QUEENSTON, Ont. —"It stands well back from the road on rising land, a white frame house, with roses bordering the path" — this was
Laura Secord's home as it appeared in 1817
But time has crowded the gracious old home. Twentieth century buildings stand beside it elbow to elbow. The roses are gone and the house is vacant waiting for the pages of history to turn backward.
The two story frame house stands on the corner of Queen and Partition streets in the historic village of Queenston. It recently passed from private ownership to the John Labatt Ltd. firm, parent company of the Laura Secord Candy Shops Ltd. Plans are to restore it to depict 19th century living and to commemorate the life and service of Laura Secord, heroine of the War of 1812.
In December 1969 the Sheppard family, owners of the house since 1903, completed a sale that had been in the talk stage for two years. Earnest Sheppard and his father before him lived in the house that once sheltered the family of one of Ontario's most famous ladies.
"It's spacious" Mr. Sheppard said "four bedrooms and a large hall upstairs, a living, dining rooms arid kitchen down." Front and rear staircases where children hid, and spacious verandahs upstairs and down complete the living space.
IT WASN'T always like that. The house was originally a simple one story building. Renovations and additions took place on different occasions through the years.
How many times the house has changed hands since Laura Secord's day is not known, but it has always been privately owned, never the property of a government agency or historical society. Restoration plans are welcomed by people in the village who are fighting to retain the name "Queenston" and to preserve its history.
Under regional government Queenston village disappeared, as did many other small communities, to be swallowed up as part of larger municipal units. Established as a post office in 1802, one of the first in Ontario, Queenston residents want to retain the name and not become just the southern portion of the town of Niagara.
INFORMATION about Laura Secord, who died at the age of 93 in Chippawa, is sketchy and confusing. Her famous walk from Queenston to Beaver Dam during the War of 1812 did take place according to historians, but the famed cow and pail that were reported to have accompanied her, are fable.
Present day sources indicate that the Secords, who originally settled near St. Davids, owned two properties in or near Queenston. One was recorded as a grant to Major David Secord in 1789 for a "single lot in township no. 1 (Niagara) in the district of Nassau".
Another was a property known as the T h o r b u r n homestead which was sold by Thomas Dickson, a Queenston merchant to James Secord Dec. 4, 1817 for 25 pounds. This was then sold by the Secords in December 1817 to one Samuel Street for 625 pounds.
This information is on record at the Niagara Falls Public Library. The local historical society officially designated the Secord home early in the 1900's and it is this house which has been acquired by the candy company bearing the Secord name.
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IT IS RECORDED that James Secord, husband of Laura was with General Isaac Brock during the Battle of Queenston Heights and helped carry the slain general from the battlefield. He too was wounded and remained in his home while the war raged around him.
American troops were billeted with the Secords and this led to the 19 mile trek from Queenston, through St. Davids and Shipman's Corners (now St. Catharines) to Beaver Dam. There Laura Secord warned the British soldiers of American plans for attack.
Laura Secord was an American. She was born in Great Barrinton, Mass, and came to Canada when she was 12 as Laura Ingersoll. When she married and where the couple lived first is not known, but they apparently arrived in Queenston, then a port of some magnitude early in the 1800's.
THE COUPLE had seven children and after the war moved to Chippawa where James Secord became custom's officer. He died at 68 in 1841 and is buried in Drummond Hill cemetery on Lundy's Lane. Laura Secord died October 17, 1868 and is buried beside her husband.
Now her home will be restored in a grand manner. Nostalgia will reign, history will be on view for all to see. Laura Secord in her lifetime lived in poverty and without recognition. Only in her latter days did a Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, recognize her service with a gift of 100 pounds.