William H Solomon: “A sheep without a shepherd”

by Dr James Perry

When Charles Dealtry, a Minister from the Second Advent Church arrived in Truro, Cornwall, in 1847, William Solomon and his uncle Henry Bastion listened to his messages.[1]  Principles relating to baptism, the second coming of Christ, and other messages resonated with William, who described himself as “young and unsophisticated”, and he was baptised.  Henry, however, was not so sure. At one lecture in the Assembly Rooms, Henry denounced the minister as a false prophet.  William, meanwhile, was grateful for the additional information he’d received.  But, several deadlines for the “burning of the world” came and went without event.[2]  Soon, William became frustrated with the Second Advent Church and stopped attending on account of the divisions that emerged within.  During this time, he described himself as “a sheep without a shepherd”.  

Although a frustrating experience, William was being prepared to accept the fully restored gospel of Jesus Christ.[3]

William H Solomon
Figure 1: William Henry Solomon

By all accounts, William had a good childhood, including several years of education.  He had attended various Sunday Schools in his youth, but he eventually stopped attending them. Nonetheless, William felt he had been given a good moral education from his parents. When he was about eleven years of age, William was trained in shoemaking by his father, which served as a good form of employment for a time.  

On 13th October 1851, aged 23 years, William married Elizabeth Drew, also from Truro.  Initially, the couple lived with her recently widowed father, so they could care for him and her younger brothers.

In 1852, William met a lady who loaned him a couple of tracts from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One was entitled, ‘Exclusive Salvation’ and the other ‘The Only Way to be Saved’.  The messages resonated with William and he wanted to know more.  The lady invited William to attend a meeting, but the birth of his daughter and new employment made life too busy for William.  He recollected how he was also not “fully awakened to the importance of the work”, and as a result did not attend.

The name on those tracts was that of John Chislett, a recent convert from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, who would later serve as the President of the Kent Conference of the Church.[4]  Despite being interested in the tracts, it wasn’t until six months later that William next interacted with the Saints.  As he walked by a small meetinghouse, he saw some publications in the window relating to the Church and its meetings. That evening, William steeled himself against the cold weather and headed out to an evening meeting.  He waited outside to see if anyone was going to enter the building; he could see the light on, but it took some time for him to go up and knock on the door.  He was let in, a small group of Saints welcoming him, and he listened to the speaker.

Of that experience, William wrote:

'I felt the power of the truth, which was made manifest to me, convincing me of that which he spoke. I had already been convinced that baptism by immersion for the remission of sins was true but the authority to administer it I knew nothing about until he quoted the passage in St Paul’s writings, that no man had this authority unless he was called of God as was Aaron.'

William H Solomon

The experience affected William and he committed himself to reading Church material and attending meetings.  The Presiding Elder, Samuel Francis, had been working in South West England since 1850; he too was a recent convert from Trowbridge, and he baptised William on 26th February 1852 in the St. Allen River.  The following month, William was ordained a Priest and would later become an Elder in the Truro Branch

River Allen
Figure 2: River Allen, Truro, Cornwall, David Dixon

The religious experiences up to this point had gradually helped prepare William to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others soon followed.  Elizabeth joined the Church a year later, and other members of his family would also enter the waters of baptism.

Samuel Francis
Figure 3: Samuel Francis, missionary who baptised William in 1853

On 7th May 1861, after several years of faithful Church service, William and his family left their home by railroad to begin their journey to join the Saints in North America.  The train carried them twenty-four miles before arriving in Penzance, the first time they had ever travelled by train.  The next morning at 6am, the Solomon family boarded a steamship that carried them from Penzance to Liverpool, arriving the next evening.  Then, on Monday 13th May, the family joined more than one thousand people boarding the Monarch, which was bound for New York.  One month earlier, the United States of America had been rocked by the breakout of civil war.  Undeterred by the conflict, William and many other Saints persevered with their plans and emigrated.  Five weeks later, the ship arrived in New York where William observed thousands of soldiers marching off to war.  The Solomons then joined the Murdock company and set off on an epic journey of more than 1,000 miles.

After his early years of dabbling with religion, William had finally found his spiritual home and was now about to embark on a life-altering journey taking him and his family into western North America, into an area now known as Arizona.  William’s attendance at the evening meeting in Truro back in the early 1850s had a lasting impact on him, his family, and their descendants.  He had found the shepherd he had sought for so long.


[1] Louis Billington, ‘The Millerite Adventists in Great Britain, 1840—1850’, Journal of American Studies

Vol. 1, No. 2 (1967), pp. 191-212.

[2]Bristol Times and Mirror, 16 October 1847, ‘Varieties, Select, Original, &c.’.

[3] Much of the following material comes from William H. Solomon’s autobiography, MS 3249, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[4]S. W. Richards, ‘Appointments’, The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, Vol. 15, No. 52(1853), p. 842.