Back in August, we explored the life of Martha Morse, the great-grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, trying to pin down a few actual “facts” about her life that we know as opposed to the fictional accounts that we find in The Martha Years series by Melissa Wiley. Wiley based her stories on an account of Martha Morse given by one of the Martha’s great-granddaughters, Grace Ingalls Dow, who said that Martha was the daughter of a Scottish laird. Although Grace’s account does not line up with the few details we actually have about Martha’s life (as you’ll remember from a previous post), Wiley’s stories likely expound on the life that the Ingalls girls thought their great-grandmother lived. Because of a lack of records and first-hand accounts, specific stories surrounding the events of Martha’s life have, sadly, been lost to time.
When it comes to the early life of Martha’s daughter and Laura’s grandmother, Charlotte Tucker, history is similarly silent. Since I was unable to find a record of Charlotte’s birth, I also have little to no knowledge of where she grew up or when she was born. According to her gravestone, her birth year was 1809. The exact date is not listed, but I did find a picture of a sign erected near her gravestone by the Town of Sullivan Historical Society in Wisconsin that says she was born on May 25th, 1809, in Roxbury, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts. I was surprised about the specificity of this historical marker since no actual birth records for Charlotte showed up when I searched the Roxbury vital records, so I contacted the Sullivan Historical Society to see what the source of their information was. They said that the sign had been erected a few decades earlier and that they weren’t sure what source the Historical Society had used when making the sign.
Other than the unconfirmed facts from that sign, the little knowledge I do have about Charlotte’s pre-married life comes from William Anderson’s biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. According to this biography, Charlotte (like her daughter and granddaughter after her) once taught school before she married. She also attended a “female seminary” in Boston, where she received her education.
I also found a picture of a business card during my research. This card, pictured in William Anderson’s Laura’s Album on page eight, was Charlotte’s. She would have handed out copies of it to help advertise for her dressmaking business. The name on the card is listed as “Miss C. W. Tucker, dressmaker” and her location is “corner of Union and Warren Streets, Roxbury.” Thanks to this card, we know that Charlotte did, at one point prior to her marriage, live in the Roxbury section of Boston, Massachusetts. We cannot be certain that she was born there, though.
During my search, I also found a record from the First Baptist Church in Roxbury that confirms Charlotte’s residence in Roxbury. According to the record, “Charlotte Tucker (Quiner)” was dismissed from the Roxbury Church in July 1831 in order to move “to the Church in New Haven.” It seems to be no coincidence that this very year is the year Charlotte is said to have married her husband, Henry Quiner, in New Haven, Connecticut. According to a letter that Charlotte’s daughter Martha wrote to Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1925, Charlotte and Henry were married in New Haven on April 2, 1831, by the Reverend Cushman. An actual marriage record I found said they married on the 9th, so I guess the exact date is a little uncertain. In her letter, Martha also mentions that her father was a silversmith by trade.
In the years following her marriage, Charlotte’s life starts to get more clear thanks to that letter written by her daughter. Unlike the letter from Grace about Martha Morse, the information in this letter is much more reliable because most of what Charlotte’s daughter recalls about her mother came from first-hand experiences. As she mentions at the end, however, Martha was in her late eighties when she wrote all of this, so the specific dates could very likely be inaccurate.
Check back next time to learn about some more of the information that Martha shared in her letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder.