Solomon, William "King"

William “King” Solomon is  counted among the town’s earliest characters. Reputedly the son of a wealthy Virginia family, he migrated to Lexington and took up residence – as the town drunk.  He had grown up in Virginia, not far from where Henry Clay was born.  Solomon like to tell people that he and Henry had played together as kids.  Due to this association he always voted for Henry Clay and the Whig party.  Once, an opponent of Clays offered Solomon a free drink on election day, if he would vote in his favor.  Solomon said yes and took the drink.  Later that day the man ran into him again and ask if he had voted for him as promised.  Solomon replied no, saying “  You may have been foolish enough to try to bribe me, but I’m not foolish enough to vote for you.”

It was during the lowest period of his life, whiskey taking over, his wife died and his son ran off, that he was nicknamed “King”.  The owner of a leading dry goods store has Solomon to trim the branches outside the main door of his establishment.  Solomon got right to work, but later took a whiskey break.  He returned to work after a few too many, climbed up the tree and began sawing on a big limb.  Sadly, he had been sawing the limb he was sitting on.  He picked himself up and brushed the dirt off and went back to work.  But people watching agreed that only a man as wise as King Solomon in the bible could have managed a stunt like that.

Early in 1833, the town decided that something must be done about Solomon.   He had been arrested too many times for being passed out in the streets. He judge decided to sell him as a servant for a term of 9 months.  Bought for the sum of 50 cents by a free black woman known as Aunt Charlotte (for which the East End’s Charlotte Court is named), he was essentially enslaved - a white man to a black woman.

Solomon’s lasting fame stems from the 1833 cholera epidemic. Because he drank whiskey, not water (or so the story goes), he was impervious to the water-born germs in polluted wells.  Sadly Aunt Charlotte caught the illness and died from it.  Many others were killed including three of Lexington’s doctors.  Shops closed up, streets were empty, no one dared to go out. As even the grave diggers fled for safe haven, Solomon calmly stayed behind to bury the dead at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground on Third Street at today’s Elm Tree Lane. Upon his death in 1854, Solomon was buried in the new Lexington Cemetery, and a statue declaring him a “hero” was erected at the gravesite. (Footnote to history: Solomon was not the only person digging graves. Two others worked with him: London Ferrell, a free African American minister, who is the only non-white buried in that graveyard, and a young U. S. Army Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, graduate of Transylvania  University and later president of the Confederacy.)