Ezekiel Solomon

Learning About Ezekiel Solomon’s Home in Fort Michilimackinac: Creating a Timeline

Ezekiel Solomon

For years I’ve been exploring my family history, trying to learn more about my family story. Among the most fascinating discoveries has been the story of Ezekiel Solomon, and the first post I wrote about him remains the most visited and most commented one on my site.

When I visited Fort Michilimackinac a few years ago I picked up a copy of “Excavations at Fort Michilimackinac 1983-1985: House C of the Southeast Row House, The Solomon-Levy-Parant House” by Jill Y. Halchin. This post summarizes some of the information from Halchin’s report.

(I hope to return to this timeline as I find information from other sources and add/edit as needed).

1735

Ezekiel Solomon born in Berlin, Germany.

1750

Earliest mention of Ezekiel Solomon in North America.

1761

Ezekiel Solomon was part of a group of Jewish men who supplied the British army with supplies before becoming fur traders: Gershon Levy, Levy Solomon, Chapman Abraham, and Benjamin Lyon. They each focused on different parts of the Great Lakes Region in the late 1750s. They were the only non-French fur traders in the area in 1761.

(Click here for a timeline of fur trading).

Canada sent British troops to take over the French posts. The French had run the trade since the 1650s so this was a big shift in management.

Ezekiel Solomon is the first Jewish person to live in Michigan.

1763

In 1763, Solomon hid from Pontiac when they overtook the fort but was eventually captured, taken to Montreal, and ransomed to British authorities. This experience is documented by Alexander Henry.

Click here for an excerpt from: Alexander Henry, Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories, Between the years 1760 and 1776. In Two Parts (New York: I. Riley, 1809).

1765

At Fort Michilimackinac, Ezekiel Solomon and Gershon Levy bought the house from Pierre Parant (who moved to Montreal) on June 29, 1765 according to the record of the French royal notary.

Ezekiel Solomon most likely spent his summers in Fort Michilimackinac and his winters in Montreal.

A British diet reported by Reitz (et. al) found in the remains of Ezekiel’s house (House C) dated to this time that suggest an upper socioeconomic position.

1766

Solomon spent the winter of 1766-67  “near the Falls of St. Antonis” according to notes in Major Robert Rogers’ trial.

1767

According to a letter in evidence from Major Robert Rogers’ trial, Solomon is in the Michilimackinac the summer of 1767.

Ezekiel and his partners file for bankruptcy, blaming the loss of goods when captured by Pontiac and other things (not specified) as the reason.

1768

Solomon was an early member of the Shearith Israel, the Sephardic congregation of Montreal.

1769

Solomon marries Elizabeth Lousie Dubois in Montreal. They have four sons and a daughter between 1773 and 1778.

According to this report there is no evidence that his wife and children lived in Michigan. All information suggests that Solomon’s family lived in Montreal. It is likely that Ezekiel was a post fur trader who went to the Fort in the late summer and early fall to hire voyageurs to bring goods out and do the trading.

1770

Many records of Solomon’s fur trading and licenses for the transport of goods throughout the 1770s. Here is a listing of his contracts in the Voyageur Database.

Solomon sent £750 worth of goods in two canoes.

1774

Solomon sent £2,050 worth of goods in four canoes.

Joseph Solomon is born.

1775

Solomon participated in Canadian politics, signing petitions to the king before the American Revolution to request that Canada be permitted an assembly like other some colonies.

It’s possible Solomon was accused of the disfiguring of a bust of a British king in Montreal and in response Solomon knocked the accuser down. This led to Solomon being apprehended and bail. The report suggests this could be interpreted as Solomon’s loyalty to his heritage.

Solomon sent £1,500 in three canoes (plus a change in destination to Lake Superior).

Solomon’s traders recorded at Lake Minnitaki, Pashkokogan Lake, Lake Escabitchewan, Lac Seul, Shikag Lake, and Sturgeon Lake through the lat 1770s.

1776

Incomplete records for Solomon’s goods.

1777

Solomon sent £250 worth of goods in one canoe.

Solomon hired John Darlington to travel to Northern Ontario. On his return to Montreal, Darlington was paid 600 francs.

William Solomon is born.

Here is William’s baptismal record:

Baptism Record for William Solomon

1778

Minutes from Shearith Israel note that meetings were held in Solomon’s home in Montreal. Solomon was elected to serve as hatan torah and then on a board to help writing the code of laws for the congregation.

1779

Ezekiel’s name shows up on a petition for a General Store at Fort Michilimackinac, “The 1st 7th 1779.” The presence of the store forbids individual trading and was very controversial. Those who signed did so reluctantly. There is no record how this ended.

Solomon lists his residence as Montreal on a list of traders.

The community at Fort Michilimackinac begins the move to Mackinac Island. By the summer of 1781, everyone had relocated to the island.

1781

Solomon’s name disappears from trading records according to the excavation report.

Solomon’s house at Fort Michilimackinac is destroyed.

1783

According to another source, Solomon was a big competitor to HBC, selling nearly twice as much as HBC in an area known as the Little North (see page 7 of this essay).

1790

It’s possible the family moved from Montreal to Mackinac Island after 1790.

1802

The Rev. David Bacon, from Connecticut, attempts to start the first Protestant mission  on Mackinac Island without success. His efforts did not succeed. The memoir mentions Ezekiel Solomon, his wife Louise, and one of their sons (probably William who would later become an interpreter) in this account of Rev. Bacon canceling a planned trip from Mackinac Island to L’Arbrecroche in NW lower Michigan in 1802: “The want of access to the Indians was still more discouraging. Without a competent interpreter, there would be no hope of gaining anything from a visit to Arbrecroche. The interpreter with whom he had corresponded through a friend, and whom he had so often hoped to obtain, had again disappointed him. Finding another man who could speak both Indian and English, he had attempted to obtain his help in the expedition; but that man’s father and mother—the one a Jew and the other a Papist — were unwilling that he should fulfil his engagement.” Bacon, Rev. Leonard D.D. A Sketch of the Life of Rev. David Bacon. 1876. Reprint. Boston, Massachusetts: Congregational Publishing Society, Alfred Mudge & Son, n.d.. Digital images.

1805-1808

The excavation report suggests that Ezekiel Solomon died around 1805. At this time his widow and heirs filed a claim for a lot on Main Street, Mackinac Island. But the historical marker suggests he died in 1808.

1964

Ezekiel Solomon Historical Marker dedication. Click here for the original article about the dedication sent to me by Anne Nault, also a descendant of Solomon.

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40 Comments

    • Jessica Outram

      Thanks so much. This is fascinating work. I’m also looking forward to exploring William Solomon’s story and some of the others. Every time I start working on them I get led back to Ezekiel. So I will stick with him until I feel I’ve got a comprehensive portrait.

  • Alice

    Hello, I am a direct descendent of Chief Pontiac. I know that we have relatives that have the last name of Solomon. I was wondering if we have Jewish blood in us too?

    • Jessica Outram

      Hi Alice! I haven’t done enough research to be able to answer your question with certainty. Sorry! But lots of people visit the site each week so check back. Maybe a visitor will have an answer to your questions.

  • Margo Parmenter Zieske

    Your timeline of Ezekiel Solomon shows an enormous amount of work and was presented in a clear manner, as well as good documentation. I found your information while researching my ancestor Ezekiel Solomon. My line flow through his daughter Sophie, who married Isidore Peltier. The Peltiers ended up in the early settlement of Monroe, Michigan called Frenchtown. I learned a great deal from your research and I plan to add some of it to my genealogy with the attribution going to you. Thanks for your hard work! A cousin, Margo Parmenter Zieske

      • Paul King

        Margo Zieske. Sophie Solomon marries Isidor Pelletier of Detroit in 1798. Can you provide any information as to when they arrived in Monroe, Michigan and whether they relocated to other residential locations? Also, I believe the Pelletiers were engaged in the fur trade but I haven’t discovered the extent, both family-wise and over time of their involvement in this. Did any of their children arrive in Detroit?

  • Andrea Blaustein

    Hi Jessica….I guess that we are distant cousins!! I am the great great great great granddaughter of Levy Solomons. I would be happy to chat more with you if you are interested.

      • Paul King

        Andrea. It has been repeated in print many times that Levy Solomons was related (usually a cousin relationship) to Ezekiel Solomons. However, no vital data has come to light which would affirm a family relationship. Nor was Ezekiel best man at his wedding according to Charles Law in his historical novel, Aaron’s Covenant, on the grounds that Ezekiel was engaged in the fur trade in the Upper Country. Secondly, does your family tradition ascribe Sephardic or Askenazic origins to Levy Solomons?

  • Paul King

    Comment to Jessica Outram on ES Time-Line

    You have 1750 as the earliest “mention” of ES in North America. Is this a documented “mention”? My earliest piece of material for Ezekiel Solomon is 1755, an announcement in the newspaper, the New York Mercury, for the 6 July, that a letter is awaiting him at the post office.

    I read Hilchin’s book, Excavations at Fort Michilimackinac 1983-1985, and while it has valuable biographical information about Ezekiel Solomon, especially his living quarters in House C at Mackinac, Hilchin’s thesis, based on deductions and suppositions from archaeological findings at the site of House C, is terribly flawed. Using the historical sources available to her at the time (1985) she combined them with an interpretation of archaeological findings which led her totally astray. Because Hilchin lacked access to the Voyageur Data Base, she claims that Ezekiel reached a low in fur trade embarkations “until his name disappears altogether in 1781 (or even 1780)”. In fact, Solomon’s most prosperous fur trading period was from the late 1770s to approximately 1783, as the Voyageur data base and the hysterical diatribes of the Hudsons Bay Company’s chief clerk now reveal.

    When Hilchin comes to her forte, the archaeological findings at House C and their interpretations, she claims that the “depositional records . . . parallel events known through historical documents.” (69)

    Hilchin’s ignorance of the historical record reaches major heights in the claim that his wife was either Protestant or Catholic (true, she married in a Protestant ceremony, but…). Hilchin states that there is no documentary evidence that Elizabeth DuBois, ES’s wife, was at the mainland Mackinac house, but she should have been sensitive to the religious artifact findings. Admittedly, they were a miniscule percentage of all the artifacts excavated (1.09%), but most of these were rosary beads. (See 138) It would be most unusual for the Jewish Ezekiel Solomon to have these items; either DuBois did visit on occasion – we know she acted as a bourgeois for at least one Montreal shipment – or there were, as Hilchin suggested as a possibility, other people who lived in the house at a later date. Hilchin gives the total House C residential time period for fur traders as 1765-1780. (160) She concludes that the archaeological records “reflect the effects of social and cultural values” including “commercial trade” which she maintains was declining in the late 1770s and petered out by the early 1780s. (183) She does concede that Solomon may have been wintering in the Nipigon area in this last period.

    • Jessica Outram

      Thanks for the clarification. There are a number of conflicting sources out there and I appreciate the time and care you take in ensuring our accuracy. It’s important to get right and each year there is more clarity. My thinking is that Elizabeth DuBois was likely in the Mackinac area often–otherwise why would all the descendants stay in the area and not establish themselves in Montreal? She’s also listed on church documents as witnessing many baptisms in the Mackinac area…

      • Brendan O'Gorman

        Paul, it is entirely possible that Ezekiel had a good supply of complete rosaries well as beads/crucifixes to repair them. You might be surprised at how worn out they can get; many voyageurs facing danger every day would be apt to use them regularly. Hefty mark up on them, too. My Dad was in the religious goods business in the 1950’s to the early 1960’s. Then came Vatican II…

  • Brendan O'Gorman

    I came across information that stated Ezekiel and his then business partner William Grant each provided £50 for the maintenance of Roman Catholic clergy at St. Anne’s church on Mackinac Island, probably as an act of good will to the voyageurs and local FN and Metis community, but also, no doubt, to keep Loiuse happy. As you mention, Louise’s name frequently appears as a baptismal witness in St. Anne’s records, records which also document the FN/ Metis heritage of those of us descended from William and Agibicocona through their daughter Sophie, born in 1796 and baptized the following year, as the priest was itinerant from 1765 (the year of the British suppression of the Jesuits in North America) until a permanent priest took up duties in 1830. Paul, it is not at all unlikely that from very early on Ezekiel was supplying religious goods such as rosaries or beads/crucifixes to repair them. The Jesuits had won many FN converts in the area since the late 1600’s, and we know from the records that the church was central to the lives of many if not most voyageurs, whether FN, Metis, or Quebecois . Life was often harsh and dangerous, and therefore seeking spiritual succor by saying the rosary regularly was probably very much a part of daily life for these communities, especially given the fact that the lack of a permanent priest made the receiving of sacrements infrequent.

  • Joanne Biln

    What a great web site Jessica! You’ve obviously invested a great deal of time and effort into this obsession… An obsession that seems to run in the family, LOL.

    I descend from William and Marguarite’s daughter, Rosette Solomon. My branch of the family remained in Penetangueshene until my grandmother Agnes Amelia Cosgrove, daughter of Amelia Bellerose, left home to reside in the Toronto area in the late 20’s-early 30’s. I’m in the midst of reading the “Report on the Origins and Evolution of the Penetanguishene Area Métis Community.” Thanks for including this, and so many other links on your site too.

    Searching and sharing what we find is how we keep the memory of our ancestors alive, and I thank you for all that you do and share!

  • james sweet

    Hi Jessica
    what a great story of my grandfather
    you did an excellent job, i am my family’s geneologist
    this is my line
    Ezekiel had a son William had a son,Louis had a daughter,Felicity,had a daughter Elizabeth had a daughter,Phyllis had a son ,James

    We must be cousins drop me a line let me know where you live
    i am in Bradford Ontario

  • Joseph Landau

    Hi,

    I was trying to find out info on your grandfather. I have as Hebrew prayer-book that belonged to him its signed 1786 Michllimack.

    If your interested in having a copy drop me an email

    • Paul King

      Joseph Landau. I certainly am interested in this Hebrew prayer book. This would be a remarkable find and, as far as I know, has not been mentioned in any Ezekiel Solomon research to date. What is its provenance? That is, where was it found – what is its origin? Is there a publication date and place? For which Jewish observances – the Sabbath only? Jewish festivals? ,etc.

  • Allan

    Hi I thought Ezekiel married a native woman from the area, Her name was not English but something like Agibicona or something

    • Paul King

      Joseph Landau. I certainly am interested in this Hebrew prayer book. This would be a remarkable find and, as far as I know, has not been mentioned in any Ezekiel Solomon research to date. What is its provenance? That is, where was it found – what is its origin? Is there a publication date and place? For which Jewish observances – the Sabbath only? Jewish festivals? ,etc.

  • David Mancini

    Hello my name isDavid Mancini my grandmother was Clara Ann Moreau born in midland Ontario in 1890. Her father was David Moreau. By the way my name come from him. We are descendants of Ezekiel Solomon. My grandmother married Giacomo from Calabrito Italy. She lived in Italy for 13 years. She hated Italy because of her mother in law and the First World War. I would like to belong to your groups thank you.

  • David Mancini

    Hello I just found this.In December 1768, under the new British rule, twelve families from New York moved to Montreal. Berlin-born army purveyor and later fur trader, Ezekiel Solomon, along with Hart, founded Canada’s first synagogue, Shearith Israel Congregation, known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. It followed the same Sephardic tradition as the synagogue the settlers had attended in New York, although all the founding members were Ashkenazi Jews of Dutch, British, and German origin. The first synagogue building was built in 1777, and Jacob Raphael Cohen of London became its first rabbi in 1778. It was not until 1846 that Montreal’s second congregation and the first Ashkenazic synagogue in British North America was established. The Synagogue of English, German, and Polish Jews was finally able to construct a synagogue in 1858 and was renamed Shaar Hashamayim.

    Ezekiel Hart
    During the America Revolution from 1775 to 1781, the majority of Jews living in Quebec took the side of the British in the conflict, despite family connections in the colonies. In 1807, Ezekiel Hart, the son of Aaron Hart, was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada, but was unable to assume office as he refused to be sworn in “on the true faith of a Christian.” It was not until 1831, upon request of the Jewish population of Montreal, which numbered 107, that the Jewish community received legal recognition from the Legislative Assembly of Quebec. Under the act, the Jewish communities of Montreal, Quebec, and Trois Rivieres were allowed to own land slated for the construction of a synagogue and cemetery. On June 5, 1832, Canadian Jews gained full rights as British subjects, including the right to sit in Parliament and hold public office.

  • Paul King

    Michael Ezekiel,

    It is moving to see family heritage preserved through the name of your stem ancestor, Ezekiel. It would perhaps be of interest to many readers to view the direct ancestral links to Ezekiel Solomon, omitting if you choose, those who are living. It would also be of interest to know any details about how the family saved these linkages. and whether the “historical records” contain original letters or documents handed down through the generations.

  • Paul King

    I am not in any way related to Ezekiel Solomon. My interest was sparked on a canoe trip on the Pickerel and French Rivers in the summer of 2015. I met two people in the space of 5 days, one descended directly from Ezekiel Solomon and the second descended from Moses Hart of Three Rivers. Moses Hart’s uncle, also named Moses, married Ezekiel Solomon’s sister. I grew up in Whitby, Ont. and do not recall meeting people who could trace their ancestry as far back as the United Empire Loyalists. Because of this coincidence of related deep ancestry, my life-long love of canoe tripping, and my interest in my own family genealogy these past 18 years, I have been engaged in trying to uncover as much as possible detail;s on the elusive life of Ezekiel Solomon. At the time, I came across Jessica Outram’s blog dedicated to Ezekiel and this, among other factors, brought about my Ezekiel Solomon addiction.

  • Lyle Wilson

    Paul – I get it now. I am new to genealogy so basically all of this is “new news” to me as of about 8-9 weeks ago. I share your interest in learning more.

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