Michigan's First Jewish Settler

“Ezekiel Solomon, a native of Berlin, Germany, who had served with the British army, arrived at Michilimackinac in the summer of 1761.  He is Michigan’s first known resident of the Jewish faith.  Solomon was one of the most active Mackinac fur traders until his death about 1808.  He was one of those who narrowly escaped death in the massacre of 1763.  During the Revolutionary War, he and other hard-pressed traders pooled their resources to form a general store.  In 1784 he was a member of a committee of eight formed to regulate the Mackinac area trade.  Ezekiel Solomon’s business often took him to Montreal where he is believed to have been buried and where he was a member of Canada’s first Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel.”

Ezekiel Solomon has the honor of being the first known Jewish settler in Michigan. He and his business partners, Chapman Abraham, Levi Solomons, Benjamin Lyon and Gershon Levi, were commissaries of the English armies during the French and Indian War (1755-1763), the final contest between England and France for supremacy on the American continent, and the subseqeunt Indian War of 1763 led by Chief Pontiac. Solomon came to Mackinac as early as the summer of 1761 for the purpose of obtaining furs from the Indians. Captured, he escaped captivity a few months later. The initial setback did little to dissuade Solomon from his trading operations, as he continued in this role for more than four decades. A native of Berlin, Germany, he was the brother of Esther Solomon, who married Moses Hart, a brother of Aaron Hart, the foremost Jewish settler in Canada at the time of the English occupation in 1760. Ezekiel was an active member of Congregation Shearith Israel, Canada's first Jewish Congregation, which was founded in Montreal in 1768; and he also served as a member of its board of directors.

In 1779 Solomon was one of the founders of a general store in Mackinac, which is believed to be the first example of a department store operation in the United States. In 1786, he served on the first board of trade in Michigan, a committee based in Mackinac. While Solomon had a home at the Fort, which was excavated and restored in the 2010s, he did spend some time living in Detroit. Ezekiel Solomon died about 1808 and was buried in the cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel of Montreal.

Learn More: Chapman Abraham