Welcome to Solomonville

I’ve said it so many times now, it longer embarrasses me: I discovered the subject of my first novel while Googling myself. Most of the other Anna Solomons didn’t interest me: a real-estate broker in L.A., a social worker in Brooklyn. But one, Anna Freudenthal Solomon, captured my full attention.

She was on a website called Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers.

Take any one of those words and you’ve got me hooked. I quickly learned that Anna Solomon, along with her husband Isador, founded the town of Solomonville, Arizona in 1876. I also learned about other Jewish women toughing it out on the frontier, including Rachel Bella Calof, who came to America in 1894 as a mail-order bride to North Dakota.

Though Rachel Bella became the main inspiration for my book, THE LITTLE BRIDE, I often think of that little town – Solomonville – which no longer exists on a map but lives large in my imagination.

In Solomonville, Anna Solomon slept on a mud floor, cooked on the ground, and raised three babies without any help. Eventually, she and Isador built the Solomon Store, then the Solomon Hotel – where “continental pastries” were served each morning – which Anna ran with the help of a Chinese cook named Gin Awah Quang. In all, she raised five children, grew her own fruits and vegetables, oversaw the Solomon Ranch and the Solomon Store, and maintained her family’s Jewish traditions.

Anna Freudenthal Solomon (courtesy Jewish Women's Archives)

Supposedly, life has gotten a lot easier. I’m writing this from a desk chair more comfortable than Anna Solomon’s bed (and probably faster, if you got it going downhill, than her buckboard wagon). Still, I often feel like I’m living on my own frontier: a post-modern, post-feminist, high-tech, locally-grown, do-it-all territory unlike anything my mother or her mother (or Anna Solomon) knew.

I write novels, and I write copy for a PR firm. I teach fiction writing, and I teach my daughter how to wipe herself. I Skype with a book club who’s read my book, then I realize I still haven’t ordered a Thanksgiving turkey. I have a new idea – a brilliant idea! – which I become so engrossed in I forget to change the laundry (for days). Or I have a new, brilliant idea but by the time I’ve changed the laundry and gone to the post office and picked up my daughter, it’s gone.

I’m far from alone. You have your own version of Solomonville, I’m sure. So I hope you’ll come along for the ride, and share your own stories.

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17 Responses to Welcome to Solomonville

  1. I know Solomonville well. I pass through all the time on the way to my own encampment down the road a piece. But really, it’s one big colony. Because it takes a village to raise kids and novels.

  2. Eleanor Henderson says:

    I too wish to visit Solomonville, land of novel- and child-raising . Here here!

  3. Michael says:

    Ah, I just wanted to be a first commenter. Le sigh. I’m a bit slow this morning. Here’s to hoping (knowing!) the new brilliant idea is off to a great start!

  4. Anna Solomon says:

    Michael, you did just fine! Thanks to all of you for coming along…

  5. Jill says:

    I happened to come across your blog and I have to say that IE Solomon is my great great grandfather! I am a 4th generation Arizonian and my family is full of rich az history!

    • Anna says:

      Wow, Jill! That’s amazing and I’m so glad you found me. Not sure you’re still in AZ but I’ll be in Tuscon on March 18 at the Jewish History Museum, as part of the Jewish Storytellers Festival. Would be so nice to meet you and learn more of your story.

  6. Jan says:

    This is a great story about searching your namesake! On the way to Solomonville, Anna spent some time in Las Cruces, NM where her brothers Phoebus and Morris lived. She stayed with Phoebus, my Great Grandfather. Anna Freudenthal Solomon is my Great Aunt.

    I am especially excited by a comment above from Jill. I was unaware I had any family in Arizona and actually was unaware of more than 1 living relative on my Mothers side of the family. I would love to be in contact with “Jill” and wonder if you will pass my email address on to her and a request she contact me, her distant cousin. I have the family tree and am happy to share it and would love to update it with her help.

    • Anna Solomon says:

      Dear Jan,

      It’s lovely to hear from you! How exciting to discover more descendants of Anna Solomon, I will certainly pass your email on to Jill.

      My apologies for the late response – I had a baby on August 13th and have been in a bit of a haze!

      So glad you found me, and my book.

      Best,
      Anna

  7. Linda Lantin Droz says:

    What a pleasure finding YOU, Anna, and reading about Jan (another relative found). Anna Solomon is my great-grandmother and I am so very very proud of her and I. E. and our rich family history in Arizona. I belong to First Families of Arizona (to be a member your family had to come to Arizona before it became a state), and it was my pleasure to speak to the group about the Solomon’s of Arizona. I’m sure you are aware of my aunt’s book, From Charcoal to Banking, which tells our wonderful family story. Would love to be in contact with Jan and any other relatives you have discovered. Thanks so much!

    • Anna Solomon says:

      Linda! I’m so glad you found me – and Jan! I will connect you two separately, via email. I am NOT in fact aware of your aunt’s book, which seems incredible, but I will go look it up, of course!

  8. Tom Freeman says:

    The actor Charles Stevens (1893-1964) was born in your town and was 50% Mexican and 50% Apache Indian. Here is what someone wrote about him, on the Internet Movie DataBase:

    “I don’t know whether or not his home town of Solomonville, Arizona, has any sort of memorial to Charlie Stevens, but if they don’t they should have. For I’m sure there are thousands of movie buffs like me who can’t help smiling whenever Charlie’s face pops up unexpectedly in some half-forgotten, late night screen treasure. And that ‘s a pretty good testimony in itself.”

    In two episodes of the 1950s TV series, Mr. Stevens portrayed his own real-life grandfather.

    His grandfather’s name? GERONIMO

    Here is the website where Mr. Stevens is remembered:

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0828314/

  9. Emily Ariane (Hernandez) Robles says:

    Hi Anna,

    I came across your site in my attempts to research my home town of Solomon, Arizona. My family owned the only restaurant in the town called “La Paloma”. I was born in a nearby town called Morenci but raised in my home in Solomon. I lived there for 20 years of my life. Just wanted to say how excited I am so see our little town mentioned! Best wishes!

    Emily

    • Anna Solomon says:

      Emily! Somehow I missed your post entirely. How wild! Do you ever go back? Do people still call it Solomon? And where do you live now?
      Thanks for visiting – and my apologies for the long delay.
      Anna

  10. Rich says:

    Mazel Tov! Your self-directed-turned-outward-seeking circle is complete: I arrived here after looking for information about Anna Freudenthal Solomon!
    Have you been to Knight Memorial Library in Providence? Stained glass windows, Greco-Roman frieze, and these large letters inscribed above: “READ NOT TO CONTRADICT AND CONFUTE NOR TO BELIEVE AND TAKE FOR GRANTED, BUT TO WEIGH AND CONSIDER.”

    • Anna Solomon says:

      Thanks, Rich! I love this. And no, I haven’t been to that library. I believe the quotation is right – and that my students would benefit from it, too! So glad you found me. What got you researching Anna Freudenthal Solomon?

  11. Cathy Wallis says:

    Hello! Neat to come across this – not sure why I hadn’t before… maybe it is the way I searched this time! Another Distant Freudenthal relative here! Can’t recall at the moment (it [info] is in my genealogy report at home) but Anna was sister to my great great somebody! haha! she is listed in my family history – the Freudenthals on my end eventually ended up Jacoby – who have their own neat bit of celebrity history – William F Jacoby was married to Florence Rabe whose stage name was Bates and she was a popular character actress in many films (Hitchcock’s Rebecca, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). I think the F (Wm F Jacoby) might be for Freudenthal – I’d have to look… could be Francis as his sons were William and Francis. Neat Stuff! Maybe the other descendants that posted here didn’t know this part! I am now actually living in Tucson, though I am from the San Francisco area. ~Cathy

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