Saturday, August 4, 2018

Orphaned Gravestones

Hazen Cemetery, Walsingham, Norfolk, Ontario
According to its official website, Norfolk County in Southwestern Ontario has 111 documented cemeteries and burial sites. Settlement of this area on the north shore of Lake Erie began more than two centuries ago, so it is common to find gravestones dating from the early to mid 19th Century. One name that appears on a number of these gravestones is Secord.

In genealogical circles there is considerable interest in the Secord name, primarily due to the connection with War of 1812 heroine Laura Secord. Laura’s husband, James Secord (1773-1841), was the son of James Secord (1732-1784), a Loyalist refugee during the American Revolution and brother of my ggggg-grandmother Mary Beebe née Secord (1736- ?). While none of James Secord’s children or grandchildren settled in Norfolk County, many of his cousins were pioneers in what was known as the Long Point Settlement.

The largest collection of Secord gravestones is found at Hillcrest Cemetery in Charlotteville Township. Other graveyards in Norfolk, however, contain only single Secord burials. This post looks at four of these “orphaned” graves.


Mary Elizabeth Secord (1884-1897)


Mary Elizabeth Secord
(1884-1897)
Mary, the oldest daughter of William Gourley Secord (1864-1946) and Ada Maria Lemon (1861-1920) was born in Simcoe, Ontario on 15 Sep 1884. While her parents are both buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Simcoe. Mary was buried at Walsh Baptist in Walsingham Township after her death at the age of 12. The official cause of her death was “congestion of brain” which could describe a number of conditions. Several years ago a descendant of William Gourley Secord posted online that Mary died “of blood poisoning from a cut by a rusty fence.”

William Gourley Secord was the son of Abraham Wartman Secord (1832-1904). William’s grandfather was also named Abraham Wartman Secord (1795-1852). The Wartman name comes from Susannah Wartman (1758-1842), the wife of William’s great-grandfather John Secord (1757-1830).

John Secord was born in Westchester County, New York. A few years before the start of the American Revolution, John’s father had settled his family on the Susquehanna River near what is now Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. During the Revolutionary War, John’s father choose to abandon his farm since he and his son remained loyal to the British. They first moved up the Susquehanna to Tioga Point and later to Fort Niagara.

John served under John Butler in the Indian Department and later in Butler’s Rangers. He was likely present at the Battle of Oriskany during the Saratoga Campaign in 1777, and at the Battle of Wyoming and the Cherry Valley Massacre in 1778. A certificate attached to John Secord’s 1798 Upper Canada Land Petition gives some more details about his activities during the war:

Those may certify that Mr John Secord Junr when in the late Corps of Rangers commanded by Lt Colo John Butler, in many instances behaved himself as a brave man, having after the Battle of Wyoming, when the Loyalists were retreating towards Niagara (and found it necessary to have a better supply of Provisions) returned by desire of the commanding officer to Wyoming, with only eight men and brought from the Enemy, One Hundred and forty head of Cattle – upwards of ninety Head were drove to Aughquaga, and there issued to the troops, and the others used for an immediate Supply – and in all other instances he behave with a manly spirit in opposing the Enemy &c – Given under our Hands – [Signed] Peter Hare, Andrew Bradt, Benj: Pawling, John Turney, Bernard Frey, Jesse Pawling, P Ball, D. Servos, R. Clench Lt B Rangers, Saml Thompson
John was often known as "Deaf John" because of the hearing loss he suffered during the war.

Drusilla Aramenta Secord (1860-1864) 

Drusilla Aramenta Secord
(1860-1864)
Determining Drusilla Aramenta’s parentage was a bit of a challenge since her father’s initials were obscured on her gravestone in Bell Mill Cemetery in Middleton, Township. Eventually, research led to Sarah Rebecca Secord née Buck (1832-1921) and her husband, John Lampman Secord (1824-1912). Drusilla Aramenta was the fifth of Sarah and John’s seven children.

Like several of his brothers, John later emigrated with his wife and family to the United States. In the 1885 Iowa State Census, John is shown as a farmer in Highland Township in Green County. Sometime after 1900, John and Sarah moved to Crookston, Polk, Minnesota and later retired to Twin Falls, Idaho where both are buried.

John Lampman Secord was the brother of Abraham Wartman Secord and thus the great-uncle of Mary Elizabeth Secord. The Lampman name comes from his mother, Elizabeth Ann Lampman (1794-1832).


Almira Secord née Fuller (1834-1854) 

Almira Secord née Fuller
(1834-1854)
Almira Secord née Fuller was the first wife of Robert Addison Secord (1826-1909), brother of Abraham Wartman Secord and John Lampman Secord. Almira was the daughter of Stephen Fuller (1802-1881) and Elizabeth (1801-1888), and married Robert in 1852. She is buried at Clear Creek Cemetery in Houghton Township where her parents are also buried. Almira likely died from complications of childbirth. Her daughter, Marilla Amelia Secord (1854-1928) was raised by Stephen and Elizabeth.

After Almira’s death, Robert emigrated to the United States and settled in Cordova, Rock Island, Illinois He married Lucy Ann Ormstead in 1858. A daughter, Emma, was born the following year. Eight other children followed.

Robert served in the 126th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War from 1862 until 1865. His unit participated in the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. For most of the war, however, his unit was part of the Union’s occupation force in Arkansas.

A few years after the Civil War, Robert moved with his wife and four children to Tama County, Iowa. A decade late they moved to Otoe County, Nebraska. Robert and Lucy are buried in Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City.

Robert was named after Church of England clergyman Robert Addison (1754–1829) who baptised him in 1827.

Janette Secord (1858-1860)


Janette Secord (1858-1860)
Janette, the oldest daughter of Asa Secord (1833-1898), a lumberman, and Mary Ann Laforge (1840-1915) was buried at Hazen Cemetery.

Commercial lumbering was a major industry in Norfolk Country during the mid 19th Century. Like many of his generation, Asa worked as a lumberman for several years then emigrated to Michigan.

Asa was the son of Asa Secord (1795-1877) and Jeanette Brown of Oakland Township in Brant County. Asa was the fourth oldest of 18 children and was only a few years younger than his father’s second wife, Sarah Elizabeth Darling. Asa’s grandfather was John Secord (1762-1817), a cousin of James Secord.


Mary Ann Laforge was the daughter of Peter Laforge (1805-1872) and Mary Gumberson. Her father was French Canadian and her mother was English.

Peter Laforge was born in Detroit shortly before a fire destroyed most of that settlement. As a child he may have experienced the Siege of Detroit during the War of 1812. His father, Louis Basile Laforge (1768-1839) had been born in Berthier, Quebec while his mother, Jeanne Archange (1768-1806), had been born in Detroit. Detroit has been part of New France until its capture by the British in 1760 during the French and Indian War. Detroit remained a French community and society for many years thereafter. During the American Revolution, Detroit served as the base for a detachment of Butler’s Rangers. In 1795, the Jay Treaty transferred ownership of Detroit to the United States but it was not until the following year that the Americans took possession.

Mary Gumberson is something of a mystery. Her last name only appears on the marriage registrations of two of her children. She is shown with her husband and six children including 12-year-old Mary Ann in the 1852 living in Walsingham, Norfolk. The census lists her place of birth as England and her age as 26, however, it is unlikely that Mary gave birth to her oldest daughter Caroline when she was 11.

Other “Orphans”

There are several other orphaned Secord gravestones in Norfolk County. For example, Abraham Wartman Secord (1795-1852) is buried at Sipprell Cemetery in Walsingham Township, however, the cemetery is located on private property. At Port Royal Cemetery in Walshingham is the grave of John Secord (1787-1869), a cousin of Asa Secord (1795-1877). Regretably, with the exception of the graves of Laura Secord nee Ingersoll and her husband James Secord at Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls, the burial spots of the older generation of Secords remain unknown.


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