Maria Hill, Daughter of the Regiment
Winwick, Warrington, Lancashire, UK
|Died||11 Sept 1881 Age 90
Richmond, Ontario, Canada (Ottawa)
|Other names||Maria Hill, Maria Taylor, Maria Glennon, Maria Glennon-Anderson|
|Occupation||Surgeons' Assistant, Tavern Owner|
|Known for||Anglo-American War of 1812,
Battle of Lundy's Lane,
Battle of Chippawa,
Battle of Queenston Heights,
Early Settler Richmond
Maria Hill, a contemporary of Laura Secord, was a heroine of several battles in the Anglo-American War of 1812 including the Battle of Queenston Heights, the Battle of Lundy's Lane and the Battle of Chippawa serving as a surgeon's assistant, while her husband fought in the war. After the war, she became an early settler to Ottawa, Ontario and attended to the Governor General of Canada, Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond when he died in her village of Richmond, Ontario.
Little is known of her early years, but it is thought that she was born Maria Woods in Winwick, Warrington, Lancashire, UK to Dr. & Mrs Woods  in 1791, Maria's father died between 1791 and 1799. Her mother remarried to Mr. Greenhall, a recruiter for the British Army. In 1799, her mother then died in Tuam, Ireland. Mr. Greenhall brought Maria to Canada in 1803. She was referred to as a "Daughter of the Regiment" because of her stepfathers' service to the British Army and her upbringing in the Niagara region British Army forts.
Arrival in Canada and the War of 1812
After arriving in Canada, Maria was living in Amherstberg, Ontario (likely at Fort Malden). On May 5, 1811, at the age of 20 she was married under the name Maria Woods to Andrew Hill of the 100th Regiment of Foot by curate Richard Pollard at St. John's Anglican Church, Sandwich in the presence of Edna Lee Croft and George Ironside (store keeper). Shortly thereafter, hostilities broke out at the Detroit/Sandwich border and the 100th Regiment of Foot was called to arms.
In the book, "Faith of our Fathers, the story of the [Anglican] diocese of Ottawa", the story of Maria's wartime service was reported by a longtime Canon of Maria's local church,
“As a lass from Lancashire, Miss Maria Glennon Anderson came to Upper Canada about 1810, married Sgt. Andrew Hill of the 100th Regiment, and outwitted government regulations by donning a soldier’s uniform and accompanying her husband on the Niagara Campaign of 1812. You see in those days women were considered a nuisance in wartime. (it was 40 years before Florence Nightingale) –and even today the clergy allow only two women in the Synod.“Mrs. Hill just snapped her fingers and carried on as a medical orderly, in disguise, at the battles of Chippewa and Queenston. Then she was run over by an ammunition wagon and, her disguise being discovered, she was hastily sent back home, probably to Kingston.”
This account, however, was reported by a Canon who served in the church 40 years after Maria had died. It likely represents a misogynistic view of 19th century women in battle rather than fact. Certainly, the 1881 interview listed below, gives no indication that Maria made any attempt to hide her identity. In fact, she appears to consider herself equally a woman, wife and soldier. Given that she served in the barracks as a child prior to marriage (earning 5p per day for doing laundry) and was married a year before hostilities broke out to a sergeant of the 100th, it seems impossible that she could disguise herself from other soldiers. It is now well established that women (mostly wives and children) were allowed to travel with the Regiment and afforded rations depending on rank. It seems much more likely that she served under her own identity as a mother and wife in the rearguard but assisting as a surgeon's aide when needed, such as in the Battles of Lundy's Lane and Chippawa., Another example of the role of woman in the War of 1812, comes from Sarah Anne Curzon's 1887 play Laura Secord, Heroine of the War of 1812 which made Laura Secord a household name in Canada. In Act II, Laura launches into a short verse about other heroic woman on the front,
She, our neighbour there
At Queenston, who when our troops stood still,Was she not one in whom the heroic blood
Weary and breathless, took her young babe,
Her husband under arms among the rest,
And cooked and carried for them on the field:
Ran thick and strong as e’er in times gone by?"
In Ms. Curzon's notes, she specifies that the neighbor was Mrs. Hill.
In a 1913 report of the Niagara Historical Society (which quotes as its source, the "records of Sessions commencing 14th July 1812, County of Peel") an account of Maria Hill serving the soldiers on Queenston Heights is repeated and further detail is given that Maria Hill also cared for Laura Secord's baby while she searched for her injured husband.
Mrs. Currie has told the story of Laura Secord searching for her husband, who had been wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights, and carrying him home. After the Battle Mrs. Secord, assisted by two other women (Maria Hill, wife ofSergeant Hill of one of the Regiments stationed at Queenston, and Mary Durham, afterwards Mrs. Swayzie), cooked food and made coffee for the troops, and attended to the wounded. There is a story told by an old lady in Chippawa, who said Mrs. Secord had told her, that Maria Hill hid her baby (who was only six months old) in the middle of a pile of cordwood, so that she could go and help Mrs. Secord look after the wounded and take care of them until other help would come from Fort George.
When examining the texts in total a picture arises of a young women who arrived with a regimental father in the forts of Niagara around the age of 8 or 9, eventually married a soldier and followed him through the battles on the Niagara frontier during the War of 1812. In the early battles, serving food and drink from the rear guard but in the later battles serving as a surgeons' assistant.
A most poinent example of Maria's service to the army comes from her own words in an interview from 1881. In Kingsford's 1887 multi-volume set, "A History of Canada", the death of Charles Lennox is reported partly based on an interview with Maria Hill. Conducted in 1881 by Mr. Walter Shanly (and his brother) just 3 months before Maria died, she describes the retreat from Chippawa to Cornwall. The original manuscript was never published and appears to be lost (it is not in the Shanly fond at the Archives of Ontario with other documents) but the interview was preserved in a footnote of Kingsford's text. It is notable, as a direct interview with a woman who served in battle during the War of 1812 and as a record of Maria Hill's own voice. As such, the entirety of the text is transcribed below.
The account of the duke’s illness at Richmond is taken from a MS memoir by Mr. Walter Shanly, C.E., reference to which he has kindly permitted. On Sunday, the 12th of June, 1881, with his brother, he drove to Richmond from Ottawa, the distance is 20 miles, to learn if any reliable tradition could be obtained of the duke’s death. He was referred to Mrs. Hill. It may be here said that she had been a second time married to a Mr. Taylor. On his death, which shortly followed, she had again taken the name of Hill by which she preferred to be called. “I found the old lady,” writes Mr. Shanly, “seated in a rocking chair on the ground floor of a comfortable and very tidy house, her own property, the house surrounded by an orchard and well stocked vegetable garden, herself the picture of serene old age, neatly and carefully attired with a faultlessly white cap and apron.”“When I asked her about certain officers who had settled in the neighbourhood, she knew and remembered them all, ‘Lieutenant Driscoll?’ ‘Yes; he belonged to the 100th; he was cashiered.’ ‘Lyon?’ ‘Yes, from the 99th’ ‘Lewis?’ ‘Knew him well; he was of the 88th.’ She seemed to have the army list by rote. Of the old soldiers, settlers of the 100th, some few were still living in the neighbourhood, she said; corporal Harbeson was one of them. She had lived in Richmond for upwards of 63 years, and announced herself of the church of England.
“The old lady’s history did not follow the usual lines of female life. By name, Maria Glennon, she had been born at Warrington, in Lancashire, and had arrived in Canada in 1799. Shortly before the war of 1812 she married a sergeant of the 100th [Regiment of Foot], Andrew Hill, a native of Fermanagh, Ireland. She was, she said, “a soldier all through,” her heart was always with the army. Her one regret that she had no son to wear the British uniform, and if occasion called, offer his life for England, but she had two daughters well married. She gave a most stirring account of the battle of Chippewa, Street’s creek, in which she claimed she had taken part. When the rear guard came up with the women and baggage, the 100th was in action, and, being known as a handy person about the sick, she was at once sent to help the surgeons in caring for the wounded. With graphic energy she described the scene in the hospital tent, and the carrying in, in rapid succession, of bleeding soldiers. She called over the names of officers whose wounds she helped to bandage, and told of the terrible cutting up of her own regiment in particular; poor young lieutenant Fortune carried in dead; colonel Hamilton, seriously hurt; captain Sleigh, badly wounded, and so on. The British were forced to retreat before an enemy outnumbering them thirteen to one. Some time afterwards, the wounded who could be moved, the invalids and the women, were sent to Cornwall; and to her listeners, living in an age of steamboats, railways and good roads, her account of the terrible journey was most interesting. She described the sufferings endured, the dragging and jolting of the wagons; the guard marching sometimes ankle deep in mud for weary days and nights around Burlington heights, and on, on, on along the shore of lake Ontario, until at last Cornwall was reached late at night, and there was a scene which the old woman described with wonderful vigour of word and action. Cornwall was occupied by a regiment, or companies of a regiment, and the officers in command had been instructed to have quarters ready to receive the way-worn party from Chippewa. No sufficient or proper provision had been made, and high words passed between the officers in command of the latter and the captain at Cornwall, who chanced to be his junior. The ‘high words’ soon grew into ‘awful swearing,’ and the Cornwall officer had to swallow some very plain talk with threats of being reported and disgraced. Here came in another instance of the wonderful memory and quickness of the old woman of ninety. When asked what regiment then lay in Cornwall, she said, ‘I don’t recall the number just now, gentlemen, but I will think of it in a few minutes.’ Turning to my brother, I said in a half whisper, ‘Probably the 89th.’ Quick as a flash, ‘No,’ said the old lady, ‘it was a regiment with green facings, and the 89th, you know, were black.’
Post war years
After the war, in 1818, Maria and her husband, Andrew Hill, were reportedly boarding a ship to return to England when they were offered land and a years' provisions to create a settlement for veterns of the 100th Regiment of Foot. Sgt. Andrew Hill supervised the cutting of a road (later named Richmond Road (Ontario) one of the oldest roads in Ottawa) from Richmond Landing to settle Richmond, Ontario. The original road, followed the old Chaudière portage trail and the course of the present Richmond Road.,
Maria and Andrew later opened an inn and tavern , in Richmond, Ontario at 3607 McBean St where a smokehouse still stands and the foundations of the tavern underlie the existing house. It was there that Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond and Governor General of Canada, spent his last morning, having a breakfast prepared by Mrs. Hill and complaining to her of an odd felling in his throat, before dying of rabies from a fox bite two months previously. After passing away at the house of Dr. Collis, a former surgeon to the regiment, the Duke's body was brought back to the tavern where Maria prepared the Duke for his final trip to Quebec City for burial using the Duke's own quilted bed covering as a shroud. After the visit, the Hill's tavern name was changed from the 'Masonic Arms' to the 'Duke of Richmond Arms' in honour of the visit.
Andrew Hill & Maria had two children, Jessie & Margaret Lindsey Hill. Andrew Hill died in 1830. Maria remarried Andrew Taylor, a Sergeant from the 100th Foot. They lived the remainder of their lives in Richmond, Ontario. Andrew Taylor died 29 March 1879, aged 79 years and Maria died 11 September 1881, aged 90 years. She left her estate to the St. John's Anglican Church in Richmond for a new church spire. Maria and both husbands were eventually inturned at the National Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa in the family plot of Edward Malloch II her son-in-law.
Although most of Maria's life in Canada is well documented, how she ended up in Canada is largely unknown. It is thought that she was born in Winwick, Warrington, Lancashire to John Woods, a surgeon in the British Navy. But his given name and profession cannot be proven. Her mothers' given name is also unknown but thought to be Mary. Finally the spelling of the surname of the soldier who brought her to Canada is thought to be Greenhall or Greenhaugh, likely from the Colour Guard but this still needs to be confirmed in Regimental Records with Archives Canada.
- Suggestions for more in depth research
1. Maria Woods was married in 1810. The record of marriage survived, however, most of the records from St. John’s Church, Sandwich perished in a fire when the American’s set it ablaze in September 1813. Records predating her marriage are unavailable, although a record of her doing the laundry in Fort George about 1805 has been reported. Somewhere in the records of either Fort George or Fort Malden there is likely a record of her step-father's service.
2. Mentions of her being “handy with the sick” during the war of 1812 continue to arise. It may be that further quotes exist but unavailable online. She was with the march from Chippawa to Cornwall according to her 1881 interview, more details on this journey may be available elsewhere.
3. The pay musters from the UK have yet to be searched for the exact location of Andrew Hill during the war years. It seems that much of the 100th Foot was killed and merged with other regiments so it is hard to follow which battles he participated in on the Niagara front. Presumably, Maria was with him.
4. Their first daughter Margaret Lindsey Hill was born January 1811 but Andrew and Maria didn’t marry until May 1811. Five months seems a long time to wait after the baby was born and suggests there’s another story waiting to be found.
5. One of the vessels carrying the 100th Foot was lost at sea during a storm. The entire fleet was hit by the storm. If Maria was on one of those vessels, her journey from England to Canada may be an interesting story itself. So far, a ship manifests with either her maiden name (Woods) or step-fathers name (Glennon/Greenhall/Greenhaugh) has not been found.
Maria Hill was submitted as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada on 8 August 2013, (File Number: N-1232(P)) and denied.
- Rootsweb, Donna Dinberg
- Original Record of Marriage, University Archives, Leddy Library, University of Windsor
- Johnson, Leonard (1957). Faith of our Fathers. The Story of the Diocese of Ottawa. Ottawa: The Anglican Book Society. pp. 44–45.
- Roberts, A. Barry (2004). For King and Canada, The Story of the 100th Regiment of Foot During the War of 1812. Stittsville: Goulbourn Township Historical Society. p. 52. ISBN 1-55036-683-1.
- Goulbourn Museum
- Hickey, Donald (2006). Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812. Quebec: Robin Brass Studio Inc. pp. 191–194. ISBN 978-1-896941-54-7.
- Curzon, Sarah Anne (1887). Laura Secord; The heroine of the War of 1812. Toronto: C. BLACKETT ROBINSON. p. Act II, Scene 1, Lines 89–94 and notes section. ISBN 9780554316994. Retrieved 01-08-2013.
- Thompson, E.J. (1913). "Laura Ingersoll Secord". Journal of the Niagara Historical Society (Niagara Historical Society) 25: 2. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Kingsford, William (1887). The History of Canada 9. Toronto: Roswell & Hutchison. pp. 182–184.
- Dodds, Reby (1970). Who's which : a Genealogical and Historical Family Record. Quebec, Canada: R. Dodds.
- J. L. Gourlay (1896). History of the Ottawa Valley. Ottawa, ON. pp. 71, 80–81.
- Bytown Gazette 1 Feb 1839 List of Innkeepers Licences
- Richmond Village
- Keshen, Jeffrey (1999). Ottawa; making a capital. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. p. 63. ISBN 0-7766-0521-6.