QUEENSTON, Ont. — —
Better known as “Fanny” Doyle, she was the wife of a captured American artillery officer who took part in the War of 1812 fighting and then seemed to vanish. Emerson’s exhaustive research revealed that Fanny escaped the fall of Fort Niagara in December 1813 and managed to hike 300 miles to an American military camp near Albany where she worked as an Army nurse until her death in 1819.
If debate erupts over the top heroine of the war (”Laura vs. Betsy”), the Queenston housewife will undoubtedly win hands down in the “Best Known,” category, a recent Toronto Star article concluded. After all, the newspaper argued, Laura’s portrait made it onto a Canada Post stamp and her name is carried on products of a popular confectionary chain.
Author and historian Pierre Berton (”Flames Across the Border: The Canadian-American Tragedy, 1813-1814”) said Secord’s adventure was destined to become an imperishable Canadian legend.
“In all her long life, she will tell her story many times, embellishing it here and there, muddying it more than a little,” Berton said, “Laura’s story will be used to underline the growing myth that the War of 1812 was won by true-blooded Canadians.”
Yet, a mystery remains, he contends, Laura never made it clear exactly how she heard the rumor of the planned attack on June 21.
Secord and her husband, James, were poverty-stricken in the post-war years. In 1828, James was given a small pension because of his war wound. Later, he was appointed registrar, then judge of the Niagara Surrogate Court.
He died in 1841, leaving his widow without any financial support. She operated a school for children in a Chippawa, Ont., cottage. When she died in 1868 at age 93, she was buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls, Ont.
Today, the Laura Secord homestead at 29 Queenston St., Queenston, Ont., is a heritage site open to the public. It is easily reached via the Niagara Parkway, north of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, to the quiet hamlet at the bottom of the steep hill.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of articles to mark the War of 1812 bicentennial and the impact of that conflict on the Niagara Frontier.