Solomon Whittlesey

Solomon Whittlesey was born in April of 1786 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts,  three years after the Revolutionary War ended. He was one of earliest settlers in Brownhelm, coming to this area in 1818. The first church was organized June 10, 1819, at his home and consisted of sixteen members, seven men and nine women, all from pioneer families in Brownhelm.   Mr. Whittlesey is also accredited with having been among the first in Brownhelm Township to manufacture pot-ash and pearl-ash.  Since trees needed to be cleared for farm land and logs were needed to build homes, the remaining timber was burned and the resulting ash made into potash, a valuable by-product.  Potash is made from the ashes by boiling them in large pots, hence the name pot-ash. The dry ashes were placed in large pots along with water and the potassium oxide in the ashes would mix with the water to form lye.  The lye was mixed with animal fat to make soap. The other compounds in the ashes sank to the bottom and formed a black mixture that would be boiled until all moisture was gone; what was left was called black salts. It contained potassium and was used for fertilizing fields. Solomon sold the black salts to many of neighbors and also shipped it. The potash was purified even more to make “pearl- ash”. The potash was heated in high temperatures, leaving a gray block that was mostly potassium carbonate. Once it cooled it changed to a “pearly-white “color, which is why it is called pearl-ash. This pearl-ash was used as a leavening agent for baked goods and was much in demand by homemakers.  His farm was on the ridge now known as Whittlesey Road east of Baumhart.  He died February 22, 1871, aged eighty-four years, nine months and twenty-two days.

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