JUDGE SOLOMON, one of the oldest settlers of Macoupin county, and a man who has been intimately identified with the history of this part of the state, was born in Muhlenburgh county, Kentucky, April 1, 1812. The family from whom he is descended is of Welsh and English origin. On their emigration to America his masters settled in Maryland and North Carolina. They were living in North Carolina at a date previous to the Revolutionary war, in which his grandfather, Lewis Solomon, took part. He was one of that daring band under the gallant Marion, which did such good service in the campaigns in South Carolina, striking terror into the hearts of the British invaders. While the family were living in North Carolina, a party of Tories came to the house during the latter part of the war to capture some articles for the use of the British army. Judge Solomon's grandmother was a woman of remarkable bravery and determination of character, but prudently submitted to the confiscation of various household stores. When the Tories, however, seized some yarn on which she set a high value, her anger and indignation got the better of her prudence, and seizing the poker she drove the Tories triumphantly from the house.
The father of the subject of this sketch, was Lewis Solomon, born in Franklin county, North Carolina, in 1780, about three years before the close of the war of the Revolution. He was raised in the same county, and married Sarah Bowden, daughter of John Bowden, a well-to-do and prominent citizen of Franklin county. This marriage occurred about the year1798. In 1811 he moved form North Carolina to Logan county, Kentucky, where he lived one year, and in 1821 moved to Muhlenburgh county, where the family resided as long as they lived in that state. The six oldest children were born in North Carolina, and Judge Solomon, the seventh child, was the first born after the removal to Kentucky. Their home in Muhlenburgh county was in a rough and poor district of country. Judge Solomon for a few months attended a subscription school kept by a man named Shelton, and this was the only schooling he received in Kentucky. In 1825 the family came to Illinois. In that day facilities for travel were very limited. A one-horse cart was hired for the journey for ten dollars, and in this vehicle all their goods were placed. With the exception of the mother and the three youngest children, who had places in the cart, the members of the family (twelve in all) walked. The journey was tedious and wearisome. On reaching this state a settlement was made in Morgan county, near Jacksonville. His father had lost all his means by the breaking of the Commonwealth Bank of Kentucky, and on coming to Illinois had no money with which to enter or purchase land. The winter of 1825-6 was spent in a small log cabin, part of the floor of which was composed of mother earth. In the spring of 1826, they moved to the head of Sandy, five miles from Jacksonville, and raised a crop, cultivating the ground with a shaft plow with a wooden mold-board, and similar primitive agricultural appliances. In the spring of 1827 the family came to Macoupin county, and settled in Palmyra township, three miles north of Palmyra. Judge Solomon's father lived there engaged in farming till his death in August, 1849. His mother died the preceding February.
Judge Solomon was in his thirteenth year when he came to Illinois, and in his fifteenth when he came to Macoupin county. When his father moved to this county only three settlements had been made in North Palmyra township, and consequently no schools had been established. For a few days in the summer fo 1829, he attended a school kept by his brother-in-law, James Howard. But his opportunities for acquiring an education were limited, and a few months would comprise all the instruction he ever received. He was a boy of bright faculties, learned rapidly, and in boyhood laid the foundation of a good education. He especially excelled in mathematics - his favorite study. He and his brothers were hired out by the month, and were also the principal dependence of their father in carrying on the farm. His father borrowed the money with which to enter the first eighty acres of land paying the exorbitant interest of twenty-five per cent, and when he died owned a farm of two hundred and fifty-six acres. In the year 1832 when twenty years of age, Judge Solomon volunteered in the Black Hawk war. He enlisted as a private in the company commanded by Capt. John Harris, in the third regiment of which A. B. DeWitt was colonel. He left Jacksonville April 25, 1832; rendezvoused at Beardstown; reached the Mississippi at the present town of Oquawka; thence marched to the mouth of Rock river, where they were mustered into the United States service, with Gen. Atkinson in command. The force next marched to Dixon, from which place a detachment of 250 advanced twenty miles, and attacked the Indians, but were repulsed by Black Hawk. The next day the main army (in which was Judge Solomon), advanced to the battle ground, and buried the dead. They returned to Dixon. Supplies from down the river had failed to arrive, and the men in his regiment were five days without bread. The regiment and the men in his regiment were five days without bread. The regiment afterward took twelve days rations, marched up Rock river, crossed over to the Fox, and returned home by way of Ottawa. During his two months' campaign he experienced considerable hardships. On starting out he weighed 150 pounds, and on reaching home had lost twenty-five. Soon after his return he was elected corporal in the militia. Subsequently he was chosen captain, and not long afterwards major of the 62d regiment, 2d battalion. While holding these positions he gave much attention to military tactics, and was considered one of the best militia officers in the state.
When about twenty-one he engaged in farming on his own account. He had been paid thirty-six dollars for his services during the Black Hawk war, and sixteen dollars he borrowed from his brother-in-law, and paid for it by making rails at forty cents a hundred. With this money he entered forty acres of land, a quarter of a mile west of the town of Palmyra. He also grubbed land for his brother-in-law, who paid him by giving him one-quarter of what he raised on his farm of about forty additional acres. He chopped wood at Jacksonville in 1834 for forty cents a cord and boarded himself, and the succeeding winter took a contract to cut 500 cords at fifty cents a cord. From the proceeds of his first work he obtained good clothing, and from his last contract he made enough money to enter forty additional acres of land. In the summer of 1835 he went to the lead mines of Galena, but was unsuccessful in making money, and returned home. In the fall of 1835 he visited relatives in Kentucky, and the next winter made rails to fence his land in Palmyra township, having determined to settle down in some permanent location. Accordingly, in the spring fo 1836 he bought a team on credit, began breaking prairie, built a cabin, and June 23, 1856, married Nancy Ann Fink, a native of Kentucky, daughter of John Fink, one of the early settlers of Barr township. He bought ten additional acres of land, endeavored to get his farm into as good a condition as possible, and kept a sharp look out for business advantages, so that in 1849, the year his father died, he had four or five hundred dollars surplus money. He then purchased the interest of the other heirs in his father's estate, and in the spring of 1850, moved to the homestead farm, where he lived till 1854. He had intended moving to the Military tract, but finding no location to suit him in that country, he purchased 360 acres of land in sections four, eight, and nine, North Palmyra township, for five thousand dollars cash. This farm, which has fine improvements, has since been his home. He is the owner of the largest body of land in the possession of one man in North Palmyra township, consisting of a few acres less than eight hundred.
His first wife died September 18, 1863. He was married again May 8, 1866, to Mrs. Mary Ann Butcher. Her maiden name was Baker. She was born in Morgan county, in February, 1831. By his first marriage he had twelve children, of whom nine grew to maturity, as follows: Louisa, who married Henry Yowell; her husband died in 1864; Francis Marion, who is farming in North Palmyra township; Thomas Jefferson, who died December 3, 1875; Dempsey N. who is farming in North Palmyra township, and in 1878 represented that township in the Board of Supervisors; Annie E., Martha, John L., Lafayette, and Allen B.
In his political belief he has always been a democrat. At Jacksonville, on his return from the Black Hawk war in the fall of 1832, he cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson, for President. He has been a democrat and his political hopes and sympathies have been closely allied to the party which has numbered among its advocates such illustrious men as Jefferson and Jackson. On financial questions his views have coincided with those of the national greenback party, but he advocates the old, well settled and first established principles of democracy. He was a Union man and a leading war democrat during the Rebellion. He assisted in sending to the front forty-three men from Palmyra precinct, two of whom were substitutes, for three years; whom he placed in the field with his own means. Judge Solomon is a man who has received numerous tokens of the public confidence and the esteem of the people. The first position to which he was chosen was in 1839, when he was elected to the comparatively humble office of constable, the duties of which he discharged for four years. He was appointed by the county court in 1839, and in 1840 assessor, and assessed one-third of the county. He was elected justice of the peace in 1843, and held the office till his resignation in 1854. His first election to the legislature occurred in 1852, when he was chosen representative on the democratic ticket with John A. Chesnut as the opposing Whig candidate. From 1857 to 1861 he acted as county judge. In 1861, he as elected a member of the constitutional convention, the nomination being tendered him by the democratic convention without his making any effort to secure it. In 1870 he was elected to the state senate from the district embracing Macoupin, Montgomery, Shelby and Christian counties. While in the legislature Judge solomon as an active and efficient member, devoting his attention to legislation which would secure the best interests of the people. While he was in the house the democrats were in the majority. While a member of the constitutional convention he served on several important committees, among them the committee on revision. In the senate the republicans controlled the organization of the body, but he served on three or four important committees, among which were the committees on revenue, on charitable institutions, and on fees and salaries. He took a moderate stand, and his views commanded the respect of the republican majority, among which he had considerable influence. He was the author of the bill giving land owners a right to redeem lands sold at tax sales at twenty-five per cent, addition the first six months, fifty per cent, the first twelve months, one hundred per cent for two years, and after that no redemption; the previous law requiring an addition of one hundred per cent penalty any time after the sale. He was also author of the bill giving counties a right to work county convicts. Politically he has acted from conscientious motives. In his views he has been moderate rather than partisan, and when a candidate has always received a considerable republican vote from his friends in the county. As a public officer he endeavored to discharge the duties of his position without regard to party, and in an impartial and honest manner, and he has always retired to private life conscious of having done his best to serve the interests of the people. Scarcely a man in the county has held so many public positions or received so many marks of popular favor. Upon his character for honesty and integrity there has never breathed suspicion. His life has been open to the view of the citizens of the county, and not a stain can be found on his record as a public officer or as a private citizen. He is a man of unquestioned morality, and though not a member of any religious denomination, has liberally supported the churches of his part of the county. He believes that Christianity consists in deeds, not in words, and that he is the best Christian who lives a life of the strictest rectitude, and who does the most good to his fellow men.