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Henry O. Quiner family

Family of Ma’s brother, Henry Odin Quiner, who was married to Pa’s sister, Polly Melona Ingalls.

Henry!’ Ma exclaimed. – ‘It’s a surprise, Caroline!’ Pa sang out. ‘I thought I wouldn’t tell you Henry’s out here.’ – ‘I declare, it takes my breath, I am so surprised,’ said Ma. -By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 7, “The West Begins”

Henry Odin Quiner was born December 7, 1835 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the third child of Henry Newcomb Quiner and Charlotte (Tucker) Quiner. After Henry N. Quiner died in a storm on the Mackinaw Straits of Lake Michigan, the Quiner family moved to Concord Township (Jefferson County) Wisconsin. Later, Charlotte Quiner married her second husband, Frederick Holbrook.

Polly Melona Ingalls was born October 14, 1840 in Cuba Township, New York, the fifth child of Lansford Whiting Ingalls and Laura (Colby) Ingalls. The Ingalls family moved to Illinois, then to Jefferson County, Wisconsin. The Oconomowoc river and Ingalls property is shown in the photo at right, familiar sight to Henry and Polly during their courtship days.

Henry Quiner and Polly Ingalls were married February 15, 1859 in Justice Court in Concord, Wisconsin. They had two children born in Jefferson County: Louisa (b. 1860) and Charles (b. 1862). In 1863, Henry and his brother-in-law Charles Ingalls purchased 160 acres in Pepin County, Wisconsin, the SW 27-24-15. Henry and his family settled on the north half of the quarter section; Charles and Caroline Ingalls settled on the south half. Henry and Polly had five more children: James Albert (b. 1864), Charlotte (b. 1867), George (b. 1871), Lillian (b. 1874), and Ruby (b. 1878).

In 1868, Charles Ingalls and Henry Quiner sold their Pepin land and purchased property in Chariton County, Missouri. If the Ingalls and Quiner families settled in Missouri, it wasn’t for long. Charles Ingalls’ family went on to Indian Territory in Kansas and Henry Quiner’s family returned to Wisconsin. November 30, 1869, Henry repurchased his Pepin County land.

Laura Ingalls Wilder mentioned Uncle Henry in Little House in the Big Woods (Chapter 1, “Little House in the Big Woods”), saying that Henry came to help Pa with the butchering, and that he had brought Aunt Polly’s butcher knife. Uncle Henry and Aunt Polly are next mentioned in Chapter 10 (“Summertime”) and in Chapter 11 (“Harvest”) as Uncle Henry and Pa trade work. Cousin Charley is the only child of Uncle Henry’s mentioned by name in Little House in the Big Woods, although Laura and Mary and “the cousins” stand beside the bed and look at Charley after he is stung by yellow jackets in the field and lies covered with earth and wrapped in strips of cloth.

In By the Shores of Silver Lake (Chapter 7, “The West Begins”), Uncle Henry and Cousins Charley and Louisa appear again. The cousins are grown and helping to run the boarding shanty at the Big Sioux Railroad Camp. In Chapter 12 (“Wings Over Silver Lake”), Wilder wrote that Uncle Henry and Cousins Charley and Louisa were heading back to the Big Woods to sell their farm and that in the spring of 1880 the whole family was heading to Montana Territory. The family had sold their Big Woods land in December 1873 and had since been farming in Bergen Township (McLeod County) Minnesota.

The Quiners may have made it to Montana Territory for a while, but they settled in Harney City (Pennington County) Dakota Territory, in the vicinity of the Etta Mine (shown on the navigation button that brought you to this page). The 1885 map at left shows post offices, including Harney, four miles northwest of Hayward. Today, Harney is the site of a ranger station on State Road 40, and Keystone is several miles to the west, indicated by a red dot added to the map.

In November 1884, Polly Quiner wrote a letter to her family, addressed from Harney, saying that three of their children (Charley, George, and Lillian, although they are not named in the letter) had died in less than a month’s time. They may have died in the diphtheria epidemic which was raging in the area at this time. Polly wrote that the family was trying to earn enough money to return to the east, but that Henry wasn’t well. Sadly, daughter Ruby died in 1885 and Henry in 1886. According to a letter written by Albert Quiner to his cousin Amy Stouff, Polly Quiner died November 28, 1888. He wrote: “Poor mother is dead… We put her to rest beside Pa and little Ruby. We have a nice monument at their graves,” in the cemetery in Harney. The cemetery had been so neglected and vandalized in later years that Henry Quiner’s headstone was taken to the Keystone Historical Museum for safe-keeping, where it is now on display. The cemetery is heavily wooded, and although small initialed stones marking the graves of Ruby and Polly were still in place in 2006, they could not be located during visits in more recent years. If you have any information about these stones, please email. A separate post about the Quiner graves can be found HERE.

Louisa, Albert, and Charlotte Quiner all married and settled in Big Horn County, Wyoming. Louisa married Frank Smith (born c. 1853 in Ohio); they had been married in Minnesota prior to 1875. Albert married Gertrude Price (born c.1866 in Iowa), and Charlotte married Robert Sheldon (born c.1858 in Iowa). In the early 1900s, Carrie Ingalls spent at least a year living in Wyoming with her cousins.


Henry Quiner family
     Henry, brother of Caroline Ingalls (BW 1, 10-12; SSL 1, 7, 12-13; THGY 13; PG)), see also Quiner graves
     Polly, sister of Charles Ingalls (BW 1, 10-11; SSL 12; THGY 13; PG)
     Louisa (SSL 7-8, 10, 12-13; THGY 13; PG)
     Charley (BW 11; SSL 1, 7, 12-13; THGY 13; PG)
     Albert (THGY 13), see also Albert Quiner
     Baby (PG)