The monument to Isaac Brock isn’t the only one on top of the hill at Queenston Heights. To my surprise and delight, Sean and I discovered that there’s also a monument to Laura Secord. While most non-Canadians have probably never heard of her, many Canadians may only be familiar with her name because of the chain of chocolate stores dotted across the country. In all honesty, distributing excellent chocolate country-wide is probably worthy of a monument, but there’s a lot more to her than that.
One of the most inspiring stories of the War of 1812 is that of Laura Secord, who was an incredibly gutsy woman.
In the course of the war, the Americans had taken control of the area that we now know as the Niagara Peninsula. Feeling rather sure of themselves, they rocked up to the Secords’ home and demanded dinner. Being Canadian, Laura made dinner for them, although I am quietly confident that she never served them the best of the maple syrup from her pantry. When Laura overheard American soldiers planning to attack the British and Canadian soldiers defending Canada, she listened carefully, committed their plans to memory, and then walked almost 20 miles from her home in Queenston to warn the home team of the visitors’ game plan. She was determined to get the message to the British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant FitzGibbon at Beaver Dams where the Americans planned to attack.
Don’t just think of this as your everyday half-marathon. She had to walk over varied terrain in 19th century ladies’ shoes and clothing which, it may be safely assumed, were not designed for much other than drinking tea in parlours and visiting a shop or two on the odd occasion. She didn’t go by the main road, because she didn’t want to be stopped by more American soldiers, so she went cross-country. Even though she was afraid when she came upon a camp of Iroquois, she asked for directions and was greatly relieved to find that they supported the British. She was even more pleased that a guide accompanied her all the way to Decew House, where FitzGibbon and his men were in a meeting.
The message delivered by Laura Secord made a huge difference in the outcome of the Battle of Beaver Dams. (Aside – can YOU think of a more Canadian name for a place?) The British ambushed and defeated the Americans, and gladly took all the credit in their official reports, conveniently forgetting to mention Laura Secord at all.
Despite that oversight, the truth of the story was told far and wide by everyone except the soldiers who didn’t want to admit they owed their success to a chick, and Laura Secord was eventually recognised – and rightly so – as an absolute heroine of Ontario and Canada.
Her homestead in Queenston was restored in the early 1970s and functions today as a museum. We had obviously used up our extra luck in finding her monument – we happened to visit on the one day of the week that the museum wasn’t open.
A hundred years later, the story of Laura Secord’s bravery made such an impression on Frank P O’Connor that he named his new business, a chocolate store in Toronto, in her honour so that her memory would be preserved and the story of her bravery would be told.
I hope you understand the sacrifice Sean and I have made in the interests of doing our part to perpetuate the memory of this Canadian heroine.
We’re calling it a patriotic duty.
Those maple creams, though…
Most of the body of this post appeared in several posts on my Maple Leaf Aussie… Adrift On The Wind blog in September 2015.