Even if you have never heard of Minnie Quay, it is likely that you have heard about someone just like her. Similar legends haunt many places.
Minnie Quay is famous in Michigan and beyond. She hails from Forester, which is located in a part of the state known as The Thumb. And why The Thumb? The town is situated on the thumb portion of a mitten-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. A lumber town at the time of the story, Forester was home to this classic tale of struggle between parents and their teenaged daughter.
Back in the 1870’s, John and Maryann Quay lived in a small but cozy home not far from the beach in the lumber town of Forester, Michigan. They had a small son and a teenaged daughter, Minnie. Minnie loved to walk the beaches near Lake Michigan, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility. Everyone knew when she passed by, for she always left a pretty trail of jubilant footprints zig-zagging across the sand.
One day, possibility sailed right in to shore. When the boat docked at the pier, Minnie met a sailor. She was 15 years old, he was older. And the local people didn’t like him. They never liked it when their young women took up with the sailors. Minnie’s parents were no different. She was told that she mustn’t see him.
“My girl,” cried her mother, “I would rather see you dead than be with the likes of him!”
But young love is a powerful force, like storms at sea. Just who is strong enough to stop it?
Minnie managed to sneak out and see her sailor whenever his boat docked in town. Everyone knew she met him, because they saw two pairs of footprints zig-zagging across the sand.
One day in 1876, Minnie’s parents put their feet down and forbid her to leave the house. Well there was an angry storm in the Quay house. But it was not the only storm that day. A rainstorm with the power and force of young love carried her sailor’s boat and crew to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
When Minnie heard, she was distraught. She never got to say goodbye.
From that day on, Minnie Quay stopped walking on shore. She simply sat near the pier, gazing out at the lake, looking for possibility. And one day, she found it. Dressed in a white gown, Minnie Quay walked to the edge of the pier where she always met her love and jumped into the water to join him.
Though her body was buried in a local cemetery, her spirit is restless. Even today, people see her walking along the beach, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility – the possibility that one day she might find him.
Oh the people know it is the ghost of Minnie Quay – she emerges from the mists wearing a white dress, zig-zags her way across shore, but leaves no footprints in the sand.
The Minnie Quay story touches people to the core. How do I know this? It is a musical, a book, more than one ballad , and a beer. I mean when an artisan craft brewery in Massachusetts names a beer after a story from Michigan, it has almost reached meme status.
On a more serious note, this romantic tragedy encourages us to believe that sometimes love is strong enough to cross the forbidden bridge between life and death. Maybe that is the real reason why Minnie’s legend endures.
But then again, if people still see her ghost emerging from the mists, then that could surely explains why the legend endures.
Why do you think tales like this endure? Share your thoughts and let’s get chatting.
Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.
Dutcher, Denise (2014). Dead Reckoning: A Great Lakes Love Story.
Taylor, Troy. http://www.prairieghosts.com/minnie.htm
Wikipedia – Minnie Quay
PHOTO CREDIT: By Royalbroil / CC BY-SA 3.O / Wikimedia Commons