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Laura Secord - For the History BuffsJanuary 21, 2018

Of course, the real Laura Secord did not make or even sell chocolate. It’s a good story, but it’s not THE story.

Her life around Niagara Falls at the dawn of the 19th century would have been full enough raising her family, cooking, cleaning and working on the farm she owned with her husband, James.

In her day, every act involved manual labour. It sounds nice to say things were simpler then, but they weren't.

And then there was the war. British and American soldiers and aboriginal fighters were hunting and killing each other all over the Niagara peninsula during the War of 1812, from 1812 to 1814. For early inhabitants like Laura Secord, life went on as the fighting carried on around them.

More than 200 years later, she is known primarily for the famous chocolates that bear her name. But there is so much more to her story.

Her husband, James, was a merchant and also a sergeant during the war. He was wounded at one of the earliest battles, at Queenston Heights (the same fight that left General Isaac Brock mortally wounded).

Laura rescued James from the battlefield.

The Secords were forced to billet some American soldiers at their home, as were many of their neighbours. That's where she overheard plans for an attack on the British forces to be made at Beaver Dams, about 30 kilometres away from her home.

Laura Secord's Home in Chippawa Niagara FallsHer husband was still recovering from his injuries, so she walked the rough terrain to warn the British of what was planned. Forewarned, they were able to ambush the oncoming American fighters and hand the invaders a significant defeat.

Laura Secord never revealed just how she overheard talk of the American plan. And it isn't certain whether she alerted the British general first, or if native scouts arrived ahead of her with the same warnings.

Regardless, it doesn't detract from her achievement. Today in Niagara Region, a walking trail that follows the route she took has been marked. 

Laura Secord died in 1868, at age 93. After that, the legend took hold. 

The idea that she took a cow with her on her famous walk was added. At some point, the chocolate company adopted her name for reasons that remain largely unclear, except that its founder appreciated her act of courage. In her lifetime, despite her heroic act Laura Secord was refused a military pension.

She is buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls - ironically, itself the site of the vicious Battle of Lundy's Lane during the War of 1812.

Her house is still preserved and open for tours by the Niagara Parks Commission starting in May. The address is 29 Queenston St. in Queenston, a few minutes drive outside Niagara Falls.

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