Solis-Van Wie family papers  1839-1875
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Solis-Van Wie papers consist of 63 letters, 3 printed items, and a diary, spanning 1839-1875. The correspondence is mostly incoming to Eliza (née Van Wie) and Daniel Elliott Solis, who married in March 1847. The most frequent writers are Daniel Solis; his brother, Detroit newspaperman D. Henry Solis; his sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and James Armstrong, who had settled in Mount Pleasant, Michigan; and Eliza's brother, Alexander Van Wie, a California miner during the 1849 Gold Rush. The family was scattered across Michigan, Ohio, New York, and California, and their letters document health, economic struggles, impressions of growing cities and towns in the Midwest, and occasionally their political thoughts.

Daniel Solis wrote eight letters in the collection to Eliza Van Wie, both before and after their wedding. His correspondence is frank and personal, and documents a prolonged and rocky courtship, including secret meetings and several apologies. After their marriage, he wrote letters recording his travel and work; on April 4, 1847, he described starting a store in Vernon, New York, and the possibility of having to work 14 to 15 hours per day. He later gave an account of his impressions during his first visit to Detroit (August 28, 1850).

Daniel and Eliza's siblings wrote the majority of the letters in the collection. Daniel's brother, David Henry ("D. Henry") Solis, founder of the Detroit Daily News and a staunch Democrat, wrote a detailed and glowing description of Sandusky, Ohio (November 13, 1848); copied a poem entitled "Visions of wealth are mine at night," written by a female friend and contributor to The Clarion (February 6, 1849); and commented repeatedly on political topics. Like Daniel, he was a freemason, and sometimes signed his letters "The Deacon." Several other siblings provided family news, for the most part. Eliza's brother, forty-niner Alexander Van Wie, wrote two letters in the collection. On March 6, 1849, he wrote from onboard a ship sailing to California, and noted that some men already regretted leaving home. On September 19, 1849, he wrote from Mormon Island describing hard labor, widespread fever and dysentery, and the disappointment of most of the miners.

A few miscellaneous letters are also of interest. In the only letter referring to Eliza's work in a textile mill, "P. Byrne" of Empire Mill wrote to her on March 1, 1847, enclosing payment her for her work and providing an affectionate send-off ("May Guardian Angels shield and defend you from the snakes of your enemies, whether human or infernal…"). On March 25, 1855, H.A. Chamberlain wrote a letter describing the rapid growth of Saginaw, Michigan, after the founding of a saw-mill there. The collection also includes one letter by Daniel and Eliza's son, Charles Solis, a soldier in the 15th Michigan Infantry, who anticipated a visit from President Lincoln and reported that he would return home soon (March 28, 1865).

The document entitled "Extracts from a Black Hiller's Diary," written by Charles E. Solis, covers his travels through South Dakota, from May 6, 1875, after his arrest by the government for trespassing on Indian lands to his eventual release on May 26. In 15 pages he described his movements, the people he met, and instructions he received.

The Miscellaneous series contains a printed satiric poem with a watercolor illustration, two clippings, and a phrenological evaluation of Eliza Van Wie, dated 1842.

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