Other branches of our family tree

Singer
Wooster
Bodecker
Comstock
Crane
Dean
Dooley
Elderkin
Flock
Freas
Gale
Grinnell
Howard
Hunsberger
Judson
Kibler
Moore
Overholt
Phillips
Pickett
Raiza
Slough
Snyder
Staats
Terryberry
Wodell
Young





Introduction

The surname Singer is unquestionably German since it appears in numerous records in communities scattered throughout Germany in the eighteenth century. However, while there are immigration records of various Singers arriving in Colonial America during the early 1700s, we have not yet found the link between the American/Canadian Singer family and the corresponding family in Germany.

The Singer name was not uncommon in Colonial America. Families with this name have been identified in New England, New York and Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Further, as is often the case in written records of Colonial times, variations in spelling are numerous since the few who could write usually put down what they heard whenever a name was given. For example, Singer, Senger, Syngar, Sanger, Saenger, Reisinger, Hansinger, Zenger, Seeger, and Seager. Of these, the variant Sanger appears most often, and, indeed, a large contemporary Sanger family has evolved.

Our family, the "Canadian Singers," has its European roots in Germany. We say this because the Canadian census return of 1871 reveals that my grandfather, Eli Singer put down his origin as German.

The Singer portion of this history is lengthy, and has been divided into several sections. The document may be read as a continuous text, or each section may be reached using the following links. Each section has a return link to bring you back here.


The New York Connection
The Vermont Connection
John Singer Sr. and Abraham Singer
John Singer I and the American Revolution
John Singer II
Orphaned in The Battle of Bennington
The Refugee Life
John's First Family
A Side Trip to Peter Singer
John's Second Family
End of a Long Life
Ephriam Singer - 1814
Eli Singer - 1834
Cyrus Singer - 1876
Eugene Singer - 1921






The New York Connection

A preponderance of evidence indicates that this branch of the family has its Colonial origins in a small area whose axis extended from Albany, New York about 30 miles east to the vicinity of Bennington, Vermont. Important to this finding should be an understanding that Vermont as a State did not exist at the time, and that the unappropriated land lying between New Hampshire and New York was nominally within the jurisdiction of the Governor of New York in Albany.

As a historical note only, it is interesting to note the existence of a Singer family in Dutch New York. There is an early reference to the surname Singer in a marriage dated 21 April 1700 in Albany N.Y. of Johannes Spoor to Maria Singer. The records of the Dutch Reformed Church of Albany contain christening records of their children: a son Henricus, born 13 January 1706 (Witnesses Henrick and Jannetje Singer), a son Abraham, born 3 August 1707, and a son Dirk, born 30 April 1710. There is no other information on Maria or her family.

The earliest record of a John Singer is an early New York militia roster[1], "Muster Roll of Men Raised and Passed in the County of Albany for Captain Christopher Yates' Company, May 5, 1760". Here, we find soldier #54 to be John Valentine Singer, with notations:

   Date Enlisted - Apr 26
   Age - 26 (Therefore, born 1734)
   Where Born - Germany
   Work - Laborer
   Stature - 5'2"

The name and date are compelling evidence that this is probably the John who later married Cornelia Richter in 1767. The church records of the First Dutch Reformed Church of Albany NY have been transcribed. Allowing for the common practice at the time of phonetic spelling, and for best attempts at deciphering old Dutch text entries made more than 200 years ago, the name of John Singer of Albany went through several permutations in this transcription. Including the marriage and four christenings, we find the name variously transcribed as Singers, Leenert, Leenders, Leonert and Leonard. In any event, John Singer married Cornelia Richter (Rechteren) 29 August 1767.[2] Their children were:

   Johannes, christened 1 Oct 1770
   Margriet, born 26 April 1777
   Nicholas, born 19 March 1779
   William, born 18 October 1792
(There is virtually no record of the Richter family except for Nicholas, of Niskiths. He is almost certainly Cornelia's older brother. They were contemporaries, and each named one of their children after the other. Nicholas married Maria Hindermond (Hoenemend) 27 February 1762. Their children were Margarita, ch. 30 May 1762, Elsie, bp. 4 March 1764, Catherina, bp. 8 December 1765, Cornelia, b. 1 June 1767, Maria, b. 11 April 1769, Johannes, b. 26 June 1771, and Cathalyna, bp. 22 August 1779.)

It may be tempting to consider that Johannes Singer (b 1770) may be the progenitor of our family. Not so, as subsequent research has definitely placed the birth date of our John as 1766.

Further, Johannes Singer seems to have stayed in Albany. In the book, "History of Albany," the chapter on the opening of the Erie Canal contains this reference: "The first boat through the locks, with a load of produce and merchandise was the Gold Hunter of Geneva, in 1823, Captain J. V. Singer." If this is Johannes (John), he would be age 53 at the time. Besides, not many people have a middle initial of V (Valentine?).

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The Vermont Connection

A word on the geography of the area: Cambridge, NY, is in south central Washington County, Shaftsbury, VT, is in west central Bennington County, about 12 miles east of Cambridge and Pownal, VT, is in southwest Bennington County, about 12 miles south of Shaftsbury. All four localities of interest make a small triangle of geography about 30 miles east of Albany, NY.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that both Abraham and John Singer, either being the progenitor of our family, first appear as living in Pownal (now in the State of Vermont) in Colonial times.

Pownal, then and now a small community, is an old town with a colorful early history. It is located in the extreme southwest corner of Vermont, with ties to New York, New Hampshire and to Massachusetts. Its earliest history seems to have been quite stormy, largely because it was founded on land that was opened for homesteading under two different authorities. The inevitable result was a cloud over many of the homesteaders' titles. Ownership claims to the land were muddied since both New York and New Hampshire laid separate claim to the open land between them . . . the territory that would in 1835 become the State of Vermont.

The earliest record of the Pownal settlement is a census for 1725 as a town near Albany NY consisting of about twelve households of Dutch families. By 1765, the town area had expanded to include 58 households. These were homesteads granted by the State of New York under the Hoosic Patent. The homesteaders were farmers of Dutch origin who were expanding outward from the crowded Rensallaerwick lands around Albany.

In the meantime, the boundaries between the New York and the Connecticut and Massachusetts charters had been informally agreed to between them to be a line 20 miles east of the Hudson River. It was a good start, but not very practical if interpreted by the wrong people, especially since the lands were unsurveyed wilderness.

John Singer may not have owned one of the original Pownal homesteads. It appears more likely he purchased one of these lots from a previous New York Dutchman. In any event, there is no question John was an early resident of Pownal.

These settlers, referred to as "the Dutchmen" believed they held legal title to their land under the patents granted by New York. They did not reckon on the sudden appearance of "Yorkers" (men of English extraction) holding conflicting claims to the same land granted by the governor of New Hampshire.

In 1762, Governor Wentworth, appointed by the King of England over the colony of New Hampshire, saw the opportunities in the vast tracts of land to the west. The governors for the Crown were usually English nobility who were sent to the colonies to govern. Wentworth, the exception, was a wealthy New Englander, and he saw his responsibilities as opportunities. Since appointed Governors wielded near-absolute power, answerable only to the distant King, the potential for graft and greed was enormous.

The influx of New Englanders began in 1760. With the temptation being irresistible, the governor sold "Wentworth Grants" to speculators with abandon. From single lots to tracts of thousands of acres, he sold land to anyone who had the money to pay, all the while collecting handsome fees which he pocketed. Further, the sale of each tract, known as a charter, was conditioned upon large portions of the land being set aside in the Governor's name or members of his family or of his henchmen. Colonial kickbacks, as it were! Among these, the Pownal Charter of New Hampshire was granted in 1760. The effect of this had great potential for disaster, since he was handing out land grants of property already owned and occupied by the Dutch homesteaders under New York charter.

The result of these Wentworth Grants (in later years known more kindly as "Hampshire Grants") was an influx of thousands of New Englanders. Armed with their grants (to them the same as clear title) they sought to evict the "Dutchmen" by any means necessary. Politicians wanted power and the large fees from administering their grants, speculators wanted land to resell, and there was the press of expansion as people looked for homesteads.

In 1763, several owners armed with Wentworth Grants giving them rights to Pownal lands filed Actions in Ejectment at Portsmouth NH to oust the Dutchmen from their homesteads. The plaintiffs were holders of Wentworth Patents, and all were simply speculators, definitely non-residents of the lands they sought to acquire. Surely they knew the steps they were taking were serious, since any attempt to evict the New York Dutchmen could bring on a confrontation between the legal machinery of the two colonies.

These disputes over the land would have grave consequences in later years. The original settlers felt unfairly treated, and counted on the King, if necessary, to intervene since their claims derived from the Governor of New York. Their homes and land were threatened and many felt only the King could protect their rights. At the same time, independence fever was sweeping New England. The entire area became divided politically, and when war came many of the Pownal settlers became Tories and joined volunteer companies attached to the British army. Others joined their local militia, and yet others tried unsuccessfully to remain on the sidelines.

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John Singer and Abraham Singer

Among the settlers was John Singer who was considered a Dutchman and a trespasser.[3] John's living in Pownal at the time is proved in a 1765 document[4] It was a primitive form of census which attempted to identify the population of the settlements. In it appears a letter to the Governor General of New York listing the known residents of certain towns in the disputed area. The letter states:

In the Township of Pownal are [within a list] John Singer, and (____________) Singer.

Who was the second Singer? He had to be an adult male head of household to have been counted. The most intriguing speculation is that it was Abraham Singer, who appears just once in the records of the times. In 1765, then, both John and Abraham are adult heads of families in Pownal. Since young John Singer was born in 1766 he could have fit into either of these two households. Finally, considering that young John and Abraham later sign up together with the tory militia in 1777 leads to an inevitable choice: was Abraham young John's uncle, or his father?

This document adheres to fact as far as is known. At this point, I (Eugene Singer, in 1996) offer the following speculation: that Abraham was the father of young John Singer, our known ancestor.

1. Pownal was a tiny settlement, and there was a known second Singer household in addition to John Singer. The unique surname strongly suggests it was Abraham, who was probably a related contemporary to John, probably a brother.

2. Pownal, like every community of the time was divided. Some supported the British; others the revolutionary cause. Young John and an Abraham did, in fact, join the Tory regiment led by Col. Peters. John, the elder later joined the local militia in the War of Independence.

3. My brother (John Singer 1909-1991) told me an anecdote he had picked up from a Canadian relative some years ago. One of the Singers was a known Crown sympathizer in Pownal who had been harassed and told to get out. He ignored the message. The next message was the burning of his barn and another warning to get out of town. To the extent his story is true, it had to be Abraham's barn. And likely, Abraham "got out of town" by taking his 11-year-old son John, both to join Col. Peters' regiment.

Speculation? Yes, but it is a good enough scenario for now. Since there is no further record of Abraham, let's continue with what we know about John Singer of Pownal.

Another early record of John Singer in Pownal is taken from "Pownal, A Vermont Town's Two Hundred Years and More," which states in the discussion of the Wentworth Grants:

One of the plaintiffs was Seth Hudson, a wealthy speculator now styling himself modestly as a yeoman from Petersham. The defendant was John Seager, blacksmith, apparently a new-comer to Pownal and a purchaser from a Dutchman who preferred to leave. The prize was Lot I of the Second Division. The complaint was read to the defendant by Deputy Sheriff Samuel Robinson.[5] The defendant retained a Portsmouth attorney who did not dare raise the obvious defense that New Hampshire never had good claim to the lands Wentworth granted. Instead, the lawyer asked dismissal on the grounds that Seager's name was actually Hansinger, though he was known in Pownal as Singer. The case was not dismissed.

It should be noted that Hans is German for the name John, suggesting that John Singer found it expedient to call himself John Hansinger as a means of physical and legal self protection during those troubled years. There is no record how that court action turned out. However, the action was either dismissed or set aside since John Singer remained in Pownal for many years thereafter.

Who knows where all of this controversy would have led were it not for the American Revolution. Many of the people of Pownal were very conservative. They resisted change and were not stimulated by the idea of rebellion against the crown. While the war imposed a de facto truce in the conflict of land ownership, individual loyalties were sorely tested. There were settlers who were genuinely loyal to England, and there were rebels anxious to throw off all ties to England. In between were a large group who wanted no part of the war, just to be left alone. This was not to be, however, as the polarization of loyalties spurred by local hotheads such as Ethan Allen and his highly charged Green Mountain Boys forced the issue individually on all settlers.

John Singer continued to live in Pownal following the Revolutionary War. This is shown in other documents[6]. One is a petition dated 1 June 1778 for the right to collect tolls on a road, signed by John and others. This petition also locates John's home in Pownal since it begins: "Your petitioners residing and inhabiting on the Albany Road so called leading through the said town along by the River commonly called Hoosack River." Another petition dated 11 February 1782 requests an order to build a bridge. The signatures of the several petitioners on both documents include that of John Hans Singer.

In summary, John lived in Pownal from at least 1763 to at least 1782, a minimum of nineteen years.

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John Singer I and the American Revolution

Local militias during the early years of the war were relatively small, informal groups of citizens who signed on for short term enlistments. One record[7] lists John Singer on the Muster role of Col. John Chase Regiment of Militia for Croydon (Vt.) who marched to Saratoga in September 1777.

Another record,[8] is most interesting:

SINGER, JOHN, Penwell, Berkshire County . List of men mustered between Jan. 20, 1777, and June 1, 1778, by Truman Wheeler, Muster Master for Berkshire County; term, 3 years or duration of war; reported received State bounty; also, list of deserters from Col. Joseph Vose's 1st Regt., dated Camp Highlands, N.Y., July 13, 1780; residence Penwell, Berkshire Co.

This unfortunate event is confirmed in War Department records at the U. S. Archives. The individual soldier's file shows John Singer as enlisting 2 April 1777, with notation, Deserted May 1, 1777. Some defense of John's motives might lie in the fact that this was early in the war and it was a common practice for less-disciplined or independent-minded men to simply leave for home. Most were farmers and had crops to tend. None-the-less, it is an unfortunate blemish on a permanent record that has survived more than 200 years.

Whatever the reason for the desertion, John Singer, nevertheless, also had a further record of honorable service. Another record[9] shows John Singer with the rank of Private in Capt. Nathanial Seeley's Company of Col. Samuel Herrick's Regiment of Vermont Militia. This is dated at Bennington, Vt., 19 June 1781 for eleven days' service plus travel pay for 1 trip of 70 miles. The travel places John in Pownal in 1781.

In a personal communication dated 21 July 1976, Charles Bennett, Librarian of the Bennington Museum comments as follows on the geographic discrepancy (also considering that in 1777, Vermont did not yet exist as a State):

As far as we know, there is no Penwell in Berkshire County. The Penwell quite apparently means Pownal. Pownal is contiguous to Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, and we frequently have to check other Berkshire cities to find stray Pownalites.

Regarding the Vermont duty, this man must have been forgiven his desertion and taken into the Vermont militia. You'll notice the payroll of this group was handled in Bennington. The payroll does not tell you where the men came from. Yet, most of the men on the list can be identified (by their surnames) as coming from Pownal. Finally, Pownal was the home of many British sympathizers during the Revolution, so the Pownal men on the payroll list have to be a very select list of Pownal colonials.

The above observation lends credibility to the notion that John and Abraham co-existed in the Pownal area, with John declaring for the colonies, and Abraham for the Crown.

Beyond the above, there is no further record of this John Singer, and we are hampered by not knowing any of the names of wife or children. Yet, there is one final clue. The 1790 Federal Census lists a John Singer residing in Cambridge Town, Albany County, N.Y. (Cambridge is 15 miles northwest of Pownal, and about 15 miles northeast of Albany). The John Singer family is enumerated as "Free white males over 16 - one, Free white males under 16 - one ." So, if this is our man, he is now alone, probably in his fifties with one minor male child.

At that point in time, the record of John evaporates; a local researcher in 1976 reported she could not find any Singer of that period buried in any cemetery within 25 miles of Cambridge.

The same Federal Census of 1790 for Vermont, page 21, col. 3, enumerates a Peter Singer as head of family. He was living in Shaftsbury Town, less that ten miles north of Pownal. The census enumerates him and one other male over 16, three males under 16 and 3 females of any age. So, this is a Peter Singer, his wife and six children. The number and age of the children suggests Peter may have been, in 1790, in his late thirties, placing his birth date at 1750 to 1760. We don't know if or how he may have been related to young John who got mixed up in the war and went to Canada.

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wreath

John Singer ( 1766-1842)

(1) Unknown; possibly Mrs. William Johnson
(2) Susannah Overholt (1774-1838)

John Singer (1766-1842) is the progenitor of a long line of Singers in Canada. John was American by birth, with the first record of him as eleven years old in Pownal, Vermont.

It is fascinating yet difficult now to visualize what life was like just two hundred years ago in the British Colonies just before the War for Independence. John, a young boy of eleven living in a small village on the frontier. In the space of a few weeks, he is orphaned and in a refugee camp in Canada with thousands of others. Here is what we know of that period in his remarkable life.

Important information about John is found in the “Haldimand Papers” in the public archives of Canada in Ottawa. General Haldimand was the Governor General of Canada following the Revolutionary War. The voluminous records of his administration are especially revealing in the detailed data they contain concerning the loyalist refugees who fled their homes in the Colonies to Canada during and after the war.

The Lists of Loyalists are found in Volumes B105, B166, B167 and B168 plus the indexes. All are contained on microfilm reel C-1475. John Singer is identified in several places in these volumes.

The first mention of John Singer in the Haldimand Papers is on page 17. Very well preserved is the muster of men of Vermont who joined Col. John Peters' King's Loyal Rangers in June, 1777, just prior to the Battle of Bennington.[10]

Among the militiamen signed up, we find these names recorded in the writing of the camp Adjutant. John was only 11 years old at the time! And who was Abraham? There is only one speculative early record of Abraham living in Vermont before this reference, and there is no further military or civil record of him in the Haldimand Papers.

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Orphaned in The Battle of Bennington

Peters' Rangers became attached to General Burgoyne's army which was marching south from Montreal with the objective to join up with the British garrison at New York. The principal components of this army were 4,000 British regulars, a detachment of 3,000 German mercenaries under Col. Baum, and an auxiliary party of about 1,000 Canadian militia and Indians. Along the way, Burgoyne attached two Tory regiments under Colonels Peters and Pfister. Command and control over this army of diverse elements, all encumbered by a contingent of officers' wives and children and an enormous baggage train had to be a problem, as was evidenced by its fate.

Following some initial success in its march down the Hudson valley from Lake Champlain, the British army encountered increasing resistance as it approached Albany.

North of Albany, Burgoyne made one of several tactical blunders which led to his ultimate defeat. He divided his force by ordering a large detachment to proceed southeast into Vermont from the main thrust of his southward advance down the Hudson. This detachment consisted of the German mercenaries and the Tory regiments. Their objective was to obtain supplies and horses from settlers along the way, whether willingly or not. Revealing an abysmal lack of knowledge of local geography, he expected the detachment to accomplish that in less than two weeks.

By then, the countryside was up in arms. Facing them were thousands of American troops and militiamen, including Ethan Allen and his independence-minded Green Mountain Boys, all under the command of General Stark. The American troops took their stand near Bennington, Vermont, and defeated Burgoyne's detachment on August 16, 1777, in what is now known as the Battle of Bennington[11], helping to clear the way for the later British defeat at Saratoga.

Details of the battle remain somewhat ambiguous because few records exist to provide information as to exactly what went on. Among the problems is the lack of rosters of participants, little knowledge of casualties, and there is uncertainty even as to what military units actually participated. Thus, a cohesive idea of this important early battle of the Revolutionary War escapes us, and much depends on secondary knowledge.

For example, Col. Peters account of the battle is strongly at odds with the official British account. Peters claimed that Burgoyne held his regulars in the rear, behind the mercenaries' line, placing the untrained Tory troops on the front line. With these tactics, Peters knew that in leading the advance his men would be exposed to ambush in the rugged mountains of southern Vermont. He protested this battle plan vigorously to Burgoyne. Peters memoirs claim that the obstinate and infuriated Burgoyne told him to shut up, and he was threatened with arrest if he did not obey. Burgoyne took the protest as insolence, and said the order would stand, with or without Peters.

As it turned out, Peters was right; the detachment was ambushed. It was a complete disaster for the British forces. General Stark's American forces and the local militiamen were well positioned, and their fire was devastating. There was no doubt as to the outcome. Most of the Tories and the Germans were casualties, including their German commander, Colonel Baum. The dead and wounded were left behind as the decimated and demoralized army turned and headed back to Canada.

According to best accounts of historians, the British side lost more that 1,000 men in the battle. Of Peters' own Regiment of 603 colonials, only 117 survived . . . five out of six were killed or captured. This fact alone lends credence to the belief that Abraham Singer was among the dead.

Col. Peters' Tories lost their lives, their lands, homes and possessions for their efforts. Peters lived out his days in England, embittered and penniless, unable to win any redress from the Crown. He maintained to the end that Burgoyne was stupid in his strategies and utterly wasteful of the lives of the loyal American troops in the Battle of Bennington.

There are no official lists extant in either British or American archives identifying the killed or wounded, or even records of how many battle casualties were taken. Captured loyalists who had been residents of Pownal and who claimed their lands under New York titles were turned over to New York revolutionary authorities in Albany.

By October, following two final defeats in battle, Burgoyne and the remnants of his troops retreated to Canada.

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The Refugee Life

Young John probably did not participate in the battle directly. As a boy of 11, his duties would likely have been camp chores, taking care of the horses, and the like. So, John survived and marched to Montreal with the defeated army. There, due to his age, he was detached from the military and went to the refugee camp at St. Sorel, and later to Carleton Island.

Following the decisive defeat of the British forces at Yorktown in 1781, scores of thousands of Loyalists clustered in British-held areas to await the results of peace negotiations.

While defeated in the American Colonies, England was firmly in control of Canada, and the British government turned to the problem of the refugees. The loyalists (Tories) had suffered harassment and danger at the hands of the new Americans who were determined to be a free nation, totally independent of England. The Tories were no different people than the new Americans, differing only in their politics and their loyalties. But it was enough of a difference to make them unwelcome in the new land. They were hounded, they were heavily fined and their property was confiscated wholesale. They had no place to go except to Canada. By the tens of thousands they streamed northward to Montreal. With the Crown's assurance that they would be assisted in resettling on new land, at least 60,000 of them (estimates range to 100,000) left their homes behind for good.

Loyalists with the means to do so went to England, Bermuda and the West Indies. The poorer ones took up offers of land grants in the British colonies of the New World, and the remaining were settled in the Maritime Provinces and in "Upper Canada," now Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula. Very few remained in Montreal, where, while it was the headquarters of the British Governor General Haldimand, the city already had heavy French leanings.

The Haldimand papers are highly detailed on the governance of Canada during those troubled times. John Singer appears in several of the lists of refugee Loyalists, between 1780 and 1783, each time shown as "an orphan", supporting the notion he was a minor. The lists are generally titled as "Return of Refugee Loyalists receiving provisions from the Government," and are of various dates:

Folio 143, page 198, undated but likely the earliest, lists John as a child "between 6 and 12 years."

Folio 37, page 55, period 25 October to 24 November, 1780, lists John as age above 6, orphan, quartered in Montreal.

Folio 44, page 68, period 25 March to 24 April, 1781, age above 6, orphan, quartered in Montreal, not attached to any [refugee] Corps.

Folio 59, page 92, period 25 August to 24 September, 1781, age above 6 years, orphan, quartered at Montreal.

Folio 68, page 107, period 25 December 1781 to 24 January 1782 again has John, described as above.

Folio 72, page 112, dated 24 March 1783 has John, as above.

Folio 83, page 130 dated 24 July 1783 has John, as above. John would now be 17 or 18 years old.

Many of the refugees were destined to become the pioneers of Upper Canada, as the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario was called at the time.

From the early 1600s for 150 years this land between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie was the domain of several Indian tribes. Among these were the Missisauga who were to become valuable friends of the white settlers to come.

The first Jesuit missionaries from Quebec, visiting the Niagara frontier found it inhabited by a tribe of Indians known as the Neutrals, so-called because of the incessant warfare between their neighbors on either side, the Iroquois and the Hurons. The peaceful (smart?) Neutral Nation took no part in the conflict, but allowed the two more powerful Nations to traverse their lands at will in attacking or retreating from each other. The peculiar policy of the Neutrals served them until about 1750 when the Iroquois finally conquered the Hurons and drove them from the territory. Whereupon the warlike Iroquois ungratefully turned upon the Neutral Nation and exterminated the tribe to the last person. (This was the basis for Cooper's classic story, "The Last of the Mohicans.")

With the Neutrals disposed of, the land was redistributed among the tribes. The Seneca tribe took over the lands east of the great Niagara River (the American side), and the Mississauga Tribe, a branch of the great Chippewa Nation occupied the land west of the river (the Canadian side). The Missisauga hunting grounds comprised the entire area from the Niagara River west along the south shore of Lake Ontario -- the land later to be known as the Niagara Frontier.

The Mississauga Indians were a peaceful band and lived in harmony with the newly arrived white families for many years. To accommodate the influx of war refugees, the British later purchased large tracts of land from the Indians in a series of honorable treaties. The Missisauga Indians would dwell with the white settlers along the shores of Lake Erie in peace for many years.

LaSalle, the energetic French missionary/explorer on his second voyage to the west in 1778, found the Misusage firmly in possession. During the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries, there were few white men present to disturb the native habitat. The occasional visitors were explorers, missionaries and fur traders. The first permanent settlers to arrive were loyalist refugees who arrived at the end of the American Revolution. First a trickle then a flood of refugee families soon populated the Niagara frontier.

Many of the first refugee families landed at Missisauga Point, where the Niagara River enters Lake Ontario, a huge tract of flat land. Here they found a great number of Missisauga Indians encamped in their principal village, Onghiara, a name later transformed into the word "Niagara." The present town of Niagara-on-the-Lake occupies the exact site of this ancient village.

To provide land for the influx of Loyalists the British government purchased a large tract of land from the Missisaugas, or Great Sauks as they were called. The tract was the entire Niagara Peninsula, extending from the Niagara River between Lakes Erie and Ontario west to the present Thames River.

At the time (near the end of the eighteenth century) there were no roads in the wilderness. This was also true in western New York, the route taken by emigrants traveling from New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Most were simply Indian trails that were gradually widened to accommodate wagons pulled by horse and oxen teams. For these people, the most important river crossing was from Lewiston on the American side, a simple cluster of a few houses, to Queenston on the Canadian side. Queenston, first known as "The Landing," soon become an important village, consisting of twenty to thirty houses.

In 1778 a group of Tory soldiers under Col. John Butler erected their first camp at the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario on Missisauga Point. It was called Butlersville.[12] Surrounding the barracks, a handful of families took up small plots of land for subsistence farming. However, the farmers became dissatisfied with this "squatter" arrangement and pressed for a more permanent arrangement. In 1784 the King approved the surveying and granting of homesteads on the land purchased from the Indians. As more and more new families crossed the river they were required to take the oath of allegiance, and upon approval were allowed to proceed and to file for a land grant. This application was accompanied by a comprehensive examination of the applicant's character, loyalty and qualifications. After taking the oath of allegiance for the second time, the applicant received a grant specifying the amount of land he was entitled to and where it was located.

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John's First Family

The next entry for John Singer in the Haldimand Papers is Folio 312, page 361 dated 24 January 1784. John again appears as a refugee in Montreal. He is now 18 years old and is still shown as a "distressed orphan male child above 6 years." This list is Return of unincorporated Loyalists in the Province of Quebec . . . agreeable to an inspection made by Stephen Delancy, Esq. The wording suggests it is probable that John is now being considered for resettlement to Upper Canada, as Ontario was then called. This consideration was important at the time, since the list, while silent as to its purpose seems to be focused on the disposition of unattached or problem situations. It is far from the usually balanced list of refugee families. Instead, it is a consolidated list of 1,098 individuals in nine camps, the largest being Montreal. There are only 64 men listed, the lot consisting of unattached females, orphan children and aged, sickly and infirm individuals and families . . . strays, as it were, in the mass of humanity in the camps.[13] There are few men young enough or strong enough to be sent to the frontier except for older orphans such as John.

It is interesting to note the same list contains the names of several unattached females including widows with children. Any one of these might be the woman he married, but we just do not know. A clue to John's destiny is in the next reference where he appears as head of family with wife and two children, one male over six and one female under six. I have found one researcher's note she might have been Nancy Roland[14]. This does not seem likely, however, as Nancy is shown as "widow with child," and since the child is not awarded rations it is probably an infant.

The refugee rosters counted people in six categories: men, women, male children above six and under six, and female children above six and under six. Granting there may have been some looseness in the tally as respects the age of children, if we assume the census is correct then a careful examination of the data identifies only one widow with two children in the categories which match the next census of John's new family. The woman is Mrs. William Johnson with a boy over six and a girl under six. The only comment about her in the remarks section says she was from "the Indian Dept."

So, was Mrs. Johnson John's first wife? Lacking any better information at this time, we might conclude she is at least the best candidate. Further, the two children may well have adopted the surname Singer and were the Peter Singer and Mary Singer who first appear in the records about ten years later.

As the government in Montreal struggled to cope with the refugee problem, the authorities encouraged the formation of self-sustaining family groups. To put it bluntly, orphans, widows and single females were inconvenient individuals to have in the camps. This was simply a practical consideration of the fact that tens of thousands of refugees were to be settled as homesteaders in the west. John was a single male and there were many single females in the camps, all of whom were wards of the government. The camp authorities were looking for solutions, and these people were "encouraged" to pair up if they wanted to leave for the frontier. So, did John find a congenial (at least willing) unattached woman? Probably yes. John, at 18, was now of age and eight years of camp life would be enough for anyone.

This conjecture seems reasonable in view of the next record of John Singer (one month later) appearing in Folio 163, Page 198 of the Haldimand Papers, dated February, 1784. The list is Return of unincorporated Loyalists desirous of settling in Canada 7th February 1784. John, 18 years old, is now listed as "Head of family plus 1 woman, 1 male child over 6 years and 1 female child under 6." John has clearly married a woman who is somewhat older than he and who has two small children.

The new John Singer family was then transported to Newark (now Niagara). They were there for some time as a long list dated 14 December 1786, Drawing provisions as refugees at Newark[15] includes John with a family of one female adult, one male child over ten years and one female child under ten years -- a total of four people drawing rations[16].

This evidence therefore suggests that John was married in 1784 in Montreal just prior to setting forth on the journey west. No record of the names of the mother or of the two children has yet been found. However, since the boy was over six in 1784 and over ten in 1786, we may deduce from that bracket that he was born sometime between 1776 and 1778, and that his sister was born about 1780.

John and his new family were first settled temporarily in Newark. In spite of being a documented loyalist, John was not awarded a homestead land grant. His age at time of enlistment and lack of direct military service may have had some bearing on this since the land grants were awarded in 100-acre units largely on the basis of military service and rank, or of skills one brought to the new communities. John is not known to have had a marketable skill at that time, such as blacksmith or as a miller, or even as a farmer. In any event, by 1789, he was living in what was to become Clinton Township, possibly as a hired hand on a farm, learning the skills. This date is known, thus making John Singer one of the pioneering settlers of the area.

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A Side Trip to the Peter Singer Family

While the identities of John's new wife and her children remain unknown, there are two individuals who do not meet the birth dates criteria but are tempting to consider. They are Peter Singer, known to have been born in 1790[17], and Mary Singer, born about 1784. They simply appear on the scene, and given the extensive records of the period, it is a puzzlement as to where they fit in.

Mary Singer married John Austin 15 December 1805. No further record of either is known.

It is Peter Singer who is important to the local history of the Niagara frontier since he was the founder of a large branch of the Singer family. It might even be said that virtually all Singers who claim ancestry to the frontier do so either to John or to Peter. Were they related? That's a major question that requires further local research. Before leaving the subject of Peter, we would be remiss not to note his family in this record.

Peter Singer (1790-1869) and Mary Barnes Singer (1796-1868) had nine children:

   Phoebe Singer    1815-?
   William Singer   1817-1895  m. Elizabeth Rinker
   George Singer    1819-1858  m. Maria ?
   Peter Singer     1822-1893  m. Nancy Rinker
   Mary Singer      1824-?     m. Elisa Eastman
   Emauel Singer    1833-1899  m. Maria Barber
   Sara Singer      1833-?
   MaryJane Singer  1835-1911  m. Uriah Burger
   James Singer     1838-1927  m. Emeline Flommerfelt

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John's Second Family

The next known date of John's life in Canada is his marriage 4 March 1795 to Susannah Overholt, oldest daughter of Staats Overholt, a successful farmer and Mennonite settler. This suggests that John's wife had died in 1793 or 1794. When John and Susannah were married in 1795, he was 29 and she was 21 years old. At the time of this second marriage, John's adopted son would have been about 20 and the little girl about 15 years old.

While John was a legitimate loyalist, having served with the British forces in the Revolutionary War, he was a minor child at the time. Apparently he was never able to satisfy the local authorities of this for John did not receive land for his service when it was first being allocated to service men.

In fact, this would have been impossible since John had not yet taken the oath of allegiance to the Crown, a requisite for any grant of land. In late 1796, he finally was able to take care of that.

On 20 October 1796. John petitioned the Administrator of Upper Canada[18] for a grant of 200 acres, requesting Lot 15 Concession #7 as follows:



   The petition of John Singer
   Humbly herewith
   That your petitioner has resided in the Province
   seven years and never received any land; that he
   is now married to a daughter of Staats Overholt
   of the Township of Clinton and being desirous to
   settle on lands of his own prays your Honor would
   be pleased to grant him two hundred acres. And
   your petitioner as is duty bound will ever pray.
                                his
                           John  X  Singer
                               mark

It took five years for this petition to be reviewed. On 16 July 1802 the petition was finally referred to the Executive Council where it lay for two more years:

Council Chambers
16 August 1804

The petitioner now having appeared and new regulations having taken place since the presenting of this petition, recommend that it be dignified.

Susannah also was granted some land. In Upper Canada Land Petitions, Bundle 5, #109, appears the entry:

Susannah Singer, of Clinton, 1800, daughter of Staats Overholt, wife of John Singer, all of Clinton, She of 26 years old. Recommended
.

This is the only record extant telling us Susannah Overholt was born in 1774.

In the ensuing years, John served in the local militia.The Haldimand Papers, page 164, state that John Singer served 6 weeks in First Regiment, Lincoln Militia, April-May, 1813.

The Lincoln Militia Return, 1818 states that John Singer served in Capt. Wm. Crooks' Company, 4th Regiment, Lincoln Militia, June 1818. He is listed with his father-in-law, Staats Overholt, as Menonist.

Niagara District Census for 1828, Clinton Township, lists John Singer Sr. family as one adult male, one adult female and three females over 16 years. John Jr. is listed separately as one male, one female and one female over 16 years.

The family lived their adult years on a farm near the small village that was to become Beamsville. Early in the year 1800, the first chronicle in Clinton Township records that 66 farmers met and devised 66 different styles of ear cropping and nicking as distinctive markings for their cattle, sheep and hogs, all of which were permitted to run at large.

Three years after the establishment of Clinton Township, the little village of Beamsville was founded. One of the early settlers was Jacob Beam, a loyalist who arrived in 1788. Jacob operated a grist mill and saw mill on Thirty Mile Creek. He gave the land to establish a Mennonite church which became the First Baptist Church, the oldest in Ontario. Beam, Staats Overholt and others built a log hut to house their tiny congregation at first. A brick building was erected in 1803, with the present brick church constructed in 1858. In the graveyard adjoining the church lie many pioneers.

The Clinton Township census for 1842 (the year of John's death) indicates a prosperous community and a thriving town of Beamsville. It tells us that John and Susannah are living on Lot 19 Concession #1 along with Ephraim and his family, a total of eight people. Beamsville was then a town of 53 houses with a village population of 331 people. Surrounding the town were about 200 farms with 1,843 people.

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End of a Long Life

Susannah died in 1838, and John followed in 1842. John is buried in the Baptist Church Cemetery, Beamsville, Ontario.[19] The grave is Row 4-D, in the northeast corner of the cemetery. His grave is beneath the existing church building. Only a fraction of the old graves have been identified in this cemetery, but there is no reason to doubt that Susannah lies next to John, and that Staats and Susannah Overholt are nearby.

The gravestone is remarkably well preserved for being more than 150 years old. It has been moved, of course, from the original site. For many years, the marker was considered lost until it appeared buried in a pile of old markers behind the church. The old marker[20] has been preserved, with others, mounted in a nice grouping in the center of the cemetery as a memorial to the old pioneers.

John Singer's will includes an item showing something of the nature of John and Susannah. There is a legacy to Jane Morgan of "one good bed and bedding, one cow and six Pounds Five Shillings." Jane was a daughter of Rev. Thomas Morgan, a Welshman who came to The United States in 1817, then to Canada in 1824. He was pastor of the Beamsville Baptist Church for three years until his death in 1827 at age 40, probably following a long illness, leaving wife and children.[21] It appears that Jane went to live with John and Susannah at least until John's death. The fact that John and Susannah took her in while then in their seventies speaks very well of their character.

John Singer's will[22] is dated 1836 and was probated in 1842. It identifies John as the eldest son. John Jr. was then 37 and was married and had since moved to Brant County. His legacy was 150 Pounds "payable in yearly payments [of] Twelve Pounds Ten Shillings." The home farm and all his possessions were left "to my loving wife Susannah during her widowhood" and upon her death to his son, Ephraim. Since the will was written in 1836, that clause was never implemented as Susannah died in 1838, four years before John. The home farm was identified in the will as parts of Lots number 17, 18 and 19 in the First Concession in Clinton Township. John also left his goods and chattels to his nine daughters, share and share alike.

John's will is a valuable document in that it identifies his entire family by name, i.e. his wife, Susannah, two sons John and Ephraim, and "my nine daughters, namely Deborah, Mary, Elizabeth, Nancy, Susannah, Margaret, Hannah, Catherine and Caroline." Of these, there is no further record of Susannah. Very likely, Margaret is the Eleanor Singer, born about 1798 in Clinton Township, who married David Crosby.[23]

John and Susannah lived a long and contented life together for 47 years and had eleven children:

   Deborah Singer    1796-?    m. George Bartram
   Mary Singer       1798-1882 m. Spencer Carle
   Elizabeth Singer  1799-1871 m. Alva Foster
   Nancy Singer      1800-1864 m. Isaac Howie
   John Singer       1805-1857 m. Elizabeth Marsales
   Susannah Singer   1807-?
   Margaret Singer   1798-?    m. David Crosby
   Hannah Singer     1811-1885 m. Garrett Dean
   Catherine Singer  1812-1897 m. Ira Couse
   Caroline Singer   1813-1870 m. Samuel Dean
   Ephriam Singer    1814-1867 m. Margaret Snyder

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Ephriam Singer ( 1814 - 1867 )

Margaret Snyder (1815 - 1896 )

Ephraim appears on the "Return of Volunteers and Drafted Men of the 4th Regiment of Lincoln Militia" as Drafted Private. This document is noted as Headquarters, Grimsby, 31st January 1841. On the same list appear Mark Overholt and Cornelius Overholt.

Ephraim Singer is listed in the 1841 Clinton Township, Clinton County census as Farmer, married, with 6 dependents. That would be Ephraim and Mary, their three oldest children and John and Susannah. He and the family were living on the home farm with John and Susannah (listed in the census as Farmer with two dependents). Ephraim was obviously working the farm, since his father was by then 75 years old. Upon his father's death in 1842, Ephraim inherited the farm.[24]

In 1852 Ephraim sold part of the home farm in Lincoln County to the Great Western Railway which was acquiring the rights of way for its line from Hamilton to Niagara. In 1856 he sold the rest to a Henry Konckle.

In the 1851 census, Ephraim had moved to Zorra, East Oxford. Ephraim Singer appears as "Yeoman Farmer" age 37 with his family, Margaret 35, Eli 15, Jane 12, John 10, William 8, Thomas 5, and Rachel 3.

By 1861 he had moved to Louth Township where he appears in Enumeration District 2, as farmer born in Canada. He is 47 years old, and with him are Margaret 47, Eli 25, Jane 22, John 20, William 18, Thomas 15, Rachel 12, Albert 9, Absolom (Alvah) 5, and Phoebe age 3.

The 1871 Census of Louth Twp., Div. 2, page 15 now shows Margaret Singer at age 56, Rachel 21, Albert 17, Absolom 15 and Phoebe age 13. This census reflects the fact Ephraim died in 1867 at age 53.

Margaret Snyder Singer died in 1896 at age 81.

Ephriam and Margaret had nine children:

   Eli Singer     1834-1908 m. Caroline Slough
   Jane Singer    1840-1921 m. Alfred Stanton
   John Singer    1841-1923 m. Catharine Reese
   William Singer 1842-1909 m. Isabelle Hopkins
   Thomas Singer  1846-?    m. Jane ?
   Rachel Singer  1849-?
   Albert Singer  1852-1909 m. Lydia Myers
   Alva Singer    1855-?
   Phoebe Singer  1857-?    m. Elisha Staff

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Eli Singer 1834-1908)

Caroline Slough ( 1842-1934 )



Eli married, on 22 January 1862 Caroline Slough, daughter of George Slough and Dorothy Terryberry. They had nine children, four of whom as adults moved to the United States for work: John went to Niagara Falls NY where he was a salesman, Cyrus also to Niagara Falls as a laborer, and James and Harmon to Detroit MI.

In the 1871 Census 297, Pages 73 & 74 Sub. Dist. F, Grimsby Twp. Div #2, we find Eli listed age 37, a Baptist, farmer, born in Ontario of German heritage, and his family, Caroline age 27, Georgianna 9, John Edgar 6, Joseph L. 4, and Lydia Caroline age 1.

The 1891 Census of Grimsby Twp. District 129 on Microfilm #T-6378 lists Eli at age 56, Caroline 49, James 17, Cyrus 13, Harmon 10, and Alice M age 8.

My recollection of my grandparents is right at the edge of my memory. We lived in Niagara Falls NY and as a small child I periodically learned that we would be "going up to Grimsby" (in Canada). To me, in the early 1920s, it was a great lark. It was always for a funeral. The numerous family elders were ageing and funerals were about the only time they saw each other anymore. The reason I was overjoyed was that we did not have a car, so would be taking the 30-mile trip with Uncle Jack (John Singer) who had the only car in the family. Uncle Jack was looked up to as a successful man. He was a salesman and was always natally dressed.

There were many experiences for a little boy at grandma's house. It was a small, cheap house but amazingly it is still there and occupied. Reworked a little, of course, but what a memory when I saw it again recently! It was grayed wood siding with a tiny porch. The downstairs had the living room and her bedroom with a lean-to addition that was the kitchen. Behind that was the woodshed for her wood stove and heater. The lot sloped downward to the back, with a path leading to the outhouse amongst a number of old fruit trees. You can imagine how fascinating that was to a 5-year old -- that 1925 high tech kid who had a bathroom inside his house! The privy was a two-holer, with a little wood bracket that was kept filled with old newspapers.

While the outside was fun to explore, I was totally intimidated inside. I remember staying close to my mother's skirts looking around the living room filled with old people talking about things that were outside my little world. Most of them were the women of the family, the widows left behind. They would invariably be wearing a long black dress with a huge skirt and topped with a black hat I always thought was a cloth bowl.

We sometimes stayed overnight, and that was most fun of all. I'd go two houses down the street to Aunt Annie's (Georgianna Singer Anderson) where I'd be put down in a featherbed!

I've often wondered at the power of memory. My lifetime has been full of marvelous experiences and people, many of which are forgotten. But those trips to grandma's are still with me, seventy years later.

Eli lived in South Grimsby for many years where he was a farmer. He died in April 1908. The newspaper account reads as follows:

On Wednesday evening, April 22, 1908 Grimsby lost an old and highly respected citizen in the person of Mr. Eli Singer who died at his home on Doran Ave. after being ill nearly all winter. He was 74.

Caroline lived on for many years a widow, passing away in 1934 at the age of 92.

They had nine children, all born in Grimsby, Ontario:

   Georgianna Singer 1862-1944 m. Robert Anderson
   John Singer       1864-1940 m. Nellie Sykes
   Joseph Singer     1866-1915 m. Rosanna Penfold
   Lydia Singer      1870-1945 m. Harry Brown
   James Singer      1871-1944 m. Catherine Johnston
   Sarah Singer      1873-1946 m. Norman Foster
   Cyrus Singer      1876-1956 m. Sabina Bodecker
   Harmon Singer     1881-1937 m. Pearl Johnson
   Alice Singer      1883-1964 m. Loyal Piper

 

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Cyrus Singer (1876 - 1956 )

Sabina Bodecker ( 1883 - 1965 )



While both Cyrus and Sabina were born in Canada, they came to the USA as young people in search of work. Niagara Falls NY was the largest city in the area, and the industrial revolution which regenerated America in the final years of the nineteenth century had profound effect on the local economy. With the attraction of abundant cheap power from the falls, a number of heavy industries had located there, with the requisite retinue of supporting industries and a burgeoning infrastructure.

Cyrus was typical of the "working man" which formed the backbone of the American workforce of the times. While honest and hardworking, he was an unskilled factory worker. During those decades, the term "laborer" described those countless millions of men who were the workers in the factories of industrial America.

Family lore and my recollections leave me with the impression that he was typical of the times. He followed the job market, and never stayed on one job for more than four or five years. But he was always working. I remember him at a wood working mill, then again at a foundry and later at a chemical plant. Looking back, I can see how that happened. There were no benefits beyond the Friday payday (he was always paid in cash, then), no job security and no unions to look after factory workers. So working became almost an itinerant existence, entirely dependent upon an employer's short term fortunes.

Women were in the same boat. Today, working women are considered to be a result of the "womens' liberation" movement of the 1970-1990 period. Not so completely; women were very much a part of the work force at the turn of the century. The difference was that women's "work" was rigidly proscribed within limits: only single women worked, and women never competed with men, particularly. Certain jobs were set aside for women, such as secretaries, nurses, teachers. My mother, as a late teenager worked at American Sales Book (now Moore Business Forms) in Niagara Falls. While men operated the printing presses and manufactured the product, a corps of women worked in the bindery department, obviously at manual labor level contrasted to the skilled (male) printers.

And finally, the women were all young, single girls. Once married, the job was lost and the career path of housewife and mother was underway.

Cyrus and Sabina probably met after their arrival in Niagara Falls. They were married 1 September 1902 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. This is an unexplained mystery, for while Cyrus was Protestant, Sabina (with Irish/German parents) was Catholic. She never returned to her family's church.

From 1903 to 1909 they had four children, then I came along in 1921. (I was always called the "family postscript"; my father was 45 years old and my mother was 38 when I was born). There were five children of this family:

   Mildred Singer 1903-1976  m. (1) Ernest Alderson
                             m. (2) Benjamin Foels
                             m. (3) Galo Blanco
   Helen Singer   1905-0906
   Doris Singer   1907-1917
   John Singer    1909-1991  m. (1) Corinne Mahoney
                             m. (2) Lucille Moran
   Eugene Singer  1921-      m. Elizabeth Wooster

Their second child, Helen, died at 10 months. I never learrned why.

Of greater significance to the family the was the loss of the third child, Doris Singer. I never knew her, but she was always spoken of with sadness later, suggesting she was a family favorite. I recall she was described as a sweet little girl who was always sadly happy. She was never very well, and died in 1917 at age 10. The reason given was ptomaine poison. In later years, I asked my doctor about that strange diagnosis, and he said that back then it was a common diagnosis when the doctor didn't know the real reason. Also, there was a major flu epidemic at the time which could have been a contributing factor that she just couldn't handle.

Mildred Singer was always the spirited one of that family. She was always taking chances. I remember one story of how on a dare she climbed the fence along the power company intake canal and walked the narrow concrete wall of the rushing water just yards away from the turbine blades. Crazy kids!

Mildred's most lasting escapade -- and, I think her last -- was running off to get married at age 16. She fell in love, eloped and went to live in Pennsylvania. I know little of Ernest Alderson except he was a one-legged barber. In 1920, their daughter, Doris Alderson was born. But the marriage didn't last; she was back home within a year. It was just in time to greet her new little brother, Eugene.

Cyrus Singer died in Cleveland in 1956; Sabina in 1965.

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Eugene Singer ( 1921 - )

Elizabeth Wooster ( 1921 - )

My life has been full and satisfying, but I'll cover only the early years up to World War II. The war was at the midpoint in this century, and significantly it separated the two halves into profoundly different economic and social periods. On one side there was the Great Depression, a period of economic distress when jobs and money were scarce, with social programs virtually non-existant in an atmosphere of high family values. The contrast after the war was almost immediate: a period of sustained economic growth with high wages amid a gaggle of social programs. This was in an atmosphere of the disintegration of the family and a pervasive cynical attitude, reaching its peak in the 1960s from which there has been little recovery.

This perspective is shared by most of my generation, and scorned by post war generations. But I'll tell my story, anyway.

I was born at home, in the upstairs main bedroom in the house located at 1811 Eighth Street, Niagara Falls NY. The house, a brick side-by-side duplex is still there. It was a pleasant early childhood for me. There were few toys; our play was mostly improvised from whatever was available. The women of the family, mom and Mildred, fussed over me; my father mostly ignored me while my older brother John harassed and teased me all the time. Looking back, I can see how the effect of these relational attitudes carried forward all my life.

The high point of this period for me was my first tricycle on my 4th birthday. It had a little bell, and I really felt I had become one of the big kids now. It wasn't all perfect, however. That same year I got a brand new winter coat. A few days later I tried to walk the curb alongside some street construction and fell spreadeagled into the wet cement. I was an adult with kids of my own before I really understood my mom's reaction to that.

The great depression came in the late 20s. Work, and therefore money became scarce. We had to move, and lived for a few months progressively with all available relatives in Niagara Falls. It seems I was lucky to spend one complete year in a school. Finally, when I was eight we went to Detroit to live a while with Uncle Jim (James Singer). My father got a short term job with Burroughs while I did the first half of third grade.

There was a job prospect in Cleveland, so we moved again, this time to live with Mildred and her new husband, Ben (Benjamin Foels). This was hog-heaven for my niece, Doris and I. Ben was manager of an ice cream plant, and it was all-you-can-eat time for us! Every night he'd bring home an ice cream cake or something equally exotic. I developed a love for ice cream I never outgrew.

My father got a job with the New York Central railroad as a section hand. It was hard work, and he was now about 55 years old. I recall how he'd get up at 5 AM in order to catch the particular streetcar sequence for the two-hour ride to East Cleveland. Then two hours back at night. But it was a job, and this was the depth of the depression. We lived sparingly under the management of my mother. I have vivid memories of men in battered clothes knocking at our back door asking for food in exchange for any odd job. My mother somehow always managed to fill a plate with something hot for them. I'll always remember sitting on the steps of our back porch talking with these men while they ate.

As the third grade neared its end, an event occurred that profoundly impacted my life. One day, a couple of people from the Cleveland Board of Education came to the house. They explained to my mom that they were starting a program for selected fourth graders of demonstrated potential. It would be called the "Major Work Class." It seems they had observed and tested all the third graders in the district (I never had a clue any of this was happening) and I was selected on the basis of my I.Q. of 132, and would she be willing to have me in that class?

It meant a new school for me, and well worth the mile walk both directions. The first day I found we'd all be in one room. It was like an old country school; there were thirty six of us, six in each of the next six grades. I was in 4-B, the youngest group, meaning I would be in that room with the same teacher, Miss Snook for the next three years. It was the most intellectually stimulating experience of my life, as our small class was smothered in exposures to new opportunities. We had our homeroom teacher, of course, but every week a phalanx of special teachers from downtown came to us. We learned French, we had an art teacher, a music teacher and even a teacher who taught us tap dancing. People with special talents would show up. I remember one time a real Indian came and made a beautiful sand painting on the floor of our room; another time Irene Tedrow, the stage actress came and did some funny monologues. Other times a teacher would come with a bus and we'd all go off to hear the Cleveland symphony, or a music or dance recital, or to see a Cleveland Indians baseball game, or it would be a trip to one of the museums downtown. Once it was a trip to hear an opera. But it wasn't all culture; there were the usual scrapes and bruises, and, of course, the requisite number of hours spent on that lonely chair in the hall outside the Principal's office. Her name was Miss Money; I always thought she was rich. Our major work group stayed together through high school.

About 1937, my mother and father divorced. It was an unhappy time as we struggled through the depression. I suspect the problem was worry over money compounded by his drinking. Not unusual, even today.

My mother remarried soon thereafter to Jesse Robinson. He was a good man who was extremely good to her and for her. She deserved him. They lived a calm and contented life for about ten years to his death from cancer only a few months after he retired.

After the war, Cyrus Singer also remarried. He was nearly seventy by then, and his marriage to Hazel Leahy was good.

Finishing up high school, I resolved to organize my own life. I was under pressure to "get a job at the mill". I couldn't blame my parents. It was the late thirties, and coming off the terrible depression years the work ethic was strong in everyone's lives. But college had been my goal for quite some time. By now I knew I had to go off on my own rather than living at home. I had a small job at the library since sophomore year and had saved every cent I earned. I graduated in February and continued at the library until September. So it was that I left Cleveland for good, and entered the University of Michigan in 1939.

For the future, it's in the hands of our children:

  Teresa Singer     1942-     m. Alan Boulton
  David Singer      1947-     m. Kathleen Edwards
  Lawrence Singer   1950-
  Alexandra Singer  1952-     m. Hervey Brown

And our six grandchildren:

Teresa (Tracy) has two children:

Adrienne Boulton b. 1962
Craig Boulton b. 1963

David has two children:

Jeffrey Singer b. 1975
Michael Singer b. 1976

Alexandra has two children:

Gregory Brown b. 1982
Patrick Brown b. 1986






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FOOTNOTES

[1] Click here to return to text.New York Historical Society for 1891, (Vol. 24, page 290).

[2] Click here to return to text. Genealogical Publishing Company, "Records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, New York, 1683-1809," Excerpts from year books of the Holland Society of New York. Pages 5, 52, 49, 69, and 28.

[3] Click here to return to text.Since John Singer took up land in Pownal in the early 1760s, his deed was surely recorded in Albany, New York.

[4] Click here to return to text."Documentary History of New York" ,Volume XIV, O'Callaghan, Dated New York, 18 December 1765.

[5] Click here to return to text. This name appears regularly in proceeding such as this. Robinson, in short, seems to have been the "hatchetman" for the absentee New Hampshire crowd.

[6] Click here to return to text."State Papers of Vermont," Volume 8, General Petitions, 1778-1787, pages 5 and 67.

[7] Click here to return to text."Rolls of the Soldiers in The Revolutionary War," State of Vermont, 1904

[8] Click here to return to text."Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War," A compilation from State archives, prepared and published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1906, page 263.

[9] Click here to return to text."Rolls of the Soldiers in the Revolutionary War," State of Vermont, page 218.

[10] Click here to return to text.The document title is "Number of men that joined Lieut. Col. John Peters in the Campaign Commanded by Lieut. General John Burgoyne and not included in provision or pay abstract. The following men joined 25th June and left the Corps 22d August 1777."

[11] Click here to return to text.The Bennington Battlefield State Historical Site is located near N.Y. State Route 22 about five miles northwest of the City of Bennington. State boundaries established after the war placed the battlefield in New York about one mile from the border.

[12] Click here to return to text.In 1793, Governor Simcoe renamed the town Newark upon formation of the first seat of government. Even this name was eventually discarded.

[13] Click here to return to text.Equally interesting is the plight of the refugees to be examined, e.g. "a sickly family," "a girl of 16 years unfit for service," "a distressed sickly family," "infirm" and so on. Refugees from warfare have faced the same problems the world over and of every age in time.

[14] Click here to return to text.Several researchers have identified this woman as Nancy Arnold, but the record is clear her name was Nancy Roland. Note both names contain the same six letters.

[15] Click here to return to text.Newsletter of Niagara Peninsula Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, St. Catharines, Vol. IV, No. 4, November 8, 1984.

[16] Click here to return to text.The frequent head counts taken of the refugees was for the purpose of issuing rations, thus determining the amount of food to be allocated to the regiments and battalions into which the refugees were organized. Adult males were counted as one ration, adult females and children were counted as one-half ration. In such a system, infants were not counted.

[17] Click here to return to text.Inscription on tombstone in Quaker Cemetery, Pelham.

[18] Click here to return to text."Upper Canada Land Petitions" , Bundle 5, #109

[19] Click here to return to text.Dawdy, Marion Whitman, "Baptists of Beamsville 1788-1988," Beamsville Baptist Church, 1988.

[20] Click here to return to text.The inscription, clearly legible, confirm's John birth year as 1766, stating he "departed this life February 8, 1842. In the 76th year of His age."

[21] Click here to return to text.Carnohan, "Annals of Niagara", page 92, Beamsville Baptist Cemetery.

[22] Click here to return to text.Clinton Will Book 4318, Will number 683.

[23] Click here to return to text.Town records of Grimsby. Married 22 October 1816 by Robert Nelles, Justice of the Peace.

[24]The "Home farm" was identified in John Singer's will as Lots 17,18 and 19 of Concession One. This was not the land that either John or Susannah had received from the Crown as a homestead grant. The lots of the home farm comprising 300 acres were first granted in 1797 to Isaac Swayze, and passed from his ownership to others then to John Singer.