Theodore Seixas Solomons (1870–1947) was an explorer and early member of the Sierra Club. From 1892 to 1897 he explored and named the Mount Goddard, Evolution Valley and Evolution Basin region in what is now northern Kings Canyon National Park in eastern California. He was instrumental in envisioning, exploring, and establishing the route of what became the John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley along the crest of the Sierra Nevada to Mount Whitney


Early life and ancestors

He was born in San Francisco, California on July 20, 1870, the second son and the fifth of seven children[nb 1] of Hannah Marks,[1] an influential San Francisco educator and civic worker and Gershom Mendes Seixas Solomons.[nb 2] He had relocated to San Francisco from New York City during the Gold Rush, and founded Congregation Emanu-El in 1854. He was also the first president of any West Coast lodge of B'nai B'rith. His great-grandfather was Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745–1816), the "Patriot Rabbi", the first native-born Rabbi in the United States.[2][nb 3]

Solomons later recalled that the idea that resulted in the John Muir Trail originated in his adolescence. "The idea of a crest-parallel trail came to me one day while herding my uncle's cattle in an immense unfenced alfalfa field near Fresno. It was 1884 and I was 14." [3]

Marriage and family

Solomons married three times. He married as his first wife, on March 29, 1901, at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada, Rozella M. Gould of Dawson Creek.[4] They were later divorced. There were no children from this marriage. He married on January 8, 1909, in New York City, as his second wife, Katherine Gray Church, born on May 6, 1881 in New York City the only daughter of Henry Seymour Church and Margaretta Josephine Gray. She died on February 7, 1971 in Cherryland, Alameda County, California.[5][6][nb 4] Her mother, a published writer and singer, was born into a family with deep New England roots that trace back to the Rev. Mr. Blackleach Burritt,[7][8] and Governor Thomas Welles.[7][9] After his second wife was committed to a mental institution, he married Yvonne Robinson who died in 1965. They had no children.

Theodore and Katherine were the parents of three children: Eleanor Susan Brownell Anthony "Toni" Solomons (1911–2006),[nb 5] David Seixas Solomons (1913–1961), and Leon Henry Solomons (1915–1988).

They lived at a house he named the Flying Spur,[10] which he built on 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land that juts out over the Merced River Canyon. It is located at 4,600 feet (1,400 m) in the Stanislaus National Forest adjacent to Yosemite National Park.


In his explorations, Solomons correctly determined the courses of the upper branches of the San Joaquin River. In 1892, accompanied by Joseph Nisbet LeConte and Sidney I. Peixotto, he crossed from Mount Lyell by way of Rush Creek to the base of Mount Ritter and ascended the peak. In 1895, Solomons took his most notable trip, accompanied by Ernest C. Bonner. Ascending the South Fork of the San Joaquin they came to the group of mountains now designated the Evolution Group, named by Solomons. The highest of these he called Mount Darwin (after the evolutionist Charles Darwin), and the others he named Haeckel, Wallace, Fiske, Spencer, and Huxley, after famous evolutionists of the day. Continuing their explorations, Solomons and Bonner ascended Mount Goddard, then made their way down to Simpson Meadow via North Goddard Creek, and were the first to make this section known.[11]

Solomons’ excursions in the next two years added details to the knowledge of Sierra topography, but his principal contribution was an accurate map which he drafted and presented to the Sierra Club in 1896.[12]

Death and memorials

He died in Los Angeles, California on May 27, 1947.[13]Mount Solomons (13016') is named after him as well as the long-distance trail the Theodore Solomons Trail.


  1. ^ Selina (b. 1862) became a writer and advocate for woman suffrage; Lucius Levy (b. 1863) became a lawyer and public speaker; Gertrude Marks (b. 1866) died at a young age; Adele Rosa (b. 1868) became a doctor; Leon Mendes (b. 1873) became a scholar; Frank Benjamin (b. 1875) died as an infant.
  2. ^ His cousin was the poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887), known for her verses inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. He was also related to Benjamin N. Cardozo, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.
  3. ^ He was one of the fourteen recognized ministers in New York in 1789, participating in George Washington's first inauguration. He was also one of the incorporators of Columbia University and served as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.
  4. ^ Katherine's stepfather was Albert J. Bothwell, a wealthy cattle baron and founder of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and considered, by some, to be the main instigator of the infamous Wyoming Johnson County War.
  5. ^ An unusually gifted student, Toni scored so high on intelligence tests that she was selected for a lifelong research project known as the Terman Genetic Studies of Genius. The study was started by Lewis Terman at Stanford University. After marrying and divorcing Benjamin O. Jackson, she began a relationship with Ed Ricketts in 1940 and became his common-law wife. Toni, who had attended the University of California, Los Angeles, later worked as a personal assistant for Pulitzer Prize–winning writer John Steinbeck and was the editor of The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Beside Steinbeck, their circle of friends also included the writer and painter, Henry Miller and the mythologist, writer, and lecturer Joseph Campbell. She left Ricketts after the death of her daughter (by her first husband) Katherine Adele Jackson. She died on October 5, 1947 at the age of 12 of a brain tumor and only five months after the death of her father. She later married Benjamin Elazari Volcani.


  1. ^ "Hannah Marks Solomon". American Jewish Women Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  2. ^ Leiman, Sondra; Jonathan D. Sarna (1994). America: The Jewish Experience. Union for Reform Judaism. ISBN 978-0-8074-0500-0. 
  3. ^ Winnett, Thomas; Morey, Kathy (2001). Guide to the John Muir Trail (Third ed.). Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press. pp. front paper. ISBN 0-89997-221-7. 
  4. ^ "Theodore Seixas Solomons' Free Miner's Certificate". Karstens Library. 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-08. 
  5. ^ Raymond, Marcius D., p. 64
  6. ^ Jordan, 372
  7. ^ a b Dexter, pp. 103-105
  8. ^ Raymond, Marcius D., pp. 32
  9. ^ Siemiatkoski, Donna H (1990). The Descendants of Governor Thomas Welles of Connecticut, 1590-1658, and His Wife, Alice Tomes. Gateway Press. 
  10. ^ "About the Spur". The Flying Spur. 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-08. 
  11. ^ Sargent, Shirley (1989). Solomons of the Sierra: the Pioneer of the John Muir Trail. Yosemite: Flying Spur Press. 
  12. ^ Sierra Club Bulletin. I (7): 287–288. 1896.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "California Death Records". The California Department of Health Services Office of Health Information and Research vital Statistics Section. 

Works cited

  • Dexter, Franklin Bowditch.Biographical sketches of the graduates of Yale college with annals of the college history ... Volume 3 of Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History Publisher: Holt & Company, 1903.
  • Jordan, John W. Genealogical and personal history of the Allegheny Valley, Pennsylvania. New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Company 1913.
  • Raymond, Marcius Denison. Gray genealogy : being a genealogical record and history of the descendants of John Gray, of Beverly, Mass., and also including sketches of other Gray families. New York: Higginson Book Company, 1887.
  • Raymond, Marcius D. Sketch of Rev. Blackleach Burritt and related Stratford families : a paper read before the Fairfield County Historical Society, at Bridgeport, Conn., Friday evening, Feb. 19, 1892. Bridgeport : Fairfield County Historical Society 1892.
  • Sargent, Shirley. Solomons of the Sierra: The Pioneer of the John Muir Trail Yosemite, California. Publisher: Flying Spur Press ISBN 1-878345-21-4, 1990.
  • Siemiatkoski, Donna Holt.The Descendants of Governor Thomas Welles of Connecticut, 1590–1658, and His Wife, Alice Tomes Baltimore: Publisher Gateway Press, 1990.
  • Wineapple, Brenda.Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein Publisher: Lincoln, Nebraska. University of Nebraska Press, 2008 ISBN 0-8032-1753-6

Further reading

  • Sierra Club Bulletin, 1894, I, 3, pp. 61–84, 1895, I, 6, pp. 221–237.
  • Appalachia, January 1896, pp. 41–57
  • Overland Monthly, May, June, August, November, 1896, and July, August, 1897.