Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Solis-Van Wie Family Papers, 1839-1875

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, June 2010

Summary Information
Title: Solis-Van Wie family papers
Creator: Solis family and Van Wie family
Inclusive dates: 1839-1875
Extent: 67 items (0.25 linear feet)
The Solis-Van Wie papers contain the correspondence of several related families who were settlers of Michigan, Ohio, and California. Subjects include courtship, family news, the Gold Rush, and the growth of several Midwestern towns.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1979. M-1885.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Solis-Van Wie Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in three series:

  • I. Correspondence
  • II. "Extracts from a Black Hiller's Diary"
  • III. Miscellaneous


Eliza Van Wie was born around 1825 in New York. Her courtship with Daniel Elliot Solis, of Vernon Center, New York, began in 1841, but they did not marry until March 1847. In the interim, she operated a loom at the Empire Mill, in Rock City Falls, New York. Eliza and Daniel Solis had one child, Charles E. Solis, born in 1848. In 1853, the family moved from Waterloo, New York, to Detroit, Michigan, where Daniel opened a store. The next year, they settled in St. Clair, Michigan, where he purchased and ran City Hotel. Daniel Solis died in 1861, but Eliza lived at least until 1880.

In 1864, Charles Solis volunteered for the 15th Michigan Infantry, and served until the conclusion of the Civil War. During the 1870s, he resided in various western locales, including the Black Hills of South Dakota, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1875, he and his party of gold miners were arrested for entering Lakota land illegally, but Solis was soon released and charges were dropped. Upon his return to Michigan, he studied law at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1879, and worked as an attorney for the rest of his career.

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.

Subject Terms

    • California--History--1846-1850.
    • Courtship.
    • Detroit (Mich.)--Description and travel.
    • Gold miners--California.
    • Middle West.
    • Mount Pleasant (Mich.)
    • Phrenology.
    • Saginaw (Mich.)
    • Sandusky (Ohio)--Description and travel.
    • Soldiers--Michigan.
    • South Dakota--Description and travel.
    • Textile workers.
    • United States. Army. Michigan Infantry Regiment, 15th (1862-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Vernon (N.Y.)
    • Waterloo (N.Y.)
    • Armstrong, Elizabeth.
    • Armstrong, James.
    • Solis, Daniel Elliot, d. 1861.
    • Solis, David.
    • Solis, Esther.
    • Solis, John.
    • Van Wie, Alexander.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence [series]
     June 14, 1839-March 23, 1865;  undated (8 folders)
    Box   1  
    "Extracts from a Black Hiller's Diary,"  May 6-May 26, 1875 [series]
    Box   1  
    Miscellaneous,  1842 and  undated [series]