Laura Secord: Canadian Heroine

August 23, 2014 10:00 am

FARblog10.jpegOne of the most popular historic attractions around Niagara Falls is the Laura Secord Homestead, which, straightforwardly enough, was the home of Canada’s most famous heroine, Laura Secord. But, how much do you know about Laura Secord?

If you’re coming from Canada, you might only know about her brave feats in the War of 1812, while if you went to school in the U.S., you probably don’t know anything at all. For your pleasure and education, here’s a bit more about one of the most courageous women in Canada’s history so you can have real admiration for her immense struggle.

In the Early Days

Laura Secord was born Laura Ingersoll to Thomas and Elizabeth in Massachusetts Bay in 1775. Thomas and Laura were descendants of some of the first inhabitants of the area; their ancestor Richard Ingersoll landed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1629. Laura’s father was a fairly successful milliner and military man, fighting with the American revolutionaries for freedom from Great Britain.

When Laura was eight years old, her mother died and her father remarried. Laura’s stepmother was far from evil; she taught her stepdaughters crucial skills like reading and needlework before her untimely death four years later. Laura was then put in charge of raising her two younger sisters, forcing her to mature quickly and maintain the household. By then, Laura’s father Thomas was becoming increasingly disgusted with the revolutionaries’ harsh treatment of loyalists — many British loyalists were persecuted in varying degrees, from forced relocation to tarring and feathering. In 1795, when Laura was 20 years old, the whole family moved to Canada.

Laura soon married the son of a wealthy French family, James Secord, and began her own family. In the span of nine years, Laura gave birth to five children, four girls and one boy.

During the War of 1812

FARblog11.jpegJames and Laura lived in Queenstown, which was a center for activity during the War of 1812. James was a prominent military man in the region and was injured in one of the more important battles that took place in the city. Legend has it that Laura heard of her husband’s state and rushed from her home to try to help him back to safety. The story goes that she found James wounded and about to be brutally beaten by three angry American soldiers; instead of watching her husband suffer, she offered her own life to save his. Just in time, an American captain happened upon the scene and saved both Laura and James from the soldiers’ wrath.

However, this event is not even close to matching Laura’s bravery later in the war. In the middle of the war, Laura learned of a surprise American attack on the British troops occupying Beaver Dams. Though history has forgotten exactly how Laura procured this information — some sources claim she overheard some American soldiers discussing their plans over dinner — it was found to be true. Because James was still recovering from battle-won injuries, Laura herself set out on foot to walk the 20 miles to warn the British of the Americans’ movement.

After the War

The Secords struggled mightily after the war, as their store and house was badly damaged and they had no other source of income. They lived for a while on James’s soldier’s pension, but soon they were fighting to get by. Despite their important aid during the war, the government and their fellow Canadians failed to note the Secords’ assistance during the war and Laura’s crucial acts of bravery. It was not until after her death in 1868 that the pleas of her grandchildren and the writings of the British Lieutenant who received her in Beaver Dams brought Laura’s strength to national fame.

Laura Secord was truly one of Canada’s bravest women, and you can pay tribute to her and her struggles by paying a visit to her homestead on your trip to Niagara Falls.

Homestead image by antefixus 21 from Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Statue image by Tjololo from Flickr’s Creative Commons.