Sometimes it's easy to fall into the rut of thinking all colonial people were British, Protestant, and poor. We remember the Pilgrims barely surviving their first winter, or the Puritans coming in droves to back-breaking labor in an untamed land. But, in fact, people came to our new shores for many different reasons.
Ezekiel Solomon was born in Germany during the Enlightenment Period. He arrived in Montreal, Canada, in the late 1750s. Quite likely he came from a prosperous family, since he had the money to relocate to Canada and the knowledge to run a successful business. He partnered with several other Jewish men and set out for Fort Michilimackinac, where he established his mercantile in 1761.
It was a rough time to live on the northern frontier. This was the end of the French and Indian War, when the British gained control of Fort Michilimackinac and other previously French strongholds in the Great Lakes area. The native tribes, used receiving many gifts from the French, were not happy with the British in power. Pontiac's Rebellion, a coordinated war by Ottawa Chief Pontiac and warriors from many other tribes, came north to Fort Michilimackinac in 1763. During the attack, Ezekiel Solomon and a few others were taken hostage and eventually ransomed in Montreal. Exactly why Solomon was spared when so many others died is unknown.
Returning to Fort Michilimackinac, Solomon restarted his business, making many trips back and forth to Montreal. At some point, he married Louise Dubois, also known as Okimabinesikwe, a practicing Roman Catholic. Their marriage was both inter-racial and inter-faith.
Solomon moved his business several times after the Revolutionary War to avoid living on American soil. He moved first to Mackinac Island, then St. Joseph's Island, and sometime later to Dummond Island.
Ezekiel Solomon was a partner of the Mackinaw Company, organized in 1779 by traders and companies. It is believed to be the first example of a department store operated in the United States.