The William Quimby Family in Arcadia

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After serving as a Union soldier in the Civil War, William Quimby received a land grant for 160 acres located about three miles southeast of present day Arcadia (called Bear Lake at the time, later Arcadia Township). In 1867 he moved from Branch County, Michigan to the Arcadia area with his wife Ursula and two small children: 6-year-old Jennie A. Quimby and 4-year-old Willie L. Quimby.

The Arcadia Area of 1865

"The first settlers were John Kirchmyer and G. W. Boss, who came in 1865. Two years afterwards Michael O'Rorke, Wm. Quimby and Seymour Calkins located there.

"The difficulties the settlers, sixteen years ago, had to contend with cannot be well understood by the present residents, who have good roads, excellent grist mills, saw mills and markets almost at their doors. (See Judd Calkins' diary for more about the frontier of the Arcadia area.) Then it was a serious undertaking to go to the little old-fashioned grist mill at Benzonia 20 miles distant. It was a good day's journey then, and after waiting three or four days to have the corn ground up and get back home again inside of a week was considered a quick trip."
-- "Arcadia Township: The Village of Arcadia." Manistee City Directory. 1883.

This Family's Difficulties

To satisfy the terms of the land grant, the Quimby family had to transform their piece of the wilderness into a homestead. Imagine moving into a black forest. There were no roads and very few other people. You had to build shelter, find food, clear the land, begin farming among tree stumps, and sometimes just survive one day at a time in summer heat, Michigan winter cold, illness, dirt, and bugs.

Add two small children. Within a few months after their arrival in the Arcadia area, young Willie Quimby died of dysentary. Kate Quimby, born there July 26, 1867, died of "bloody flux" on August 2, 1868.

In spite of the hardships, the Quimby family improved their property to the satisfaction of the US Government and the Homestead Act. William Quimby tried farming. His wife Ursula made herbal medicines including Quimby's Liver Invigorator and Blood Purifier, which she and William began selling around 1871.

With William Quimby's ailments (described in his pension application), all of this must have been extra difficult. They took out two mortgages on their property and repaid one of them, but, as many families did, they eventually gave up and moved on.

Sometime between 1887 and 1890 when Harriet was about 12-15 years old, the family moved to Arroyo Grande, California. By then the family consisted of William, his wife Ursula, Jennie, Helen (born July 26, 1870 in Arcadia Township), and Harriet N. (probably born May 11, 1875 in Arcadia Township). Harriet Quimby would eventually make history as the first licensed female pilot in the US and as the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

Family Timeline

The following timeline is based on William Quimby's pension application, US census data, property abstracts, taxes, ledgers from a local storeproperty abstracts. See the list called "Supporting Records.") and examining US census data, official birth records, tax records, the Manistee City Directory, the property abstract, and ledgers from the C. W. Perry store in Pierport, Michigan, we can piece together the following timeline. Some events are significant. Others are just a hint at what was happening in the area.

The Quimby House
Located on Erdman road just east of M-22, this is now a registered Michigan Historic Site. Courtesy of Barb Eldridge and the Onekama Consolidated Schools

Supporting Data

William Quimby's Application for Pension Benefits

1883 Manistee City Directory

US Census Data from 1870-1890

Quimby Property in Arcadia Township

Quimby Account with C. W. Perry Store

Quimby Property Assessment and Taxes for 1882

Judd Calkins' Diary

Paula Lamont Affidavit

Thanks to Bonnie Hughes

Most of the information presented here is the result of the tireless research of Bonnie Hughes of Arcadia, Michigan with the strong support of her husband Albin Hughes.


William Quimby and Ursula Cook are married in Ovid, Michigan (October 9)    


Jennie A. Quimby is born in Branch County, Michigan.    


Willie L. Quimby is born in Branch County, Michigan (June 27).    


William Quimby, a Union soldier, is engaged in several battles at the end of the American Civil War and marches to Appomattox for ceremonies ending the war. He is too ill to participate in the Washington, D.C. review. He is discharged July 1st and returns to Ovid, Branch County, Michigan July 14. (See "William Quimby's Application for Pension Benefits.")    


William Quimby applies for a land grant of 160 acres in Manistee County. He and his wife Ursula and two children move to Bear Lake, later known as Arcadia Township (1870) in Manistee County, Michigan.

William Quimby builds a home, moves his family in, and begins clearing the land. (Before the land can be deeded to them, they must build a house, live there, and work the land for five years.)

Kate Quimby is born in Bear Lake (July 26).

Willie Quimby dies of dysentary in Bear Lake (October 6).    


William Quimby goes to Traverse City to file an application for his land (January 13). He gets 160 acres for $10.00, 6.25 cents per acre plus a $4 filing fee.

Kate Quimby dies of "bloody flux" (August 2).    


US Census for Manistee County lists: "William Quimby, 36, Farmer Ursula, 36, Keeping House Jennie A., 9, Attending School"

Helen "Kittie" Quimby is born in Arcadia Township. (July 26)

More permanent Quimby home built (sometime between 1870 and 1872).    


Fire destroys the Manistee County Courthouse. No births will be recorded until around 1877.    


William Quimby signs annexed mortgage (December 27).    


The five years required for homesteading have passed. William Quimby goes to the Traverse City land office (January 27) to secure the patent or deed to property. He files affidavits from Arthur Brown and William Haywood used as proof of residence and pays a $4 filing fee.

It's official: "Patent from the United States to William Quimby for NW 1/4 of Sec. 25, Town. 24 North, Range 16 West Manistee County, Michigan" (August 1). See the Abstract of Title.    


"Taxes Paid to Town Treasurer" -- Abstract of Title's tax summary for William Quimby. The Abstract's Tax History section show William paid his property taxes from 1875 to 1900.

Harriet Quimby is born most likely in Arcadia Township (May 11).    


William Quimby has an account at the C. W. Perry store in Pierport, Michigan. The store ledger refers to his account in an earlier ledger: "Jan 1st  To Bal old a/c Old Ledger."    


US Census for Manistee County lists: "William Quimby, 46, Farmer; Ursula M., 46, Wife, Keeping House; Kittie [Helen], 10, Daughter, At Home; Hattie [Harriet], 5, Daughter"

Ursula Quimby's herbal medicine, Quimby's Liver Invigorator and Blood Purifier, is available to the public.

The Quimby family takes in two boarders: laborers William Grindle, 19, and Charles Grindle, 22.    


William Quimby purchases "B. Wheat & feed" at C. W. Perry in Pierport for $7.00. (May 17) See C. W. Perry Store Account.

A testimonial for Quimby's Liver Invigorator and Blood Purifier appears in The Manistee Times. (July 21)    


Arcadia Township Assessment and Taxes for William Quimby: Value of Parcel: $960. Personal Estate: $80. Total Taxes: $31.74.    


William and Ursula Quimby take out a mortgage on their property for $300. (June 11) See the Abstract of Title.    


William Quimby and his wife take out a second mortgage for $2000. The mortgage agreement includes the statement "No timber to be removed from said lands by said 1st parties, excepting for the purpose of clearing or making improvements." (June 22) See the Abstract of Title.

William Quimby and his wife pay off the first mortgage. (July 2) See the Abstract of Title.

Helen "Kittie" Quimby marries Frederick Rasmussen in Bear Lake. (August 16).    


The mortgage holder files a suit against William & Ursula Quimby. "Notice of suit pending in the Circuit Court of Manistee for the foreclosure of mortgage..." (June 24) See the Abstract of Title.    


"Chancery Decree... Decree of the Circuit Court for the County of Manistee -- in Chancery foreclosing mortgage." (May 6) See the Abstract of Title.

Commisioner's Deed. William & Ursula M. Quimby by George L. Hilliker, Circuit Court Com'r. to Campbell Fair. (Sept. 6) See the Abstract of Title.    


US Census data shows William, Ursula, and Harriet Quimby are living in San Francisco.

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