americans occupied the Canadian side of the Niagara River. All able-bodied Upper Canadian men were considered prisoners of war and were sent to the states. The Secords were spared this hardship due to James's infirmity, and they were ordered to billet three American officers. One night at a dinner party for Colonel Boerstler, the commander of the American forces in Queenston, Laura and James overheard Boerstler inform his confreres that the Americans, "shall move against Fitzgibbon at Beaver Dams."

James was still incapacitated by his shattered leg, so Laura set off on her own to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon of the imminent American attack. She left before sunrise and walked for eighteen hours through swamp, brush and farmland. Apart from the obvious danger of being spotted by an American sentry, Laura braved the blazing June sun and the potential hazard of wild animals. Near the end of her journey she encountered some native warriors and asked them to take her to Fitzgibbon's headquarters. After relaying the crucial information to the lieutenant, Laura fell fast asleep.

The British forces and their native allies surprised the Americans and won the day. Had the Americans won at Beaver Dams they might have been able to take the entire Niagara region. Laura's contribution was not public knowledge at the time because the Secord family was still living behind enemy lines and feared revenge from American sympathizers in the community.

Following the war, Laura and James filed several petitions to the government requesting either money or a government post in return for her services to her country. For many years, these petitions were ignored. Finally, at the age of eighty-five, Laura Secord received official recognition and a monetary reward from the Prince of Wales. She died eight years later in 1868.