DeCew House Heritage Park - site overview
Introduction and Historical Context
It was 1813 and war had been raging in Canada for over a year. In May the Americans had captured Fort George and were now in control of the Niagara Frontier from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Even after their defeat at Stoney Creek stymied their westward advance, territory as far inland as Ten-Mile Creek lay securely in their grasp now and they continued to consolidate their hold on the Niagara frontier.They had also set about to arrest all males between sixteen and sixty years of age and march them to an internment camp near Albany, New York.
It was on the evening of June 21st when the Village of Queenston was disturbed by the arrival of 400 of the 13th U.S. Infantry Regiment from New York State en route to Fort George. Sometime that day, plans were overheard by the Secords about a large force being sent to capture a British outpost located at John DeCew's House, 32 kilometres away, near the area called Beaver Dams.
Early the next morning, Laura left her wounded husband and young children and walked through enemy lines and dangerous terrain to warn the British and their aboriginal allies of this impending attack by American forces.
After nearly 16 hours difficult hours - exhausted, afraid, and with darkness quickly approaching - Laura finally pulled herself up the cliffs of the Niagara escarpment, only to encounter a contingent of First Nations warriors who were camped in DeCew's Field. This is a remarkable story in itself.
One of the warriors, John Tutela, recalled the encounter many years later.
They escorted Laura Secord the final distance to DeCew House where she delivered her fateful message to Lt. Fitzgibbon.Scouts were dispatched to verify troop movement, but when there was no sign of the approaching Americans, Captain Norton and his men left the area.Unbeknownst to everyone was that a failed American diversionary tactic to occupy British reinforcements had derailed their expedition to Beaver Dams until the following day.However, Fitzgibbon had sent a mounted patrol to the DeHaren camp near Ten Mile Creek where over 300 Kanawake warriors and 100 warriors from the Grand River were also camped.
The Kanawake (Caughnawaga) Mohawks led by Capt. Dominique Ducharme and Lieutenants J.B. DeLormier, Gedion G. Gaucher, Louis Langlade, Evangeliste St. Germain and Issac Leclair, had traveled nearly 380 miles (600 km) from Lac des Deux Montaignes in Quebec and arrived just shortly before the Battle of Beaver Dams. The Grand River Mohawks were led by Mohawk leader John Brant and William Kerr.
The Battle of Beaver Dams was the only battle of the War of 1812 fought and won almost entirely by Canada's First Nations peoples. It removed from the conflict nearly a quarter of the American strength on the Niagara Frontier, it allowed British and Canadian forces to put the Americans holding Fort George under virtual siege and it broke the Americans' offensive spirit and was a pivotal shift in the tides of the War of 1812. The battle stands as an iconic episode in Canadian history.
Importance of the monument
To commemorate this singular event, the Friends of Laura Secord propose the creation of a Living Stone Hearth Monument at DeCew House Park as a symbolic testament to the positive collaboration between early settlers and First Nations peoples that helped forge Canada as an independent nation.
The monument, in gratitude to First Nations involvement in the Laura Secord story and, more importantly, in acknowledgement of their pivotal role in the defining of Canada, has been on the active drawing board of the Friends of Laura Secord since the commemorative projects undertaken in 2013.
Location of DeCew House Heritage Park, Thorold
Location of Stone Hearth Monument - DeCew House Heritage Park
Interactive Street View of monument site from DeCew Road
Detailed Site Views I
Detailed Site Views II
Because of concerns about an actual hearth being considered a fire hazard, the idea of upright long stones representing flames has been considered.
Upright long stones could also be used to represent each of the tribes/nations involved in the Battle of Beaver Dams as well as the French and Eastern Canadian contributions.
Stone elements could be sourced as follows:
- Sandstone for seating and various elements, donated by Queenston Quarry once owned by the Secord family will be a testament of the gratitude from Secord families.
- Stones sourced from each of the tribes that fought in the Battle of Beaver Dams: Caughnawaga Mohawks from Lac de Deux Montagnes in Quebec, Six Nations of the Grand River Valley (Mohawks, Senecas, Onodagas, Oneidas, Cayugas, Tuscarora), and First Nations – Tutelays and Aughqwwagas.
- Long stones for symbolic flames (vertical, ochre or reddish) sourced from Queenston Quarry, if available.
- Stone from Quebec to represent French Canadian contribution (Dominique Ducharme – Captain in the Indian Departmnet) to the battle.
- Stone from New Brunswick to represent the Eastern Canadian contribution (104th New Brunswick Regiment of Foot) to the battle.
- Rankin Construction is working on a major road/bridge project very close to site. This community minded company constructed the "Bridge at Laura's Crossing" for us in 2013.Further assistance/material may be possible.
- The "Bridge at Laura's Crossing" was constructed in 2013. Enhanced design elements have yet to be finished. Laser-cut embellishments (Haudenosaunee flag and other First Nations designs) will be added in 2016.They could also reflect common design aspects of the monument.
- Memorial tree planting will occur as part of the landscaping of the site. Species can be chosen to reinforce First Nations significance.
- There is potential for expansion/enhancement of the site in the future (e.g. improvement and accessible upgrading of the path from Laura Secord Legacy Trail through DeCew House Park to the monument site.