The Booth Maps

Back when I was first researching Jewel of the Thames (almost a decade ago now!) I would visit the reference library in Toronto to find books on the Booth maps.  Charles Booth’s maps are part of his Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London (1886-1903) series and are SO awesome for visualising London as it existed for Holmes and Watson. At today’s Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, one of my favourite pastiche authors, Bonnie MacBird, pointed out that the Booth Maps have been reinterpreted into an online form! A fantastic resource I had to share as soon I learned they were available digitally:

Booth Maps screencap of LSE's website

Deviating from the Script of History

There are some cool elements to writing historical fiction, like names and time markers and larger historical events. But it can also be constraining when you take your artistic license and change things. In the case of Portia Adams for example, I decided to make 221B an upstairs apartment to a house that was at 221 Baker Street (deviating from Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon of Holmes & Watson living at 221B the house). I liked the idea that housing had changed between 1895 and the 1930s when Portia got to London.

In the case of The Laura Secord Chronicles, I’m finding it expedient to marry Elizabeth Ingersoll (Laura’s younger sister) off before Laura. It helps my story and the tension in the first few chapters if Laura has a foil who is on the path to a traditional family life.

There will be more deviations I’m sure, but I like my fans to know that these are mindful choices I’m making, they’re not mistakes. Sometimes the muse drives you in a direction that is not exact in it’s historical details. Ideally, it doesn’t take people out of the story.

The Laura Secord Chronicles

I’ve started a new story – which in the midst of this pandemic is a minor miracle for me. I’ve had no trouble writing journalism and creating news content, but up until recently, my fiction muse had been hiding in the corner, driven there by the anxious news all around me.

I’m happy to say that I’m back to writing a bit of fiction, this time a story about Canadian hero Laura Secord. Not sure what this will become, but as usual, I’m tracking my progress and research here!

Based on some research I’m keeping in mind, here are some main characters:

  • Laura Secord (nee Ingersoll 1775)- daughter to Major Thomas Ingersoll
  • Major Thomas Ingersoll (nee 1749)
  • Elizabeth Ingersoll Pickett (nee 1779, married to Daniel Pickett)
  • Mira Ingersoll (nee 1781)
  • Harriet Ingersoll (nee 1783 from Sarah’s previous marriage)
  • Sarah (Sally) Ingersoll (nee Backus)
  • Charles Fortescue Ingersoll (nee 1791)
  • Charlotte Ingersoll (nee 1793)
  • Appolonia Ingersoll (nee 1794)
  • James Secord (nee 1773) a young merchant of Queenston and the youngest son of a loyalist officer of Butler’s Rangers.

And here are some major timeline things to keep in mind:

  • Ingersoll fought as patriot during the American Revolution and in Shay’s Rebellion in 1786 earned the rank of Major
  • Met Mohawk leader Joseph Brant in NYC in 1793 who convinced him to move to Upper Canada
  • Received 66k acres in the Thames Valley in a land grant from Simcoe
  • Ingersolls moved to Upper Canada in 1795 (when Laura is 20)
  • Thomas Ingersoll joined the local Masonic Lodge in 1796 and his tavern was one of two in the area that hosted the local Masons.
  • Young James Secord joined the Masonic Lodge.
  • James Secord lived on a 200-acre farm that his family had received as a United Empire Loyalist grant given to sons of British Loyalists from America.
  • Laura marries James Secord in June, 1797
  • Secord gave birth to her first child, Mary, in St. Davids in 1799
  • 27 May 1813, the American army launched an attack across the Niagara River, and captured Fort George. Queenston and the Niagara area fell to the Americans. Men of military age were sent as prisoners to the U.S., though the still-recuperating James Secord was not among them.
  • The Coloured Corps, a militia company of about 50 Black men, serves throughout the war, including during the Battle of Queenston Heights.
  • June 1813, a number of U.S. soldiers are billeted at the Secords’ home.
  • Laura Secord makes her trek to warn the British (specifically a military detachment camped in DeCew House) about the American invasion in June 22, 1813 (when she is 38 years old)