Tony Mansell brings us the engaging story of Alfred Solomon, a “Trura Boy,” who travelled thousands of miles to follow his faith. It was a huge step for this young man who was destined to become involved in both the religious and civic aspects of life in his chosen country.
It seems that the Solomons moved to Truro in the 1600s, probably from St Colan, a village in north Cornwall now simply referred to as Colan. William (1804 – 1887) and Nancy Solomon, née Hocking of Launceston (1802 – 1872) produced a large family, at least eleven children, and if my information is correct then Alfred was the seventh born – he entered the world on the 10th September 1836.
Alfred Solomon received what an American report termed a “common school education”. His school days were in Truro, at a time before any state education was available. It is possible that he had some form of paid-for education or maybe he attended what developed from the Raikes Ragged Schools; Sunday schools which taught reading, writing, numeracy and religion. The teachers were lay people and their textbooks included the Bible. Unfortunately, we know little of the young Alfred but no doubt he played in the nearby rivers and chased his friends through the many opes that criss-crossed Truro.
William Henry Solomon, Alfred’s older brother, had been born in Goodwives’ Lane, Truro, on the 6th February 1828. In October 1851 he married Elizabeth Hoskin Drew from Chacewater (2) in Truro. Shortly after William Henry and Elizabeth Hoskin married, he joined the Mormons and in 1853 was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the St Allen River at Daubuz Moor, Truro, by Elder Samuel Francis.
Our story really begins when Alfred Solomon was 17 years old, in April 1854, a significant date in his life. It was when he followed his brother in being baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often referred to as the Mormon Church.
Methodism in its various forms was strong in Cornwall but whatever faith his parents followed, it is suggested that they were not happy about Alfred’s decision to join the Mormons. This young man knew his own mind, however, and would not be dissuaded. He soon became active in his chosen church and while he worked with his father as a shoemaker, he spent his spare time with the missionaries based at the meetinghouse near Mill Pool – “over the stone steps near Martin Hoyte’s bake house”. (1) His local church played an increasingly important part in his life and without his parents’ blessing, he decided to emigrate to Salt Lake City in America. On 27th March 1857, he boarded the “George Washington” at Liverpool and set sail.
Alfred landed in Boston with little money and from there he set out for Iowa City where he worked on a farm for a few weeks. Then came a journey, the sort that was to catch the imagination of following generations and become the stuff of legends. He and a group of pioneers set out with a herd of oxen heading west across the plains of Utah; he drove the head yoke. It was a new and testing experience for this Truro boy and his hand-written account suggests that it was an interesting and eventful journey.
Alfred Solomon’s letter about crossing the Utah Desert
On the 12th September 1857, the group arrived at The Valley, Salt Lake City: where Brigham Young and a group of Mormon pioneers had established their base some ten years earlier. It was to become Alfred’s new home.
We imagine that Alfred was already aware of the animosity between his church and the society at large. If he was not, however, then it must have quickly become apparent as he was enlisted for military service against the forces of the American Government. The country’s leading politicians were concerned at the disquiet caused by the Mormon way of life and stories had spread that they were about to send the federal army to annihilate them. The rumours soon became fact as President James Buchanan sent a military force in what was termed the Utah Expedition. It signalled the beginning of the Utah or Mormon War. To counter the threat, a large Mormon force moved south to confront them, but Alfred was part of a defence group detailed to remain in Echo Canyon to block any attempt to enter The Valley. Their orders were to burn and destroy the property should the army move against them. The action lasted about a year and mostly comprised skirmishes rather than battles. The overall loss of life seems to have been in the region of 150, including about 120 settlers massacred by the Mormons at Mountain Meadows. Eventually, negotiations between the opposing sides resulted in a full pardon for the Mormons, except those involved in the massacre. This opened the way for the peaceful entrance of the United States Army into Utah.
Following the war, Alfred worked in a shoe-making business owned by Robert J Golding; he clearly worked well and was soon placed in charge of the store.
On the 3rd June 1860, at the age of 24, he married 23-year-old Ellen Gyde, * at Mill Creek, Utah, an English girl who had emigrated to “follow her faith”. She had been born in Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire.
Alfred’s elder brother, William Henry Solomon, joined him in Salt Lake City in October 1862. Many years later, in 1994, “The West Briton, Truro & Mid Cornwall News Extra” reported that he and his family had moved to there. It also stated that he relocated to Arizona in 1875. He is known to have settled in Kanab which is actually in Utah but very close to the Arizona border. We assume that he made the journey alone as there is a later mention, (believed to be from a Mormon Church listing) of the “arrival of wife Elizabeth from Salt Lake City”. It also suggests signs of disagreement with wife, Rebecca, who remained in Salt Lake City. From this we can deduce that he had formed a polygamist arrangement. According to his descendent Rial Lisa Solomon, William Henry lived there until his death in 1913.
William Henry Solomon
A 1994 newspaper report about William Henry Solomon
As well as his religious involvement, Alfred became active in the secular life of the area and was sworn in as a special police officer. There is a family tradition that he was a member of the posse that arrested the Morrison Gang in 1862 but that is not corroborated.
By 1867, Alfred had been in America for ten years. He was active and well-respected in his church, but he longed for greater involvement. He clearly felt that he could achieve this by working with the youngsters of his church and he became a Sunday school teacher, a role he held for the next 20 years.
One of the more controversial aspects of his church was the practice of plural marriages or polygamy. This permitted men to take more than one wife at a time and in March 1868, Alfred married 20-year-old Emma Sarah Brown** in Salt Lake City. She was born in Weston, Platte County, Missouri, USA. He spent the next three years with his two wives but in 1871 his first wife, Ellen, died.
When the first fire department was formed in Salt Lake City, Alfred became one of its members and later he was appointed its Chief Fire Officer.
Bishop Alfred Solomon – Salt Lake County Fire Chief
Another brother, James, joined him in 1870 and together they formed the business of Solomon Bros, boot and shoe factory. Their father, William, may well have been involved in the new venture. Theirs was the first shoemaking business in Utah to use machinery to automate the manufacturing process and once that business was underway, they diversified and opened a retail store selling groceries, confectionery and baked goods: quite possibly pasties.
On the 22nd September 1873, Alfred married his third wife, 19-year-old Mary Louisa Solomon *** in Salt Lake City. Like Alfred, she was born in Truro. We believe her to be the daughter of his brother, William Henry Solomon, and therefore his niece. The wedding was at Salt Lake City. At the time he was also married to Sarah but four years later she died, aged just twenty-eight. From his three marriages he had 23 children and some are listed below. I have tried to relate each child to the three wives using asterisks.
1836: Son born – Alfred Edward Solomon (died 1921) *
1862 – 28th November: Son born – William James Solomon in Salt Lake City (died 28th August 1863 in Salt Lake City) *
1864: Daughter born – Elizabeth Ellen Solomon (married Beesley / died 1957) *
1866: Son born – Brigham Solomon (died 1917) *
1868: Daughter born – Mary Ann Solomon (married Wood / died 1962) *
1869: Daughter born – Emily Sarah Solomon (died 1869) **
1870 – 24th April: Son – John Gyde Solomon in Salt Lake City (died 4th September 1871 in Salt Lake City) *
1871: Daughter born – Josephine Solomon (married Robbins / died 1950) **
1871: Daughter born – Adelaide Solomon (died 1961) *
????: Daughter born – Emma Solomon **
????: Son born – Charles Francis Solomon **
????: Son born – Huber Solomon **
1874: Son born – Richard Henry Solomon (died 1952) ***
1885: Son born – Rudger Solomon (died 1961) ***
Alfred’s parents had been so against him going to Salt Lake City but at some point they joined him and his brothers. We know this as William Solomon is recorded as having “died on the 2nd August 1887 at Salt Lake City and buried there on that day”.
It must have been with a considerable sense of fulfilment that Alfred was ordained a Bishop. This was in the late 1880s and he presided over the Twenty-second Ward in Salt Lake City at its inception on the 31st March 1889, a position he held for about 20 years.
Bishop Alfred Solomon
It was probably in 1892 when Alfred left Utah on a mission to England. He became the president of the Newcastle and Cheltenham conferences and when Apostle Brigham Young Junior returned to Utah on the 22nd February 1893, Alfred was placed in charge of the European Mission. He was its president until his return to Salt Lake City on the 4th July 1893.
Alfred’s ministry continued in the Salt Lake Temple, but secular duties also made demands on his time and from 1896 to 1900 he was the City Marshall and Chief of Police in Salt Lake City.
By 1910, Alfred was 74 and he and Louisa made the short journey to live in Mill Creek where they remained for the next eleven years.
Bishop Alfred Solomon late in life
Alfred died on the 17th April 1921 at the age of 85. Mary Louisa lived for a further 20 years and died in Salt Lake City in 1941.
When Alfred left Truro and travelled to America, he began a new life as a pioneer, businessman, cleric and civic leader. He was a Truro boy, but his spiritual calling had taken him thousands of miles from his place of birth. Many of his family continued to live and work in Truro. His nephew, Mr R C Solomon, later ran the engineering business of Solomon and Argall in Old Bridge Street and his niece, Emma Louisa, married James Mansell of Truro and started the business of A J Mansell, Machine and Steam Bakery. They were my great-grandparents.
Cover Photo: From Truro to Salt Lake City
(1) From Moresk Road to Malpas by Truro Buildings Research Group.
(2) According to “From Moresk Road to Malpas” by Truro Buildings Research Group she was from Malpas.
Further information from:
The Genealogical Society of Utah.
The Gazeteer of Utah and Salt Lake City (Directory).
The Biographical Encyclopaedia (A compilation of biographical sketches of prominent men and women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Pioneers and prominent men of Utah – The early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Definitions:
Pioneers are those men and women who travelled to Utah by wagon, hand cart or afoot between 24th July 1847 and 30th December 1868 – before the railroad.
Prominent Men are Stake Presidents, Ward Bishops, Governors, Members of the Bench etc. who travelled to Utah after the coming of the railroad.
Tony Mansell is the author of several books on aspects of Cornish history. In 2011 he was made a Bardh Kernow (Cornish Bard) for his writing and research, taking the name of Skrifer Istori. He has a wide interest in Cornish history and is a researcher with the Cornish National Music Archive and a sub-editor with Cornish Story: an Institute of Cornish Studies initiative.