Laura Secord set out alone from her Queenston home early one morning in 1813 on an arduous 32-kilometre journey through thick woods and across rushing streams. Fearing attacks by wild animals and risking discovery by American forces, she pressed on for 18 hours to warn the British of an impending invasion.
It has taken 200 years, but Canada is finally honouring the brave young woman who helped turn around the War of 1812 by recreating the path she paved that auspicious day.
The Laura Secord Legacy Trail will open Saturday June 22, 200 years to the day after Secord’s heroic trek.
It won’t be as difficult — no fording streams on fallen logs or taking cover behind cows — but it will be a faithful recreation of the trek that led the British to victory in the Battle of Beaver Dams.
“I am so proud of what she did as a woman,” said Secord descendant Christine McCormick. “It is the story of courage, perseverance and determination.”
- McCormick is the force behind the trail and founder of Friends of Laura Secord, a not-for-profit community group “dedicated to sharing the story of our best-known national heroine.”
Growing up in Alberta, McCormick always knew she was a relative of Secord’s but associated her mostly with Laura Secord chocolates.
It wasn’t until she moved from Alberta to Niagara-on-the-Lake 10 years ago that McCormick began to understand the historical significance of the woman who helped the British side win the War of 1812.
Secord’s story has consumed the artist’s life for the past three years as McCormick laboured to create a lasting legacy for her ancestor and focus on the celebrations of the 200th anniversary.
Earlier this week McCormick attended rehearsals of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company’s Laura’s Cow: The Legend of Laura Secord which is at the Enwave Theatre from May 2 though to May 5.
“The children are magnificent. Anybody of any age would love the performance,” she said.
The work, which premiered at Luminato in 2012, travels to St. Catharines on June 1 to perform at Laura Secord Secondary School.
All of this attention on the contribution of the young wife and mother is a thrill for McCormick who has traced other family members to Alberta, the U.S., Guatemala and Norway.
In 2010, McCormick formed Friends of Laura Secord, which has about 100 members, to create the trail so everyone “could walk in Laura’s shoes.” Four municipalities participated in the planning process involving environmentally sensitive lands. Funding came from individuals and agencies including the federal government.
The trail is interactive with smartphone apps that provide commentary about the life of pioneer women and the involvement of the First Nations in the successful war against the United States as well as the flora and fauna.
“There are so many parts to Laura’s story,” says McCormick, adding that the First Nations participated in preparing the materials for the trail.
The trail starts at Secord’s modest Queenston home, which has been restored and outfitted as an interpretive centre, and ends at historic DeCew House in Thorold, where aboriginal forces loyal to the Brits escorted Secord to deliver her message to British Lt. James Fitzgibbons.
One of the key elements of the trail is a low impact suspension footbridge that now spans the creek. It was paid for by donations and a gift from an unknown benefactor.
Secord’s descendants have been invited to attend the opening of the trail on June 22. The inaugural trek, which beings at 6 a.m. and runs all day is open to the public. Register at www.friendsoflaurasecord.comwww.friendsoflaurasecord.comEND