Sunday, September 17, 2006
The Ghost of Minnie Quay
I was reminded today of a legend. Maybe it's the time of year.
I used to live in Port Sanilac. A little north of that is the town of Forester. Or rather Forester is a town that used to be. Outside of the three or four buildings that still stand is a graveyard on a steep bluff overlooking Lake Huron. It’s windy there and on some days the sound of the lake beating the beach below is like thunder. The cemetery is old but not ancient. Some stones go back to the late eighteen hundreds. It’s still in use though and usually well maintained.
At the corner of one row of markers, the area people leave gifts. Stones, letters, notes, etc. These are a tribute to a spirit.
One day I was at the local library and overheard a conversation between a summer tourist and librarian. The woman said: “My son and I were driving along last night and we saw a young woman by the side of the road. She looked horrible. We turned around to see if we could help her, but we couldn’t find her again.”
“That was Minnie,” said the librarian
I spoke to the librarian after that. She is a heavy set woman with a deep voice. She smiles easily. “Who is Minnie?” I asked.
“She haunts the coast there,” said the librarian, and the statement stood as self-explanatory.
I have since researched Minnie, and if you want to surf the net, you can find her as well. Her full name was Minnie Quay. The local people are fond of their spirit and protect her. In the late seventies, Gundella, a witch from the Detroit area led a small party to the cemetery and there tried to hold a séance. They were driven off by the locals.
According to legends, Minnie was seventeen. Pretty. She and her family lived in a tall house in Forester, a thriving lumber community before the great fire that consumed "the thumb". Forester had docks and was a spot where ships came in and loaded lumber from a one-time lumber industry. That’s where she met him. His name is lost to us, but we’ll call him John. It’s a good name and one common at that time as it is now.
John was a sailor. He was a common man, with strong hands and a crude way about him. He stole Minnie’s heart. Her parents, who were respected in the community and who had higher aspirations for their daughter than to be wed to this roughly hewn timber, forbade the romance.
Seventeen year old girls are full of romance and rebellion. Minnie would sneak out and meet John, and their love took root. But word came back to the parents about their daughter’s behavior, and so they took sterner measures and watched her more carefully.
Lake Huron can be cruel. The November storms have taken many lives. I imagine such a storm wrecked John's ship. When news of the tragedy reached Forester, Minnie was devestated. She screamed and lashed out at those around her. Grief broke her spirit and in the madness of it, she ran to the docks and threw herself into the water. Her body washed up on the beach the next day.
It is said now that her spirit haunts that area.
Some have seen her dancing along the beach, or walking the road. Some think she is a seductress, calling to young women to join her in the surf that is icy Lake Huron. Some think her appearance is a dark omen. Other think she is merely a reminder of the fragility of life and the sweetness of new romance.
The next time you are driving along M-29, stop by the little cemetery and pay her a visit. Listen to the surf and close your eyes. Let youself be transported.