Laura Secord, Canada’s Paul Revere

If the War of 1812 was America’s Forgotten War, then Laura Secord is the war’s forgotten heroine, at least in the United States.


Laura Secord


Most Americans forget that in the late 1700s and early 1800s, most of Canada wanted to remain loyal to the British. In fact, many American colonists who were loyal to the Crown immigrated to Canada before and during the Revolutionary War. So when America decided to prove its might against the British once again by making the entire North American continent free from the yoke of British rule, some Canadians balked at the idea. One of these loyalists was a young woman named Laura Secord.

Laura was not always a loyalist to the Crown. Her father, Thomas Ingersoll, had sided with the Patriots during the Revolutionary War effort, but had since moved to Ontario’s Niagara Falls region. It was in Queenston where Laura met and married James Secord, a merchant.


The Secord Home

James Secord became a sergeant during the early days of the War of 1812, serving in the Lincoln Militia. Severely wounded in the leg and shoulder at the local Battle of Queenston Heights, Laura rescued him from the battlefield and brought him home to nurse his wounds. By 1813, James was still recuperating from his wounds, and the Secords had no choice but to supply rooms in their home to some of the American forces occupying the town. Laura overheard the officers planning to attack the British forces at Beaver Dams, twenty miles from their home. James was still in too poor of health to sound the alarm to Lieutenant FitzGibbon, so it fell to the petite Laura to make the trek. She took a roundabout route through inhospitable lands, avoiding the Americans and being helped out by a band of FirstNations men. The route took her through swampland and woods. She reached FitzGibbon’s headquarters on June 22 or 23, 1813. Unlike Paul Revere and his shouts about “The British are coming!”, Laura reported to FitzGibbon that the Americans were about to attack.


Laura Secord informing Lieutenant FitzGibbon of the impending attack. Rendering by Lorne Kidd Smith, c. 1920

On June 24, 1813, a force of FirstNations Indians and Mohawks led by Captain William Kerr and British soldiers led by FitzGibbon ambushed the American troops under the command of Colonel Charles Boerstler at the Battle of Beaver Dams and forced them to surrender. Laura Secord’s part in the ambush was never made official, but the story persisted and was embellished over the years, making her an icon of Canadian pride. She petitioned for a military pension, testimony of her claim provided by FitzGibbon himself. Her claim was denied until 1860, when Edward, Prince of Wales learned of her trek. He rewarded her with 100 pounds. She passed away in 1868, at age 93.


Laura Secord in her later years.

The name Laura Secord is familiar to most Canadians for more reasons than her heroism. In 1913, Frank O’Connor founded a candy company in Toronto and named it after Laura Secord, calling her “an icon of courage, devotion and loyalty.” Today the company boasts over 120 stores nationwide, and is Canada’s largest and most famous chocolatier.


Statue of Laura Secord, at Valiants Memorial, in Ottawa.