When looking at historical figures, it’s easy to paint with a broad brush trying to understand motives and beliefs. This unfortunately is how we tend to label even modern people, especially in regard to politics. But a real man is complex, with intentions and convictions that aren’t always easy to pin down or to neatly grouped into categories based on our current understanding of things. I believe Dr. Solomon Angle was such a man.
Born to Myer and Catharine (Pallen) Angle in 1823, he was the first of several children the couple would have.
His father Myer Angle was an immigrant to America, born in a small village in Neidenstein in southwest Germany on July 4th, 1776. It’s possible that the his surname may have been Engle or Engel in Germany, and became “Americanized” to Angle once he came to the United States.
He would likely have been among the first Jewish settlers in Richmond, Virginia and would do well in business and in his personal life. Among other things, he would be noted years later as being the first president of Congregation Beth Ahaba, Richmond’s first German synagogue.
He would marry Catharine Pallen in 1821 when he was 44 and she was only 17. Solomon’s mother was likely also the child of immigrants.
Not much is known about Solomon’s childhood. He would have numerous brothers and sisters by the time he was an adult, and his parents were still adding to that number when Myer was nearly 70 years old.
As a result of interest in the sciences or possibly just as a pragmatic decision, Solomon decided on dentistry as a career. I haven’t been able to find where this education took place or when, but by the time of the 1860 census, he’s been in practice in Richmond Virginia for a number of years.
When the war between the states broke out in 1861, the Angle family sided with the Confederacy, and besides Solomon, five other sons of Myer and Catharine would wear the grey.
Solomon would join up in May 0f 1861 and would find himself in the 23rd Virginia Infantry Regiment as part of the “Brooklyn Greys”, company E, mostly made up of boys from Halifax county. Solomon was enlisted as a private and probably due to his training in dentistry was made a hospital steward for the regiment.
The regiment would see constant action, including the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Bull Run, the siege of Harper’s Ferry, and finally the Battle of Sharpsburg. I can’t be sure, but at Sharpsburg I believe Solomon may have been among the 21 wounded, as he was discharged on December 2nd, 1862 due to disability.
In 1864 he marries Eleana R. Durham. I have been able to find almost nothing about her or the circumstances of their meeting and marriage save for it’s date and that it took place in Virginia. After her death it would be said of her that she was “well versed in the art of preparing food and serving and dispensing hospitality“, as she was from an “old and aristocratic Virginia family.” To their union would eventually be born two sons and a daughter.
I’m not even able to find her full legal name. Her tombstone proclaims her to be “Eleana R.”, her obituary “E.C.”, and still other sources call her “Ealeaner” or “Eleanor”.
Just after the Civil War something prompts the Angles to move from Richmond to Cool Springs here in North Carolina. They don’t stay very long however, and move thereafter to Charlotte, where they stay for about 2 years. I haven’t been able to find any records from this period in his life so I’m unsure what Dr. Angle was doing. He may have continued in dentistry but it wasn’t a profession he would keep into his later life. It could have been in Charlotte he took his first steps into politics.
His next move was from Charlotte to the small community of Eagle Mills in Iredell County, about 15 to 20 miles north of where he started in Cool Springs. Again, I don’t know what brought him to the area, though Eagle Mills had been a notable manufacturing town before most of it was burned during “Stoneman’s Raid“. By the time Angle came the “town” of Eagle Mills would have been a shadow of what it was and the name was used for the surrounding area rather than the place the town had been.
It’s hard trying to put in order what I know about Angle’s life in the area, but he must have immediately became a fixture in the community and for the decades until his death he would call Iredell home.
Dr. Angle foremost seems to have dabbled in politics. It was noted at his death that he was a staunch Republican who could often be found at the various conventions and gatherings, usually giving speeches of a “humorous nature”. He must have been something of an orator and story teller because he was readily invited to these functions despite never holding an actual office in the house or senate, though he did run and was beaten in 1884 for his district’s senate seat. His exploits also earned him the name “Bull of the Woods” among his peers, but I haven’t been able to find where this name originated or what it truly signified, though one would assume it had to do with his place of residence and forceful personality.
One of his typical humorous tales survived in a newspaper clipping from the time.
Dr. Angle would also fill various other roles throughout his life, including justice of the peace, gauger for the Revenue Service, and local school board member.
His politics put him at odds with many locals, especially in Statesville where the Democratic party held considerable sway. This led to Angle and various public figures firing off letters back and forth over various subjects and issues.
In particular, Angle and the editor of the Landmark (J.P. Caldwell) seemed to have had a very sour relationship. One small blurb published in 1897 informs the readers that Dr. Angle is of Jewish descent.
“This will be news to our people, as few, if any, of them knew that Dr. Angle was a Hebrew.”
I don’t know this for sure, but it almost seems printed to slur the man in the eyes of the readers. I don’t know how “Hebrews” were perceived by the common county citizen at the time, but why would someone who has shown a contempt for the man print something for any other reason that to detract?
Then later in 1900 after another perceived slight, Angle fires back at the paper and it’s editor.
Dr. Angle wasn’t afraid or hesitant to put right what he thought spoken wrongly, whether it be from the mayor and editor of the Statesville newspaper, or the president of the United States.
During his life, his home was remembered as a place where even strangers could find a warm welcome and it became a favorite stopping place for travelers along the north-south road. His obituary remembered him as “extremely cordial and affable in his home” and his guests could expect “the best of everything he had“.
This hospitality was not just for outsiders and foreigners. Parties were thrown for the locals, with great gatherings of over 100 people being not uncommon. These were sometimes for newlywed couples from the area, sometimes for other special occasions, and sometimes for none at all. In the 1930’s, a local named N.D. Tomlin would recall these to-do’s in a couple letters to a local paper, talking about the absolute glut of food such as a “forty pound pig” with an apple in it’s mouth he saw at one of these gatherings, likely in 1896 at a 50 year anniversary celebration for Dr. Myers and his wife Eleana.
It became a habit later in life for Dr. Angle to also host hunting parties from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania who would come to the area for the excellent bird hunting and legendary hospitality. Just such a group was noted to be present at the aforementioned celebration.
Despite the celebrity of Solomon Angle, I have yet to find a photo of the man. Accounts from during his life described him as “good natured and easy going” and a lover of humor and of people. I haven’t been able to find a physical description either, but an entry in the county heritage books mention that he had a custom made rocking chair which might still be in the possession of one his local ancestors. It was made much larger than a standard model, and so it seems Dr. Angle, at least later in life, may have been a fairly stout man as well. An account from a remembrance printed in 1947 claimed him to be “310 pounds.”
Dr. Angle died on September of 1901 and was buried at Holly Springs Baptist Church, though I don’t believe he was ever a member or attended there.
His home, over 100 years old at the time, burned in April of 1902. A spark from the chimney fell on the roof and destroyed the house and majority of it’s contents. Inside at the time were Angle’s widow Eleana and a group of hunters who were staying there. They lost their belongings in the fire as well.
Though the home was insured for $1,000, the loss was estimated to be double that. At least Dr. Angle’s chair must have been taken from the house sometime before the blaze (possibly by one of his children) or else pulled from the remains after the fire because we know it survived at least until the county heritage books were published in 1980.
Ultimately, the decision was made to rebuild. A local contractor named Nelson Summers (possibly “Somers”) was hired to construct a new home on the site of the old for $1,500, and had it finished by the end of 1902. The bird hunters and hunting parties returned shortly thereafter and probably financed the widow Angle’s final years in the house. Se would die in 1905 and be buried next to her husband at Holly Springs.
The house survived a number of decades, and in 1947 there was a small gas station known as the “Hunting Creek Station” that sat on the road in front of it. Unfortunately, that station was knocked down in the last couple years. I took a poor photo of it some time ago which I managed to find again.
The “second Angle house” also has unfortunately succumbed to the ravages of time. I don’t know when it became a derelict but I would wager sometime in the 70’s or early 80’s judging by what remains. It’s hard to know for sure but there might still be traces of Dr. Angle’s original home mixed in with the bones of the second.
Most of the other buildings that were scattered over the property on both sides of the road have also been removed. Less and less remains of the home and of Dr. Solomon Angle each year.