Solon Eben Turner was born in Lubec, Maine on June 5, 1856, the son of Nathaniel and Mima Ramsdell Turner. His life was spent on or about the sea beginning with his boyhood in picturesque Lubec. He became an apprenticed mariner at the age of 15 and studied navigation in Boston for a career as a sailing master. While on a sailing trip in Le Harve, France, he made an acquaintance with Captain James Bell Hall of Brunswick, then in command of the ship George Skolfield. Solon became Captain Hall’s First Mate and eventually commanded his own vessels in the days of the windjammers, one of which was the Fanny Skolfield, built at the old shipyards between North Harpswell and Brunswick.
Eliza Alice Skolfield, known as Lida, was born at sea, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on May 21, 1858, the daughter of Isaac and Frances Forsaith Skolfield.
As a result of his position with the Skolfield shipping company, Captain Turner was often in Brunswick, where he met Lida. Solon and Lida were married at the residence of Captain Horatio Hall in Brooklyn, New York on April 22, 1885.
Marriage led Solon to pursue a more settled life. He gave up sea-faring for a marine contracting, shipping, and stevedoring business in New York. He and Lida lived in New York where he operated his business for 40 years, making him a wealthy man. In retirement, they resided at 155 Maine Street in Brunswick, where Solon would construct model ships in the garage behind his home.
Solon died on March 28, 1936. Upon his death, the local Brunswick newspaper said, “The story of his life is that of a poor boy who sailed away, as so many of his time and place did, by honest industry and sturdy toil, to work his way up to Master in all waters, including that of regard and esteem among his friends and neighbors. His life knew the anxieties of storms at sea, the adventures of the deep, the thrills of strange places of the earth, and even the stark disaster of shipwreck.” The article went on to say there was not a person in Brunswick who did not lament his passing and that his charitable works and “generosities to the town were numerous.”
Lida died on July 22, 1944 in Brunswick. Lida and Solon are buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick in Lida’s father’s plot.
Lida’s will included charitable bequests to the Boys and Girls Scouts of Brunswick, Opportunity Farm in New Gloucester, the First Parish Church, Bowdoin College, the Brunswick Public Library, and the Brunswick Village Improvement Association. Lida’s will also directed $20,000 to the Town of Brunswick to be expended to assist worthy graduates “who need financial assistance in pursuing advanced courses of education and instruction in approved colleges, universities and technical or vocational schools.” The Town of Brunswick accepted these funds in 1949, and in 2018 the Town of Brunswick transferred these scholarship funds to the Brunswick Area Student Aid Fund.
Awards from this fund are based on student financial need, after which recipients are requested to be graduates of Brunswick High School.
Note: The information about Solon Eben Turner and Eliza Alice (Lida) Skolfield Turner was obtained from Ester S. deVries’ book, Descendants of Thomas Skolfield of Brunswick Maine, with the assistance of the staff at the Pejepscot Historical Society (www.pejepscothistorical.org). The photograph of Solon on this webpage was published in The Portland Evening Express on March 30, 1933, and was provided by the Pejepscot Historical Society.