By Rich Tarrant
An obituary printed on the front page of the Sandusky Daily Register in the December 18th edition of 1874 called him as “a man of peculiar character”. Whether that was intended as a compliment or not remains to be seen. The article went on to describe him as “stern and inflexible in his belief of the right, and blunt and outspoken in his sentiments of all subjects.” It also goes on to say that his “bluntness was by some called rough.”
To persons familiar with the British comedy-drama television series “Doc Martin” Dr. Quigley’s character as described by the Register obit may seem somewhat familiar. But however amusing the fictional doctor’s eccentricities may be for his fans one must seriously doubt that many of Dr. Quigley’s patients were equally amused by his personality quirks.
Be that as it was the report of his demise that appeared in the same newspaper two days earlier was somewhat more objective: “Dr. Quigley, one of the pioneers of this county [Erie] and a highly respected citizen, died at his residence in Vermilion on last Friday, of organic disease of the heart.”
Whether Dr. James Quigley was a “highly respected citizen” or a “stern and inflexible” curmudgeon / “tosser” may be hard to determine from all that was said of him. To be fair it is likely he was some of both. But in the end it doesn’t really matter. Like it or not – like him or not – one thing is perfectly clear he was beyond the shadow of any doubt an asset to Vermilion’s pioneer community.
Born in Warren, Trumbull County Ohio September 25, 1806 his family eventually migrated to Black River (i.e. Lorain), and later to North Amherst (i.e. Amherst) in Lorain County. James studied medicine under the tutelage of an early Amherst physician named Luman Tenny coming to Vermillion in 1838.
He married a local girl named Deborah Johnson on May 3, 1841. Mrs. Quigley had come of age on the family farm at the little settlement we currently know as Volunteer Bay a few miles west of Vermilion. The couple had six children, four dying in infancy. Two sons, Joseph and Reber survived and grew up in Vermilion. Deborah died prematurely on December 13, 1853 at the age of 38 years. In 1854 he married a gal named Jane Phillips and the couple had a daughter they christened with the unusual name of Nebraska.
On Friday December 11, 1874 Dr. Quigley succumbed to what was described in blunt detail as extremely severe heart, lung and liver problems. Methinks the doctor would have especially appreciated the forthright narrative of that which killed him in the piece that appeared in his front-page obituary. It’s almost as if the doctor had authored the newspaper accounting of those specific problems himself: “Heart, hypertrophied and dilated to nearly twice its normal size…” etc.
Anyway, when the dust settled – the newspaper read and tossed in the trash – a funeral service was conducted in his Vermilion home and he was removed to Amherst where he was laid to rest at the “old family burying place.” Peculiar character or not, Dr. James Quigley played a vital role in the history of our town. However, it may very well be that if he’d not been so peculiar nobody would’ve ever remembered him at all.
Ref: Sandusky Daily Register, 12/16/1874 and 12/18/1874; VHM Photo Archive.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org