Aunt Charlotte and King Solomon
Aunt Charlotte was a slave brought to Lexington, KY, in the late 1700s. She was freed and inherited property after her owners died. She supported herself by selling fruit and baked goods at the open market. She and William "King" Solomon had known each other in Virginia, and Aunt Charlotte's story is tied to his in the literature. Solomon was a white vagrant who supported his drinking with wages earned as a digger of cisterns, graves, and cellars. In the spring of 1833, as punishment for his vagrancy, local officials put Solomon up for sale as a slave for one year; at the end of that year he was to return to court. Aunt Charlotte purchased Solomon for $13; she outbid two medical students who were investing in a future cadaver. Aunt Charlotte set Solomon free, and he promptly managed to get liquor, later making his way back to Aunt Charlotte's home, where he passed out on a Thursday. He woke on a Saturday to find that many had died or were dying of cholera while others were evacuating the city. Aunt Charlotte was preparing to leave, but when Solomon refused to go, she would not leave him. People were dying quicker than they were being buried--the gravediggers had deserted the city. Solomon took up his shovel and began burying the dead. His dedication probably prevented further spread of the disease. Both Solomon and Aunt Charlotte survived the epidemic. When Solomon returned to court, the judge shook his hand and others thanked him for his heroic deeds. Solomon died in the poorhouse in 1854; he is buried in the Lexington Cemetery. In 1908 a large tombstone was placed at his grave. It is not known what became of Aunt Charlotte. For more see "King Solomon of Kentucky" in Flute and Violin and other Kentucky Tales, by J. L. Allen; and "King Solomon, Heroic Gravedigger" in Offbeat Kentuckians, by K. McQueen.