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.
How has history impacted your work? Has it slipped into your created worlds? Has it inspired the people who inhabit them? If we fall too deeply down this well of thought it becomes impossible to separate the influences of history from our work. The stories of the past whisper in all our stories.
A couple weeks ago in an exercise at a writing retreat I wrote these lines in a poem about happiness:
I can see in all directions
confident in now and then and later
Yesterday I attended the installation at Fort York in Toronto called The Encampment. The contrast between the tents representing 1812 and the dramatic high-rises of 2012 in the backdrop was fascinating.
I started thinking about time and place, about people now and then, about the next two hundred years, about conflict among groups of people, about the harmonies among various generations. Time ceased to be linear. For a moment I saw the fine threads that weave 1812 and 2012 and 2212 in the same tapestry.
Who are the gatekeepers of 2012? Where is the power? Who are the soldiers fighting for our freedom? What is our safe house, our fort, our stronghold against the enemy? Who is the enemy? Who are the innocents?
Although today’s wars are fought away from home, what battles are going on beneath the complex realities of 2012 at home in our communities? Which threads do we need to protect with our lives?
How can we as writers use words to change the human story?
Since the Oscars in February the video about the Bechdel Test has been passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and via email. A couple days ago I told a friend of mine about the test. He teaches film but does not have Facebook. Since then the Bechdel Test has been on my mind.
To pass the Bechdel Test a story needs to have at least two female characters with names who talk to each other about something other than a man.
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).