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Charlotte Quiner Holbrook

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s maternal grandmother, the mother of Caroline Quiner Ingalls.

“Miss C.W. Tucker, dress maker, corner of Union and Warren Streets, Roxbury.”


l-r: Frederick Holbrook, Thomas L. Quiner, Charlotte E. Holbrook, and Charlotte W. Holbrook

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s maternal grandmother isn’t mentioned by name in the Little House books, nor does she appear as a character; she is referred to simply as “Ma’s mother” in conversation. Readers learn two bits of information about her: that Ma’s button box contains buttons that had been saved by Laura’s grandmother when Ma was a little girl (see On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 13, “A Merry Christmas”), and that Laura was expected to become a teacher because Ma – as well as her mother before her – had both been teachers (see By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 12, “Wings Over Silver Lake”). Although the character “Aunt Lotty” in Little House in the Big Woods implies that she was Charlotte Elizabeth Holbrook, Lotty never lived in Pepin County, although it’s possible that she visited her half-siblings.

Charlotte Wallis Tucker was born in Roxbury (then part of Suffolk County) Massachusetts, on May 25, 1809, one of five children born to Martha (Morse) Tucker and Joseph Tucker. Although the fictional “Martha years” series published by HarperCollins places Martha’s birth and childhood in Scotland (and fictional family names names are used), Charlotte’s mother and father were both born in Massachusetts. Charlotte was raised in Roxbury and worked as a dress maker there prior to her marriage at age 22; it’s unknown if she was also a teacher.

Charlotte Wallis Tucker married Henry Newcomb Quiner in New Haven, Connecticut, on April 2, 1831. Henry was born July 14, 1807, in New Haven, the son of William Quiner (1773-1839) and Margaret (Doer) Quiner (1774-1839). Charlotte & Henry had seven children: Martha M. (1832, died in infancy), Joseph C. (1834, was killed in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War), Henry Odin (1835), Martha Jane (1837), Caroline Lake (1839), Eliza Ann (1842), and Thomas Lewis (1844). The Quiners moved from Connecticut, to Ohio, and to Indiana, settling in Brookfield Township (then part of the Milwaukee district in Wisconsin Territory) prior to Caroline’s birth. Henry purchased 80 acres in 1839, the E-NE 32-7N-20E. A finger of Poplar Creek, part of the Upper Fox River watershed, crosses the northern part Quiner’s land from west to east. A historical marker for the birthplace of Caroline Ingalls is on the southeast corner of the former Quiner land.

On November 9, 1842, Henry Quiner sold his land to Michael Woods for $250. It is assumed that the Quiners remained on the land, renting it from Mr. Woods, as son Thomas was born in Brookfield in 1844. Henry N. Quiner died in November 1845 when “the Ocean,” a schooner captained by Henry’s brother-in-law, Alexander McGregor, capsized and sank during a storm on Lake Michigan, killing all crew members onboard. Quiner was not a sailing man by trade; he had been visiting family in Milwaukee when he decided to join his brother-in-law on his sailing ship.

Charlotte was fortunate that she had relatives nearby in Brookfield. Her brother-in-law James Lake (his wife was Charlotte’s sister, Caroline, and Caroline Quiner was named after her) purchased 40 acres adjoining Henry’s land to the east, and Henry’s brother Elisha Cushman Quiner owned 40 acres about a half mile to the southeast. Another of Henry’s brothers, Edwin Bentley Quiner (1816-1868), lived in Milwaukee. In 1850, Edwin Quiner moved to Watertown in Jefferson County, where he published a newspaper for several years. He then moved to Madison to serve as clerk in the state legislature; he then was hired as the governor’s private secretary. In 1866, Edwin Quiner published the highly-acclaimed Military History of Wisconsin: A Record of the Civil and Military Patriotism of the State in the War for the Union.

Stories of Growing up in Wisconsin. In 1925, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote to her Aunt Martha, to ask her for stories about her childhood in Wisconsin. Martha Quiner had married Charles Carr Carpenter in 1860; she had been a widow since his death in 1882. Although Wilder included her Aunt Martha and Carpenter cousins in her Pioneer Girl memoir, the Carpenter family isn’t mentioned at all in the Little House books. The 20+ pages of “Aunt Martha letters” are archived at Herbert Hoover Library. In addition, many letters between Carpenter / Quiner / Ingalls / Holbrook family members (mostly written during the Civil War) were donated to Wisconsin Historical Society by Quiner descendants and are online HERE. Stories from the “Aunt Martha letters” were used in the fictional “Caroline years” series published by HarperCollins.

Charlotte and the children struggled after the Henry Quiner’s death. According to Aunt Martha, neighboring Indians gave them meat and other provisions, for which they were grateful. The family was so poor that the children had to go to bed while their clothes were being washed, not having any others to change into. When they had no butter or milk, Charlotte would sweeten water with maple syrup and they would crumble bread in it, eating it with a spoon like bread and milk. After a while, times were easier, and Charlotte had hives of bees, so they had honey for their bread, and she raised a few chickens for meat and eggs. There were blackberries and other berries free for the picking in the woods.

Aunt Martha gave Laura the recipe for Ma’s vanity cakes, and wrote about spelling school, Sunday school, maple sugar parties, dances, and corn huskings they attended after moving to Concord. She wrote about brush fires and wild animals they encountered in the woods, but also about how beautiful it was and how one would “forget yourself and rejoice that you were there to see and have it all.”

On February 7, 1848, Charlotte Quiner purchased 40 acres for $50 from the United States, the SE-SE 11-7N-16E in Concord Township, Jefferson County, Wisconsin Territory. Wisconsin was admitted to the Union just a few months later, on May 29th. It’s unclear when Charlotte and her children left Brookfield for Concord, and if she purchased her Concord land prior to the move or after living in Jefferson County for some period of time.

June 2, 1849, Charlotte Quiner married Frederick Marshall Holbrook in Jefferson County. Frederick was born in Columbia, Tolland County, Connecticut on December 11, 1809, one of three children born to John Holbrook (1781-1842) and Betsey Kinney Holbrook (1788-1886). When Frederick and Charlotte married, she was 40 years old and had six children under the age of 15; Frederick was 39, had never been married, and had no children. Shortly after Frederick and Charlotte were married, he purchased 40 acres adjoining her land to the north, and 13.54 adjoining her land to the south The Oconomowoc River cut across their land, and a road went straight from their land into the village of Concord, a mile and a half to the west. Holbrook also owned land at Goose Lake about two miles to the south.

December 31, 1853, Lansford and Laura Ingalls and their children moved from Kane County, Illinois, to 80 acres east of the Holbrooks and on the other side of the Oconomowoc River. There were three marriages between the Ingalls and Quiner children: Henry Quiner & Polly Ingalls in 1859, Charles Ingalls & Caroline Quiner in 1860, and Peter Ingalls & Eliza Ann Quiner in 1861. The map below shows the location of the Quiner, Holbrook, and Ingalls land purchases.

A portion of Township 7 North, Range 16 East of the 4th Principal Meridian in Jefferson County, Wisconsin.

Charlotte & Frederick Holbrook’s daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth Holbrook, was born January 20, 1854, in Concord. The family photo above shows the Holbrooks, Lotty Holbrook, and Thomas Quiner; the photograph was probably taken when Tom and Lotty were the only children still living at home.

In 1857, Charles Ingalls purchased half of his father’s land for $460; it was here that he and Caroline lived after they were married. Unfortunately, in January 1861, both Charles’ & Lansford’s land was sold at auction for non-payment of taxes. It’s unclear where in Jefferson County Caroline and Charles Ingalls and their parents lived immediately after losing their land, but a family letter implies that they remained in Concord Township and that Charles continued to farm some tract of land in the vicinity. In 1863, Laura & Lansford Ingalls and most of the extended family moved west to Pepin County, the setting for Little House in the Big Woods.

In July 1866, Charlotte & Frederick sold their farm in Sections 11 and 14 to Samuel Lockwood; he was Charles Carr Carpenter’s half-brother and Charlotte’s nephew. Frederick retired from farming, and the family moved to 20 acres adjoining the village of Rome in Sullivan Township. The Holbrooks were active in church and social life in Rome. Frederick died on February 11, 1874; he was 54 years old.

November 12, 1874, Charlotte Elizabeth Holbrook married Henry Moore (1852-1922). Her mother lived with Lotty and Henry until her death on September 21, 1884. Frederick and Charlotte Holbrook are buried in Hoffman Cemetery, Rome, Wisconsin.



The following is from a post:

MILWAUKEE & ROCK RIVER CANAL. In 1836, a plan was devised to dig a canal from Lake Michigan at Milwaukee to the Rock River in Jefferson County, to allow goods to be transported via boat or barge all the way to the Mississippi River.

The maps above were the work of Increase Allen Lapham (1811-1875), civil engineer and secretary of the canal project. He estimated that the total cost for the canal would be around $775K.

The proposed route of the canal changed over time. Concord, Brookfield, and Milwaukee are shown on the map above; the originals used can be found here:

Oh July 4, 1839, the first shovelful of dirt was dug at Milwaukee. In 1844, after completing one mile of the canal, the project failed, and a railroad across Wisconsin became the goal.

The Milwaukee & Rock River Canal Company had been granted odd-numbered sections within five miles on either side of the proposed canal, to be used for the canal itself or to sell at a minimum of $2.50 per acre to help fund the proposed ten-year project. In July 1828, the Secretary of the Treasury instructed land officers that even-numbered sections in Concord Township (except those reserved for school purposes) would be available for purchase at $1.25 per acre starting October 7, 1839. Sections in Brookfield Township in Waukesha County (then part of Milwaukee County) that were not part of the canal project were also available for purchase on that date.

Henry Newcomb Quiner paid $100 for 80 acres in Brookfield Township — the E-NE 32-7N-20E — in November 1839, a month before daughter Caroline was born. Henry’s preemption was neither an odd-numbered section nor within five miles of the canal, which is why his patent can be found on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website.

The map below shows the Quiner property and with historical marker at the southeast corner:

The Milwaukee & Rock River Canal Co. had been selling off a very few bits of their land in Jefferson County prior to 1929 for $2.50 per acre. When the canal project failed in 1844, lawyers got involved in the “how” and “when” the remaining land grant parcels would be sold, and “who” would profit. A February 1847 act of congress made all odd-numbered sections available for purchase, but there were still unsold canal project lands into the 1870s.

Odd-numbered canal land sections were originally to be sold at a minimum of $2.50 per acre, while at the same time, even-numbered sections were available for purchase at $1.25 per acre. There were many petitions signed by residents from Milwaukee to the Rock River, asking for a reduction in the cost of canal lands. There were multiple petitions signed by both Concord and Brookfield township residents. These are not online, but are archived at Wisconsin Historical Society.

On February 7, 1848, Charlotte Quiner paid $50 for 40 acres north of Concord in Jefferson County, which she purchased from the United States, the SE-SE 11 – 7N – 16E. We know this because a duplicate receipt was filed in Jefferson County in 1866 (which is when Charlotte & Frederick Holbrook sold the land that Charlotte had purchased prior to their marriage)- filed to show that they had a right to sell. The land was in an odd-numbered section within 5 miles of the proposed (but now failed) canal project. The receipt indicates that it is a duplicate of Receipt No. 1065 from the “Office of the Commissioners of Milwaukee and Rock River Canal.” There is nothing in the grantor, grantee, or deed books in Milwaukee County or Jefferson County for this parcel dated prior to this receipt.

Frederick Holbrook bought the 40 acres north of Charlotte’s in Section 11 in 1849, but he bought from a person (Levi Hubbell; he was an interesting man so you should google him), not the United States. One should be able to use the grantee index to find Hubbell’s purchase recorded, giving you the book and page number on which to find the deed itself, but there is nothing listed. Trying to backtrack other odd-numbered parcels in which both grantor and grantee were people (not the U.S.) gives the same result; nothing listed. There is simply no first purchase recorded, like one finds with patents for government land. This suggests that the Milwaukee & Rock River Canal Company had their own set of books in which sales were recorded.

In Wisconsin tract books, odd-numbered sections granted to the Milwaukee & Rock River Canal Co. were left blank. There is a note beside each odd-numbered section’s entry to “See List B,” but no note telling what that is and where to find it. There are newspaper articles dating from the years during which canal lands were sold, indicating that squatters had been living on many sections and that they would have first right to purchase the land they occupied. Government documents also mention the appraisal records for canal lands prior, as they were to be sold at a minimum of $2.50 per acre, based on their appraised value.

The government tended to keep records for similar things in a similar fashion, and the canal land sales were probably recorded similar to the way the sale of school lands on the Osage Diminished Reserve was handled decades later.


And did the proposed Milwaukee & Rock River Canal project have anything to do with Henry Quiner buying land in Brookfield, and Charlotte Quiner buying land in Concord in the first place?? I’ll update this entry when I figure it out. If you have any information, please email.


Frederick Holbrook and Charlotte Quiner Holbrook family see also Aunt Lotty
     Laura’s grandmother (BPC 13; SSL 12)