Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Daughters of Laura Secord

Gravestone of Hannah Cartwright Secord (1817-1877)
I've written previously about the importance of distinguishing between family history and family mythology. One recurring myth in Canadian genealogy is to claim descent from Laura Secord (1775-1868), the heroine of the War of 1812. As the 200th anniversary of the start of the war approaches, there is renewed interest in Laura Secord, and as result, claims of descent. While it is certainly possible to be one of the over 500 descendants of Laura, it is highly unlikely that your last name will be Secord. You would most likely be descended from her daughters, four of whom lived in Guelph, Ontario.

Laura and James had six daughters and one son. Charles Badeau SECORD (1809-1872) was three years old at the time of his mother's famous trek to warn the British of an American attack. Charles and his wife Margaret ROBBINS (1813-1872) had three children, two of whom had no issue. Laura's grandson, Charles Forsyth SECORD 1834-1899), had numerous children, however, he and his family emigrated to Nebraska. One of his sons became a missionary in Guatemala, and apparently the only descendants of Laura to still carry the Secord name were born in that country.

Laura and James's oldest daughter, Mary Lawrence SECORD, was about 16 when her mother went for her twenty mile walk in June of 1813. In 1816 she married William TRUMBLE, assistant surgeon of the 37th Regiment of Foot, and accompanied him when he was posted to Jamaica. A letter written by a descendant living in Norway describes that when William died in 1822, Mary returned to Canada with her two small daughters. A few years later her father-in-law died, and Mary took her family to Ireland in order to claim an inheritance. According to the letter's author, Mary had to fight off the advances of an amorous sea captain on this voyage. One of Mary's granddaughter's married a Norwegian Army officer, which explains the Norway connection.

The next oldest daughter, Charlotte, was two years younger that Mary. Charlotte never married, died in 1880, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph, Ontario. No grave marker survives.

Gravestone of Harriet
Hopkins Secord

Harriet Hopkins SECORD was ten years old in 1813. In 1824 she married David William SMITH and had two daughters and a son. David practiced law in St. Catharines and was a heavy drinker. When he died in 1842, Harriet and her daughters lived with her mother in Chippewa, Ontario. Her son went to live with his father's parents and eventually settled in Wisconsin. After her mother's death, Harriet and her daughters joined her sisters in Guelph. Harriet died in 1892 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Guelph. Neither of her daughters married.

Appolonia SECORD was just a toddler when the War of 1812 began. Unfortunately she contracted tuberculosis and died in Queenston at the age of 19.

Gravestone of Laura Ann
Secord (1815-1852)
Laura Ann SECORD was born eight months after the war ended. She married John POORE of Guelph in 1833 and had two sons, one who died in infancy and the other who settled in Manitoba. After John's death in 1842, Laura married Dr. William CLARKE (1810-1887), who was a magistrate, and later a member of Parliament and the Mayor of Guelph. They had three children: a son and daughter who died in infancy, and a daughter Laura Secord CLARKE who died unmarried in 1936. Laura Ann died in 1852 is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Guelph.

The youngest daughter of Laura SECORD was Hannah Cartwright SECORD (1817-1877). Hannah married twice and had children from both marriages. Hannah first married Howley WILLIAMS (1809-1844). She later married Edward CARTHEW (1808-1879). All three are buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph. Unfortunately, Hannah's and Edward's gravestones are located underneath a lilac bush and are lying flat on the ground. When I photographed the gravestones several years ago it was necessary to cut back the lilac, and then dig away the grass and soil that had almost completely obscured Hannah's gravestone.

Unlike her sisters, Hannah had numerous children and grandchildren. Those claiming descent from Laura Secord in Canada are therefore more than likely to be Hannah's descendants.