Last time, I introduced you to Charlotte Wallis Tucker, the grandmother of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although we don’t know much about Charlotte’s early life (even her birth date is uncertain), we actually have quite a few details about Charlotte’s life after her marriage to the silversmith named Henry Quiner, mostly thanks to a letter written by Charlotte’s daughter Martha Quiner Carpenter to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
After outlining the details of her mother’s marriage, Martha spends some time discussing the early years of her family. One thing that she skips over in her account is the birth of her only older sister, Martha Morse Quiner, whom Charlotte named after her own mother. I’m not sure if Martha was born in New Haven or elsewhere, but, thanks to a Quiner family tree from the Memorial Society archives, we do know that she was born in the year 1832.
Although I found no records to back this up, I agree with Laura’s Aunt Martha that her parents likely lived in New Haven for those first three years, moving to Cincinnatti, Ohio, in 1834. With this move, Charlotte left New England for the first time. By leaving New England, the place where both her mother and father spent their whole lives, Charlotte began the westward movement that would continue throughout the lives of Caroline Quiner and Charles Ingalls, Laura’s Ma and Pa.
According to Martha, Charlotte’s first two sons, Joseph and Henry, were born during the family’s time in Ohio. Later census records confirm this. According to the Quiner family tree that I had on hand during my research, “Joseph Carpenter Quiner” was born in 1834 and his younger brother, “Henry Odin Quiner,” in 1835. A year after Henry’s birth, in 1836, the oldest Quiner child, Martha Morse Quiner, passed away around the age of 4.
The family’s next move was to Richmond, Indiana. Here, in the Hoosier State, the second Quiner daughter was born. Her name was also Martha. According to this Martha’s 88-year-old self, “Martha Jane Quiner” was born on November 6, 1837.
The fifth Quiner child was also a daughter. She was born in 1839 after the young family made their next move westward to Wisconsin. According to William Anderson’s biographical account of the Ingalls and Quiner families, this child was said by some to be the first non-Indian baby born in the Milwaukee area. Her name was Caroline Lake Quiner, and she would grow up to be the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
After Caroline’s birth, two other children were born to Charlotte and Henry in Wisconsin. Eliza Ann Quiner was born in 1842, followed by Thomas Lewis Quiner about two years later.
Around the same time as Thomas’ birth, tragedy entered Charlotte’s life. During a trading expedition to the Straits of Mackinac in 1844, Charlotte’s husband Henry and the entire rest of his ship drowned in a violent storm on Lake Michigan. This left Charlotte alone in the Wisconsin wilderness with six young children in her care.
For more facts about the rest of Charlotte’s life as a Wisconsin pioneer, be sure to keep an eye out for our next post in this series.