A couple times a summer dad takes me out for a sunset cruise on Georgian Bay. Every year it looks different. I wonder if it is me that has changed so I see the water and land and sun setting differently or if the bay is changing (for example: time of day, water level, location, weather). Last year we went out by Gereaux Island Lighthouse. There is something about the architecture of a lighthouse isolated on an island with the grand sky and big water that calms me. (Do all people feel a connection to lighthouses?) So every time we go out into the bay I always look for the lighthouse.
This year it was just dad and I for the sunset cruise. We got into the boat and he said, “Where do you want to go?”
I didn’t have a preference other than “out there”–on the bay. I find the expansiveness of the bay healing. I’ve come to learn it’s my church. We don’t always need a building to feel connected to something bigger than us. I was thrilled for the chance to go out, it didn’t matter where.
So I sat back into my front seat in the pontoon boat. Dad drove out toward the bay. Soon we moved from the Magnetewan River to the open waters. Then dad turned out of the channel. The boat slowed down.
Since he retired dad has gone kayaking most mornings out in the bay. He often talks about the McNab Rocks. I had never been to them (as I am not so steady in a kayak and not ready for open water paddling).
What amazes me most about this trip is that I’ve passed the McNab rocks hundreds of time on our way out by the lighthouse. From afar it looks like a cluster of generic Georgian Bay rocks. But it isn’t until you’re among them that you can really appreciate the detail of the McNab rocks.
Dad turned off the motor and paddled the pontoon boat through the rocks. It was incredible. These are the photos I took on August 1, 2016. What a wonderful way to start a new month!
The pictures were all taken using my Nikon Coolpix S8200. Cropped/edited on my Mac using Photos’ simple tools.
PS: I don’t recommend paddling a pontoon boat through here. It was shallow and tough to navigate. Canoes, kayaks, and row boats are better choices.
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).
Ezekiel Solomon born in Berlin, Germany.
Earliest mention of Ezekiel Solomon in North America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Solomon spent the winter of 1766-67 “near the Falls of St. Antonis” according to notes in Major Robert Rogers’ trial.
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.
Solomon was an early member of the Shearith Israel, the Sephardic congregation of Montreal.
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.
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.
Solomon sent £2,050 worth of goods in four canoes.
Joseph Solomon is born.
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).
Incomplete records for Solomon’s goods.
Solomon sent £250 worth of goods in one canoe.
Here is William’s baptismal record:
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.
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.
Solomon’s name disappears from trading records according to the excavation report.
It’s possible the family moved from Montreal to Mackinac Island after 1790.
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.
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.
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.
Dad took us out on a beautiful August evening for a sunset cruise around Gereaux Island Lighthouse. What makes the water look like a mirror? Why do sunsets feel so much like coming home?
Learning Big Lessons
We all learn from our parents. For many of us, parents are our first teachers and our most influential teachers. I’ve worked with so many families over the years and whatever the family story, whether the parents are very present or very absent, children learn big lessons. And we learn from every experience and encounter with our parents, things that can hurt us and things that can heal us, things that take us backward and things that move us forward.
It’s time to take stock and reflect. Grab a sheet of paper and a pen. Brainstorm as many things you’ve learned from your parents that you can remember. Include little things like how to fold a pillow case or how to drive a car and include big things like how to work hard or how to prioritize family. It may be easiest to start with your earliest memory.
When you have a good sized list, choose a couple items to unpack, listing all the learnings that connect to that one item. I learned so much (and continue to do so) from my mom and dad. Today I am going to write about what I learned from Mom and her homemade butter tarts.
This is the second article in a series about Influential Teachers.
Mom learned how to cook and bake from her parents…
Mom grew up in Northern Ontario watching her French-Canadian mother cook and bake. Grandma was famous for her blueberry pie, blancmange, chicken and dumplings, hamburgers with stuffing in the middle, swiss steak, sauce aux salmon, and of course tourtierre at Christmastime. Grandma always made her own pastry and was a master cake decorator. Grandma grew up watching her father, Olivier Charron, cooking in a boarding house along the Still River for coal dock workers in Britt, Ontario.
Grandpa cooked sometimes too when Grandma was at work at Silverman’s Department Store in Sudbury (outfitting miners with uniforms). FYI: Grandpa’s classic dish was pork chops and french fries.
It was great-Aunt Florence who was a good tart maker when Mom was a child. Grandma may have made tarts, but Mom remembers more about Grandma’s pies. Grandma would make five pies at a time, her apple pies were the best. For years my grandparents had five cabins on their property in Britt that they rented to tourists. Grandma would give away pies to their favourite guests, much to my great-grandmother’s shock, horror, and descriptive disapproval in angry French.
We learn a lot about food from our parents.
Mom took Home Economics in high school and it quickly became her favourite class…
The first thing Mom remembers ever cooking was for my dad when they were dating. Mom was about 18 years old. It was at Grandma’s house. Mom made a dish from her Home Ec class for her guy with shrimp, rice, green peppers, and melted cheese.
When I asked Dad this question, he says the first thing Mom ever cooked was a jar of Aunt Muriel’s “Chow-Chow Chilli” heated in a saucepan shortly after they were married. Although “chilli” was in the title it was actually a salsa meant to be a condiment: far too spicy to be eaten by the bowlful!
From my childhood, I remember Mom’s homemade pizza, cinnamon buns, blueberry pie, and butter tarts. Mom is an amazing cook and baker–everything she makes is filled with the best ingredients, careful preparation, and love.
The first time Mom made butter tarts she was in her mid-twenties, after Grandma died. Her neighbour and best friend, Cathy, gave her a list of tart making ingredients from a Kinette Cookbook over the phone.
Every Friday Mom and Cathy would bake while us kids were napping. Cathy taught Mom how to make bread and German food (gulasch, knochlen, kipferl cookies) and Christmas fruitcakes. Mom wanted to learn how to make tarts so naturally she called Cathy.
Using the list of tart ingredients, Mom made her first butter tarts and they were good! The tart obsession started slowly. By the time Mom was in her thirties she would come home from working all day to make 40 butter tarts and 24 cinnamon buns for the staff at her school the next day. (And she’d make dinner!)
Mom became known by all of us as the Queen of Tarts.
When Mom was in her forties, she lost her tart recipe. For over a decade we were tart-less! She prayed to St. Anthony for years, searching the house for her list of ingredients. Then in 2012 her prayers were answered. Mom found our beloved tart recipe in a kitchen drawer she had checked many times before. Now that Dad was retired he became the sous chef. Mom and Dad make butter tarts on rainy days. Together they have perfected tart making!
Queen of Tart Legends:
- Recently Mom and Dad made 120 tarts for a friend’s retirement and it took 2 days, 27 cups of flour, 3 pounds of butter, and 24 cups of brown sugar, 24 eggs…
- About 15 years ago, Mom and I had a baking exchange party with all our friends. Not long into the party we noticed that the tarts were missing. The exchange hadn’t officially started yet. We never did find the two dozen tarts. One of our friends had stolen them all!! No one at the party confessed.
- Mom donated two plates of tarts to a senior’s bake sale. Dad mentioned to a friend that Mom’s tarts were there. The friend declared she must covet the tarts but alas the tarts were sold quickly and gone. The buyer offered to sell a plate of tarts for three times the bake sale cost ($18)…
- Mom and Dad often give tarts to helpful people, local photographers, OPP, their priest. My favourite story though is about the tart they gave to a Bell Canada worker in the area. When they needed support the following year a new worker was dispatched and knew about the tart the previous guy received.
- Dad often brings a random tart out to the road for people passing that he knows (unless family is visiting because we eat all the tarts!)
- After my cousin’s wedding, before the post-wedding brunch, my uncle’s brother hid the butter tarts from his own family, including the bride and groom.
- Sometimes when Mom and Dad bring tarts to an event the host hides them (so they don’t have to be shared with the guests).
- Sometimes at a potluck the tarts are eaten before the meal as the appe-tarter!
- For their forty-second wedding anniversary Mom and Dad made tarts. Then they arranged the tarts into a “42.” (Also note that they usually make 42 tarts in a batch).
Five Things I’ve Learned from Mom and Her Tarts
- Heart: Mom makes tarts to show her love. (She doesn’t even eat the tarts!) The butter tarts are a sign of her generosity, talent, and kindness. She enjoys making the people around her happy. Mom teaches me the importance of putting heart at the centre, of giving our best to others, of creating something excellent to spread joy and express gratitude.
- Attention to Detail: Mom attends to perfecting each step in the tart making process. She inspects everything along the way, reflecting on how to make it better. By attending to every small detail, her tarts are absolute perfection each and every time she bakes them. Mom teaches me the importance of being methodical, following a plan, adjusting the plan when needed, and learning from the plan as time passes.
- Community: Mom uses tarts to bring people together. From family and friends to community groups to passersby, mom creates a sense of belonging by giving away butter tarts. Mom teaches me how to connect with others through generosity and to give the most to the people who are closest and part of our every day. It’s important to use our skills and talents in the service of building community and belonging.
- Practice: Mom worked hard to become an amazing cook and baker. She asked for help when she needed it. She utilized the lessons from her teachers. Mom teaches me that if we practice something, we will improve. If we practice it long enough, we can become experts. She chose to perfect her butter tart making not because it was her favourite thing to bake, but because of the joy the tarts brought others. Every year Mom and Dad continue to adjust the butter tart baking process to improve efficiency and excellence.
- Embrace the Crown: Mom has earned her crown as Queen of Tarts and she wears it with pride. It’s important to celebrate our achievements and to accept the compliments of others. Mom teaches me to take pride in my creations, to make space for others to celebrate, and to happily wear a crown when it’s been earned.
Questions in the Jar
Mom answered three questions pulled from my 50 Questions in a Jar so we could get to know her better.
Q: If you could eliminate one type of bug forever, which one would you choose?
Mom: Mosquito. Or deer flies. The last two times I went in the boat I got bit. You don’t feel them biting and then you itch like crazy after.
Q: If you were to be a matchmaker, which two celebrities would you match together?
Mom: That’s a hard one. I guess I’ll just say Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Q: Where do you go to have fun?
Mom: Florida. There is less cooking and more eating out. I get to wear shorts all the time. And of course the shopping.
Mom’s Butter Tart Recipe
The recipe should be enough to make 42 butter tarts.
- 8 cups brown sugar
- 8 large eggs (whisked together)
- 2 cups melted butter
- 2 cups good quality raisins (soak in hot water for 15 minutes before using)
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons white vinegar
Mix all the above ingredients together well. Keep mixing it right up until you put it in the tart shells as the ingredients separate if they sit.
Mom uses Tenderflake lard, a whole pound, mixing up the whole package of dough. (Recipe is on the Tenderflake package). Divide the dough into six balls and wrap individually into plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling. Leave the balls of dough in the fridge until just before rolling.
Bake on mid to low (but not bottom) oven rack in a preheated 375 degree oven about 15-20 minutes or until pastry is brown and filling is bubbling.
Let stand to cool before removing from muffin pans, as filling is very hot.
These butter tarts freeze well.
Born in Berlin. Child of the Enlightenment Era.
Ezekiel Solomon was born in Berlin, Germany in 1735. Solomon shares his birth year with John Adams (second American President) and Paul Revere (American Patriot). In 1735, Alexander Pope was writing poetry and George Frederic Handel composed operas. King George II was on the British throne.
In 1740 Frederick the Great came into power in Germany and would soon declare himself the leader of the Age of Enlightenment. Ezekiel Solomon was a child of the Enlightenment. He grew up during a time when ideas about science and faith and humanity were changing. Was Solomon an educated man?
It’s the early 1950s, after school in a red house along the Britt road in Britt, Ontario.
Lucy is seven. She lies on her back, staring at the livingroom ceiling. Mr. McGarrity says, “Well, Maggie Muggins, I’d say you’ve had quite a day!”
Lucy smiles, kicks her legs in the air, and leaps to her feet. “Tra la la la lee!” she sings. Lucy wipes a piece of long, blonde hair from her face with one hand as she turns the knob on the radio to the ‘off’ position with the other.
Lucy feels the quiet of the house push up against her chest. The tic toc of the ship’s wheel clock on the radio cabinet whispers at first, then grows louder with the beating of her heart. Lucy hates to be home alone.
Where is Gereaux Island Lighthouse?
Gereaux Island Lighthouse was built in the late 1800s. It is on the northern tip of Gereaux Island marking the entrance to Byng Inlet from Georgian Bay, Ontario. My aunt shared the picture of the original lighthouse.
Two of the people from my family tree I hope to focus on are Joseph Normandin (Jr.) and Louis Normandin. Around the time that Joseph Normandin (Jr.) moved to the Byng Inlet area the family name was changed to Lamondin (more on this in a later post).
To be Canadian
In grade school I dreaded the bi-annual family history project. I was jealous of my friends who had great stories of emigrating to Canada, who talked about secret family recipes, who had fascinating objects and unique pieces of clothing. “I’m just Canadian,” I whined. “My people are all just Canadian.” For years I wanted to be everyone but me. I did not understand what it meant to be Canadian. To be Canadian felt like being nothing.
Now I am in my mid-thirties. I have learned that to be Canadian feels like being everything.
My heritage and identity are important. I feel blessed to be born Canadian.
Why this blog series? Why now?
Bonnie inspired me this morning. She loves to research family trees. Two summers ago she helped me navigate online French documents. I knew my relations included First Nation or Metis but I could not verify anything through the English documents. We had an exciting summer of research and conversation. When I returned to work in September life took over and my fat pink folder of family history sat neglected. A year passed.
We reconnected on Facebook last week. Bonnie sent me a note that she had been spending time researching my tree. People had sent her notes online. Bonnie had found some fabulous documents and interesting details. Creative energy danced through the phone connection like sunlight on a lake. We decided to collaborate on a project. We will write a book inspired by the family history research. Bonnie will lead the research. I will write.
Eight hours passed. Now, I write this blog post. After a full day of following the stories of my ancestors online I decided to begin our work by blogging about it. For months I have struggled with what I wanted to say next as a writer. I lingered between projects in a writer’s purgatory, haunted by indecision.
In May 2011 Sunshine in a Jar Press launched with its first title From the Cottage Porch: An Anthology. Inspired by summers at the cottage in Britt, Ontario, the book aimed to capture the spirit of cottage life in Ontario. The mission of my new independent publishing company is to capture the spirit of a place (real or imaginary) and its people through literature.
I know what I need to write about now. I will blog about the people and places that define me as a Canadian and about the process of learning about the stories of my ancestors.
Today I begin the project I most dreaded in grade school. Where do you come from? Who are your people? Write about your family history. I am thrilled to begin the journey!