Laura Ingersoll Secord - Hero of the War of 1812

Laura Ingersoll was born in 1775, in Massachusetts. Growing up in New England during the American Revolutionary War, her father was an officer in the Massachusetts Militia. After the war ended, however, the family fell upon tough times, and her father decided to move the family to Upper Canada in 1795, bringing his daughter along with him. They settled in Queenston, on the Niagara river. There, her father opened up a tavern. It was in this tavern that Laura met James Secord, also a former American, and a loyalist. The pair was soon married, in 1797. Her father, incidentally, later went on to found the town of Ingersoll, Ontario.

Together, Laura and James ran a successful business selling clothing and other household necessities. They had 5 children together. James was also a sergeant in the 1st Lincoln militia.

Fast forward to the War of 1812. The Americans invaded, and they converged upon the area on October 13, 1812. The battle was fierce, but the American forces eventually surrendered. James Secord, however, was gravely wounded in the fighting. After the battle was over, Laura had to go search for him amongst the dead and dying, and help him home, for he could not walk on his own.

The next spring, the Americans came back, this time managing to secure the area. All able bodied men were forced south across the border, but James was spared this fate due to his injury. He still could barely walk without on his own. The Secord household was used by the American forces as a barracks. One night, Laura was forced to accommodate 3 American officers. She fed them, and supplied them with some drinks. Rather stupidly, they began talking about their plans as Laura was washing up. One of the officers said something about how they were planning on "making their move on Fitzgibbon at Beaver Dams".

They were referring to Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon, who commanded a force of 200 men, 150 of them friendly First Nations warriors. He was stationed just south of present day St. Catharines. The loss of his force would have allowed the Americans control of the Niagara peninsula.

Laura knew that Lieutenant Fitzgibbon needed to be warned of the attack. With her husband still unable to walk well, it was up to her. She slipped out of her house, claiming that she was going to visit her brother, who was ill. Once she arrived there, she told them about her plan, and her niece Elizabeth offered to accompany her.

Setting off early the next morning, June 22, 1813, the pair of them walked through forest and swamp, in unbearably hot and humid weather. Elizabeth eventually collapsed, and Laura was forced to continue on alone. After 32 kilometers, including a 6 hour climb of the Niagara Escarpment, she was intercepted by a group of Mohawk warriors, who were allied with Fitzgibbon. She was able to give them an idea of how important her message was, and escorted to see Fitzgibbon, who she told of the attack. Immediately after informing him, she collapsed of exhaustion.

Thanks to the information given by Laura, Lieutenant Fitzgibbon was able to plan an ambush for the American troops, capturing all but 6 of them.

The next year, signing of The Treaty of Ghent ended the war, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Laura's role in the war effort was not formally recognized until 1860, when Edward VII (At the time still only the Prince of Wales), on a visit to the Canadas, visited her and presented her with an award of £100. She was 85 years of age at the time. She lasted another 8 years, dying in 1868, at the ripe age of 93. Her house in Queenston, Ontario is currently a historical site / tourist attraction, and can be visited during non-winter months for the low low price of $3.50 CND.

As well, in the recent CBC series The Greatest Canadian, she was chosen as the 35th greatest Canadian of all time, for her efforts at safeguarding the colony from the Americans.


Laura Secord - The Company

Laura Secord, named after the above individual, is Canada's largest chocolatier. It has 155 stores nationwide, and their products are sold in over 2,000 3rd party shops throughout Canada. And they make pretty good chocolate. Whenever you purchase one of their chocolate trays, the middle chocolate is always a portrait of Laura Secord.

Update: Timeshredder tells me that he's heard that it's not really a portrait of Secord, instead just a picture of a pretty girl. An artist's rendition of what Secord might have looked like.

The company was founded by Frank P.O’Connor in 1913, 100 years after Secord's journey. He started off with no employees, in a single shop in Toronto, on Yonge street. Making his own chocolate, he did rather well, and started expanding his business, hiring others to produce chocolate for him, and gradually expanding into other markets, his next shop opening up in Montreal. By the 30's he had expanded into Manitoba. The stores managed to still do well during the rationing of World War II, and better after the war. In 1947, they had 48 shops in Toronto alone, and 36 in Montreal. In 1950, they reached $4.5 million CND worth of sales, mostly in their 96 shops in Ontario and Quebec.

In the early 1960's, the company began acquiring other companies, purchasing the Mary Lee Candy company in 1962, and their 160 Montreal shops. Two years later, they purchased the Smiles 'n Chuckles company of Kitchener, Ontario, which they used to produce chocolate for them. They also started pushing further west and east, opening up shops throughout the west and in the Maritime provinces.

In 1969, Laura Secord was acquired from the O'Connor family by Ault Foods Limited, which is a division of John Labatt Limited. That same year, the company purchased and renovated the Secord homestead, making it as authentic as they could. As mentioned above, it is now a tourist attraction, and you can naturally buy chocolate there.

The company was sold in 1983 to the Rowntree Mackintosh Corporation, which itself was bought by Nestle in 1988. 1994 saw an arrangement with Hallmark, to build joint Laura Secord / Hallmark stores. There are currently 15 of these combination stores in Canada. In 1999, the Secord homestead was donated to the Niagara Parks Commission. They still sell Laura Secord chocolate there however. That same year, Laura Secord was acquired by the Archibald Candy Corporation. That company, however, hasn't been doing all that well, and it was announced in 2004 that they are looking to sell Laura Secord. No takers at the moment.

As I said, they make pretty good chocolate, and their stores generally also sell ice cream and various other treats. Not nearly as tasty as Bernard Callebaut though.


Hal Anderson - #34 << Greatest Canadian Number #35 >> Ernie Coombs - #36

Sources:
Laura Secord. "About us," laurasecord. <english.laurasecord.ca/Page.asp?IdPage=1650&WebAddress=laurasecord> (January 3, 2005).

Galafilm. "Laura Secord," War of 1812. <www.galafilm.com/1812/e/people/secord.html> (January 3, 2005)

"Laura Secord," War of 1812-1814. <members.tripod.com/~war1812/secord.html> (January 3, 2005)

Niagra Parks. "Laura Secord Homestead," Niagra Heritage Trail. 2004. <www.niagaraparks.com/heritage/laurasecord.php> (January 3, 3005).

Wikipedia. "Laura Secord," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. December 28, 2004. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Secord> (January 3, 2005).

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