Barbary Worthy tells the story of Mary Henry, one of the many courageous women who lived in Upper Canada at the time of Laura Secord.
When she has finished, return along the path across the golf course to the corner of Front and Simcoe Streets. Continue straight along Front Street, keeping the lake on your left. Keep going past the clubhouse and restaurant belonging to the Niagara on the Lake Golf club.
Nineteenth century portrait of courageous heroine Mary Henry at the Laura Secord Homestead Museum, Queenston. (Photo: Kelsie Brewer).
Mary Henry and her daughters did a great deal of American laundry. A woman could charge two and half pence for each shirt she washed – so after laundering four shirts, she would have earned more than a private's pay.
But Mary Henry did more than that. When the Americans set fire to the town of Newark - present-day Niagara on the Lake - Mary Henry filled her home by the lighthouse with personal belongings, valuables and furniture from as many neighbours as she could. As the town burned, the lighthouse was damaged, but it and her home survived.
Perhaps it was fitting, considering that during the battles throughout the war, it was Mary Henry who made sure that the soldiers on the battlefield had water to drink,had dressings for their wounds, had someone to hold them as they died. Mary Henry was like an angel, they said.
She came to them, through the fog of the guns,unafraid of musket fire, and hot shots, or the canons blasting around her. To her, they were all her sons.
After the war she was given twenty-five pounds, from The Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada.
They said she was a 'heroine, not to be frightened'.
But of course she was frightened.
That's why she was a heroine.
Mary Madden was born in Antrim Ireland, 1770, and at the age of twenty married Royal Artillery gunner, Dominic Henry. In 1803, shortly after being shipped back to a post in Niagara, Dominic became a retired pensioner and was appointed keeper of Missisauga Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes in the Town of Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake).
Missisauga Lighthouse, constructed in 1804, was located on present-day Missisauga Beach, on the south shore of Lake Ontario within the grounds of what is now the Niagara on the Lake Golf Club.
According to the Canadian Register of Historic Places (2009),
"The heritage value of Mississauga Point Lighthouse lies in its historical associations as symbolized by the commemorative plaque affixed to the west gate of Fort Mississauga.
Mississauga Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1804 by the military masons of the 49th Regiment of Foot. Its hexagonal stone tower was accompanied by a separate but adjacent lightkeeper's residence. The lighthouse was damaged in the Battle of Fort George in 1813, and demolished by the British in 1814 when they built Fort Mississauga on the same site. According to local legend, the remains of the lighthouse were incorporated into the tower of the fort.
- Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
Minutes, 1937; December 2005.
On May 27, 1813 a large American Army made a destructive attack on Niagara which was soon to be known as the battle of Fort George. With American forces landing not far from the lighthouse, Mary and Dominic Henry found themselves in the front row of the battle between the small army of British, Canadian and Aboriginal allies against the massive American army.
During the battle, there were high casualties as result of the heavy bombardment of cannons and shells and left half the British and Canadian soldiers killed or wounded right on the battlefield. During the battle, Mary Henry played a brave and pivotal role as she walked the battlefield bringing food and hot drinks to the soldiers while also nurturing the injured ones the best she could. From dawn to dusk Mary Henry went and came back with more nourishment for the troops and with as much bravery as any soldier, she continued to walk the battlefield binding the wounds of those injured in the battle.
When the Americans finally abandoned Fort George and Niagara, they left with no remorse and burned down the entire town. The residents were not given much time to pack up as many of their belongings before they were taken by the destructive flames. The weather was harsh and cold and many of the refugees had nowhere to go. Many faced starvation and death as a result of the frigid weather conditions. However, close by Mary Henry selflessly opened up her home to many of the refugees providing shelter, food and drink. Thanks to her selfless deeds, Mary Henry saved many families that night.
After the war, Mary Henry's courageous and generous acts did not go unrecognized. She was granted a gift of twenty-five pounds sterling by the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada and was referred to as "a heroine not to be frightened".
When you visit Fort Mississauga or Fort George today, you will not see any representation of Mary Henry. Her actions have gone unrecognized in the later years after the war and her story has continued to go untold. When you visit the historic site of Fort George, remember the story of a brave and selfless Mary Henry. Her story will no longer be forgotten and one can appreciate the role she played in our history during the Battle of Fort George..
Canadian Heritage. 2012. Heroes of the War of 1812: "Mary Henry, A Heroine not to be Frightened". Canadian Heritage. http://1812.gc.ca/eng/1317828221939/1317828660198#a9
Canadian Register of Historic Places. 2009. Mississauga Point Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, L0S, Canada. Formally Recognized: 1937/05/20. http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=12012
Natural Resources Canada (nd). Geographical Names. Mississauga Point Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada. http://www4.rncan.gc.ca/search-place-names/unique/FEZYH.
After you visit Fort Missisauga, walk back along the gravel path through the golf course to the intersection of Front Street and SImcoe Street.
You will be continuing straight along Front Street, keeping the lake on your left. You'll keep going past the clubhouse and restaurant belonging to the Niagara on the Lake Golf Club.