If you’re hiking The Great Trail near Niagara-on-the-Lake, you might find yourself walking in the footsteps of one of Canada’s greatest heroines.
On June 22, 1813, Laura Ingersoll Secord walked 32 kilometres through the war-ravaged countryside of the Niagara peninsula to warn Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon of an impending American attack. Armed with this information, the British forces and their Mohawk allies successfully fended off the invasion.
Today, Trail users can follow her historic route on the Laura Secord Legacy Trail, thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers in the region.
In 2010, Caroline McCormick, Laura’s great-great-great granddaughter, discovered that there no plans in place for Canadian heroine Laura Secord during the War of 1812 bicentennial commemorations, and she decided to honour Laura’s legacy by establishing a recreational trail in her name.
“We charted a trail that follows Laura Secord’s route as authentically as possible through a landscape that has undergone many changes in the past 200 years, with consideration to safety and natural experience for people using it today,” Caroline says.
The idea captured the imagination of local volunteers of all ages. In the beginning, students from Niagara College’s geospatial information systems (GIS) program helped map the trail based on Laura’s journey, reconstructed by the late Brock University historian and cartographer, Alun Hughes.
The generosity of donors
Donors also stepped forward to give what they could to ensure the project was a success – even when its forward progress seemed impossible.
At one point, the construction of a necessary but costly pedestrian bridge over Twelve Mile Creek threatened to derail the project. However, an anonymous donor stepped in at the last moment and offered to pay for the materials needed, and a community minded local contractor donated the construction costs.
“The 20 metre long “Bridge at Laura’s Crossing” was completed just in time for historic first Laura Secord Walk on June 22, 2013 – exactly 200 years since Laura Secord walked out her door and into history. The bridge has since become a major link in the regional trail network ” Caroline says.
The Laura Secord Legacy Trail was officially connected to The Great Trail in 2013, and is open year round as weather and trail conditions permit. In addition, the Friends of Laura Secord hold a walk every June to commemorate Laura’s journey.
“We’re very proud that the Laura Secord Legacy Trail is connected to The Great Trail – the trail that connects the entire country!”
Celebrating other histories
While the Trail is named after Laura Secord, it also shines a spotlight on other stories and cultures on the Niagara peninsula.
“At the end of the Laura Secord Legacy Trail, we constructed the First Nations Peace Monument, designed (pro bono) by renowned architect Douglas Cardinal, to recognize the Indigenous peoples in this land, and to acknowledge the enormous debt European settlers owed to the First Nations who aided them”, says Caroline.
“While the stories of African-Americans do not feature in Laura Secord’s story, the Trail also passes through communities and sites connected to the struggles of black slaves, who attempted to escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad,” she adds. A series of digital interpretive stories celebrating First Nations, Black History, pioneering women, and the natural history of the region have been developed and deployed along the trail, accessible on the Guidetags app for Android smartphones.
Raising awareness of war victims today
This year, the Laura Secord Walk will raise funds for War Child Canada. Laura Secord and her children were victims of war in dreadful circumstances during the War of 1812, her husband was a wounded veteran, and their families were refugees. “We felt Laura’s experiences in the 19th century paralleled those of war victims today.” Caroline says.
Today, the Laura Secord Legacy Trail provides hikers an opportunity to reflect on Laura Secord’s story and many others important to our cultural and natural heritage.
“I am proud that I share the DNA of Laura Secord, but I am more proud of the values she still represents – courage, determination, fortitude and perseverance – and that step by step, you CAN make a difference.”
To register for the annual walk on the Laura Secord Legacy Trail on June 22, 2019, click here.
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