Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solomon Schlossman - Hawker, miner, publican, butcher, restauranteur.

OK… I’m now going to break my own rule… well, more a guideline really. I was going to work back more or less chronologically but this week I found loads of information relating to my third great grandfather, Solomon Schlossman, so I’d like to tell you what I can of his story.

Solomon’s main claim to fame is the fact that he and his son-in-law, John David Davis (my maternal grandmother’s grandfather) discovered a very sizable gold nugget on the German Fields in Rheola, near Bendigo, in Victoria. This hand coloured photograph records that discovery (pictured – Solomon is seated)… but more about that later.

Solomon Schlossman was was born in Yaraslov around 1822 to Aaron and Pearl Schlossman. Yaraslov was established in the 11th Century by the Ukrainian prince Yaroslav the Wise. It was under Austrian rule, in the province of Galicia, from the First Partition of Poland in 1772 until Poland regained independence in 1918. Today the town is called Jaroslaw and is located in modern day Poland.

In 1880 Yaraslov had a Jewish population of around 4500 and was one of the principle seats of the Council of the Four Lands, a major Jewish communal organization. I need to do further research into what life was like in 19th century Jaraslaw (and it will definitely be on my itinerary) but what prompted Solomon to leave is a mystery, as is how he made his way to the United Kingdom.

Around 1843 he married Esther Harriette Gerson in London (or possibly in Hull... I have yet to verify this with documentation).
Hull was a major point of entry for Europeans during the 19th century. Over 2 million people passed through the Emigration Platform at Paragon Station, Kingston Upon Hull.

Solomon and his family first turn up in official British records in 1861, in the Census of that year. They are listed under the surname SLOSHMAN and recorded as living on Totty Street Bethnal Green… (Does this street still exist? I can’t find it in Google maps.)

In the census Solomon and Esther are 39 years old. They have two children – Caroline, 15, and Polly (whose name is actually Pauline) who is 7. Also listed as being in the house that evening is Rachel Moses (Solomon’s sister), 33, and Frederick Moses (related to Rachel?) and Philip Faulkenstine, both 28, listed as Visitors.

Some time between 1861 and 1867 the family migrate to Australia. Many of the ship manifests for this time do not list specific passenger names in steerage, just how there are, so it's difficult to find out exactly when they may have arrived and on which ship… I will, however, keep looking.

In 1867 Solomon’s daughter, Caroline, marries John David Davis in Melbourne. Curiously their marriage certificate gives her maiden name as APSTEIN. This is also the maiden name used on the birth certificate of their first child, Catherine. I’ve come to the conclusion this is their certificate by cross referencing all the birth certificates of John and Caroline’s subsequent children (they had nine altogether; my great grandfather, Isaac Arthur Davis, was their eight child, and youngest son. Caroline lists her maiden name as SOLOMON on the BC of her second child – Israel (AKA Isadore) but on all the other children’s BCs it’s listed as Schlossman. Why this is so is just one more mystery to be solved.

So, back to Solomon… He and Caroline’s family found their way from Melbourne into country Victoria. In 1870 John and Solomon were hawking wares through the Victorian goldfields. Presumably Harriette, Caroline and the two children accompanied them. The men decided to try their hand at mining.

“On 31st May 1870 on the Berlin-Rheola diggings, S. Schlossmann, J. Davis and another miner named Rendisch dug up the eighth-largest gold nugget ever found in Victoria; it was named the Viscount Canterbury and weighed 1114 troy ounces (34.6 kg).”

According to the Viscount Canterbury was, in fact, the 10th largest Gold nugget found in the world. It is listed in a 1913 geological survey as the 9th largest found on the Victorian fields. The gold was assayed as being worth 4482 pounds!! Big money in 1870!!

So what happened next? My grandmother used to take me into the Australian Museum in College Street and show me a replica of the nugget in their rock room. She used to tell me that the family bought a slice of Collins Street in Melbourne… then sold it, went back to the fields and found nothing. Somehow I don’t think the Collin’s street part of the story is true, however from what I’ve found the family didn’t exactly live in the lap of luxury after their big windfall.

By 1877 John and Caroline moved to Echuca in Northern Victoria. I’ll expand on their story in a later post. For now, let’s follow Solomon.

He may have gone to Echuca with Caroline’s family but there is no record of him having been there. The next time he pops up officially is in 1879; listed as the publican of the Royal Hotel in Balranald, Western NSW. This is the first record of his career as a publican.

He’s listed in the Sands Directory of 1884 as residing at The Harp of Erin in Bellevue Street (not sure which suburb though). Then in 1886 he’s the registered publican of the Union Inn in Newtown. It’s at this time that John and Caroline join him in NSW.

In 1889 Solomon changes career again and becomes a Hebrew (ie kosher) butcher - in partnership once again with his son-in-law John - working and residing at 69 Liverpool Street in Sydney.

Solomon’s wife, Harriette Esther, dies in 1892, and the following year he marries 53-year-old Rachael Schaya in Melbourne. John dies suddenly in 1893 (although i am yet to find the documentary evidence of this event) and Solomon closes the business. In 1894 he and rachael travel to WA aboard the Bullara, and settle in the mining town of Coolgardie, near Kalgoorlie. Solomon’s younger daughter, Pauline, is there with her second husband, Edwin Sharpe, and Solomon and Edwin run the Vienna Café on Bayley Street (the Great Eastern Highway) until Solomon’s death on April 3rd 1894. Rachael passes away September 1896. Both Solomon and Rachael are buried in Coolgardie.

I still have so many questions about Solomon... Why did he move around so much? What prompted him to leave Yaraslov in the first place? What was life like for him there? Which boat did he come to Australia on, and when? This story is certainly not complete. Guess I just have to keep following each clue to find out what happened and why! I'll keep you posted!!

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