June 22 is the night of Laura Secord’s famous walk. Laura Secord (1775 – 1868) was a Canadian heroine of the War of 1812. She is known for having walked 20 miles (32 km) out of American-occupied territory in 1813 to warn British forces of an impending American attack.
In 1813, the Americans invaded and occupied Queenston in Canada where the Secords lived. When she became aware of the Americans’ plans to attack the British troops at Beaver’s Dam, Laura walked 20 miles to warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. Based on her warning, the British and Mohawk armies roundly defeated the Americans. No mention of Secord was made in reports that immediately followed the battle.
Laura and James Secord were impoverished after the war and lived on James’s small army pension. Finally in 1828 James Secord was appointed registrar of the Niagara Surrogate Court and he was promoted to judge in 1833. In 1835 he became a customs collector at the port of Chippawa. The position came with a home in Chippawa, into which the family moved.
James Secord died of a stroke in1841, leaving Laura destitute. When his war pension ended, she was unable to maintain her land as profitable and sold off much of it. Governor-General Sydenham denied a 27 February 1841 petition which she sent, seeking to have her son to take over James’s customs position. Sydenham also denied a petition she sent that May for a pension for herself, as James had received a pension for decades.
Possibly with help from better-off members of the family, Secord moved to a red brick cottage on Water Street in November 1841. By that time, three of her four daughters had become widows themselves with young children and they joined their mother in her small home.
Over the years, the Secords unsuccessfully petitioned the government for some kind of acknowledgement. In 1860, when Secord was 85, the Prince of Wales heard of her story while travelling in Canada and sent an award of £100. It was the only official recognition that she received during her lifetime.
The story of Laura Secord has taken on mythic overtones in Canada. Her tale has been the subject of books, plays, and poetry, often with many embellishments. Since her death, Canada has bestowed honours on her, including schools named after her, monuments, a museum, a memorial stamp and coin, and a statue at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa.
Most Canadians associate her with the Laura Secord Chocolates company, named after her on the centennial of her walk.
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