Get off the couch, walk into history

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In 49 days, you will have the extraordinary opportunity of recreating a pivotal moment in Canadian history.

Two hundred years ago to the day, nay even the hour if you wish, you can take the same famous walk Laura Secord did, when she warned Lieutenant FitzGibbons, at DeCews home 32 km away that the Americans were going to attack.

The evening before on June 21, Laura overheard soldiers, who had commandeered the Secord home, discussing their plans to attack the British at Beaver Dams. Laura discussed the situation with her husband James, who could not deliver the warning as he was still incapacitated, having been severely wound at the Battle of Queenston Heights, the previous October.

Laura who was 38, would have to make the trip herself, although she hoped, perhaps, not all the way.

The Americans had control of most of the Niagara Peninsula and Canadians were not free to travel as they wished. Laura talked the U.S. commander into issuing her a pass which would allow her to travel the two miles, with some food, to St. David’s where her half brother Charles Ingersoll, had been ill and was being cared for at a Secord relative’s home. There she hoped either Charles or a nephew could carry on the journey.

On June 22, 1813, Laura set off about four in the morning, on the road to St. David’s. Upon her arrival she discovers Charles is still ill and there is no one else to carry on. It is thought that her niece Elizabeth may have travel on the next leg of the journey with her.

It was a very warm, June day and the next leg of the journey was through the Black Swamp. This was one big swamp! She did not have a pass for the road at the edge of the swamp, which was being patrolled by American soldiers so she and Elizabeth had to try and follow faint Indian trails. Bears, boars, bobcats, wolves, mosquitoes and the dreaded black flies were some of the dangers on this warm day. They had to go through the muck and cross creeks, either wading across or perhaps crossing on fallen trees, all the way to 12 Mile Creek and Shipman Corners. (Today in St. Catherine’s.)

Elizabeth could not continue on from there; although younger that Laura, she was also weak from a previous illness and in fact only live about a year longer. They had gotten lost in the swamp several times so night was falling when Laura began to climb the escarpment.

Have you ever really looked at that escarpment? Most people would have trouble walking up the road let alone scrambling up through the bush. At the top Laura stumbled on to the encampment of Caughnawaga natives, there as allies of the British. Terrified that her scalp was to be a trophy, she somehow managed convince Chief Mishe-mo-qua and his warriors to take her to FitzGibbons station, at DeCew’s house.

Laura had walked for close to 20 hours, almost 20 miles, or 32 kilometres in the heat and humidity, with dangers from humans on the road; snakes in the swamp; wolves in the forest; she climbed an escarpment and lived through meeting the Indians. Her dress was tattered and her bare feet bleeding when she was brought before Lieutenant James FitzGibbons. She had done it.

Can you? Really, could you even walk the 32 km? Maybe you should find out what it takes to be a heroine. This is your chance! Granted, most of the walking will be on roads, not big swamps with snakes and you get bridges to cross over the creeks. You probably don’t have to worry about being shot as a spy by American patrols or scalped by Natives. But you can get a glimmer of the courage and fortitude it took this middle aged woman to give her warning. A warning which actually helped turn the tide of invasion of the Canadas.

‘Friends of Laura Secord’ have arranged for just about everyone to commemorate Laura by doing the walk, the whole thing or one of five stages of the walk. There are shuttle busses for those who can’t walk and even an option for those who can’t travel to Queenston for the day.

Much research has gone into getting the route right and much effort is going into making this a spectacular day. Check out www.friendsoflaurasecord.com for all the details. If you register before May 19 it is only $25. There are a lot of options and there are T-shirts and some sections with meals; tons of stuff to read. There are also other events happening on the weekend.

For others, you might consider volunteering to assist in this great adventure. Here are some areas they are looking for volunteers to assist with: Unveiling of the new Laura Secord Stamp and Coin – a joint event by Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint on Friday, June 21. Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Location: Laura Secord Homestead. Volunteers: set-up and teardown, greeters, registration, etc.

A Toast to Laura Secord is a ticketed VIP event to commemorate the night Laura Secord heard the news that would change the course of the war. Friday, June 21, 4-8 p.m. Location: Queenston Heights Restaurant; Volunteers: Set-up and teardown, greeters, registration, etc.

The Laura Secord Commemorative Walk on Saturday, June 22. Shifts throughout the day at the Laura Secord Homestead and other event locations. Volunteers: set-up, teardown, greeters, registration, trail guides, crossing guards, and event support at event location throughout the walk route.

If you can help or you have question contact Caroline at friendsoflaurasecord@hotmail.com. Come on Canada, it is time to get off the couch and “Walk Into History.”

 

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