The Early Years

The Early Years

The Early Years Of Harriet Quimby

Harriet Quimby was born in a small farm house in Arcadia Township on May 1,1875. When Harriet met her tragic death on July 1 1912 the “MANISTEE DAILY NEWS” of July 2 1912 wrote “FORMER ARCADIA GIRL DROPS 1,000 FEET.” (headline #1). “NOTED WOMAN AERONAUT IS WELL REMEMBERED BY ARCADIANS.” “SHE WAS BORN AND ATTENDED SCHOOL THERE, LEAVING ABOUT 25 YEARS AGO.” (headline #2). “ARCADIA’S FIRST WOMAN TO GET LICENSE.” (headline #3)

Harriet was well remembered by Arcadia neighbors as being a laughing blue-eyed little school girl. Ursula Cook of Now York married William Quimby in Ovid, Branch County, Michigan where most of the Quimby family lived. William and Ursula left there to homestead in Arcadia Township in 1867. 2. They were given 160 acres of wooded land by the United States Government on a land grant. The plat map shows they settled on the land January 13, 1868. (Arcadia Plat Y25). We have the abstract for this land.

Census records in Grand Rapids Michigan list the William Quimby family in Arcadia Township on the 1870 census rolls and the 1860 census rolls. We have a diary of the adjacent neighbor’s son telling of what life was like for these early pioneers in Arcadia, 7 (Todd Calkins) “Autobiography of a Barefoot Boy”. In this he tells of going to school with the Quimby children.

The Quimbys lost two children in Arcadia, Willie, who died October 6, 1867 and Kate, who died August 2, 1868. The rest of the family consisted of Kittie, Jennie, Helen, and Harriet, Ursula Cook Quimby came from a family of doctors, grandfather brother, uncle, etc. She learned how to make medicines and became Arcadia’s own Medicine Woman selling her wares under the label of “Quimby’s Liver Invigorator” with letters of reference published in the MANISTEE TIMES on July 21, 1681.

The Quimby house was very small consisting of a parlor, kitchen, pantry and one bedroom downstairs. The upstairs was unfinished but the entire family slept upstairs due to the fact that the downstairs bedroom was rented to two boarders William and Charles Grindle.3 (Arcadia census 1680)

The Quimbys were very poor and disillusioned with farm life. They mortgaged their farm twice, once for $300 to a M. Filer. On June 11, 1685, they repaid the mortgage. They mortgaged the farm again for 2,000 on June 22, 1687. They lost the farm at a Public Auction to a Campbell Fair. They then moved to 518 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. (Census of 1900-California State Library). Here they hoped to start a new life.

Documentation backs all of this up, along with newspaper reports of interviews with Arcadia residents


  1. Newspaper articles with pictures of the home and school. Manistee Daily News July 2, 1912 and July 9, 1912.
  2. Plat Map & land abstract, (Homestead Cert. #1633, App. #2833)
  3. Census records for Arcadia Township.
  4. Letter from Mrs. Catherine Hilliard. The Manistee Times July 21, 1881.
  5. Transcript of legal proceedings on foreclosure of Arcadia farm
  6. Diary of neighbor Judd Calkins.
  7. California census records.
  8. Arcadia resident Mrs. Paula Lamont,, who remembers her mother telling her about attending school with Harriet Quimby. She gave a written account of what her mother told her. Her mother also told her Harriet was born in Arcadia Township. Alfred Stockman and many other Arcadians also said Harriet was born in Arcadia Township as quoted in the Manistee Daily News, July 5. 1912.