Singapore, Michigan

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Singapore during its heyday.
Michigan Historic marker commemorating Singapore.

Singapore is a ghost town in Michigan, United States. It was a casualty of erosion after the surrounding woods were deforested—exacerbated by the need for lumber to rebuild several Midwestern cities and towns ravaged by fires in 1871. Its ruins now lie buried beneath the sand dunes of the Lake Michigan shoreline at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck Township, near the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas in Allegan County.

It was founded in 1836 by New York land speculator Oshea Wilder, who was hoping to build a port town to rival Chicago and Milwaukee.[1] At its height, the town boasted of three mills, two hotels, several general stores, and a bank, and was home to Michigan's first schoolhouse. In total, the town consisted of 23 buildings and two sawmills.[2]

Bank scandal[edit]

Notes from the Bank of Singapore.

In 1838, two short-lived "wildcat" banks were established in Allegan County: the Bank of Allegan and the Bank of Singapore.[3] They both issued their own banknotes and were required to hold enough hard currency (specie) to cover at least 1/3 of the circulating banknotes. However, neither Singapore nor Allegan was at that level.

By 1838, over $50,000 in Singapore notes had been placed in circulation. Shortly after the Civil War, Singapore and many other Michigan banks were involved in a bank scandal. Inspectors required them to produce the specie to support their notes and when they were unable to do so they were dissolved.

From time to time collectors come across notes issued by the Singapore Bank. There are a few known full sheets of the notes before they were cut into individual notes, sometimes signed and sometimes unsigned by the bank president or authorized personnel at the time.[4]

40-day blizzard[edit]

The 40-Day Blizzard of 1841 might very well have wiped out the people of Singapore, had it not been for the shipwreck of the Milwaukie just off its shore. The food with which that ship was stocked nourished the people of Singapore until the blizzard blew over.[5]

Change of ownership[edit]

Wilder deserted the town in 1846, moving back to Calhoun County. James Carter of New York bought out Wilder's interest in the town and moved there to oversee his investment. It was only two years after that that Carter sold the town to his brother, Artemas, and Francis B. Stockbridge.[6] Artemas was more innovative than his brother, and very soon after arriving, he and Stockbridge built the first three-masted schooner on Lake Michigan, dubbed the Octavia, to carry lumber from Singapore to Chicago.[7] Carter was bought out by Stockbridge in 1850 and the decade proved to be one of prosperity for Stockbridge and the town,[6] which boasted a population of several hundred people by 1871.

Singapore's demise[edit]

Houses being covered by sand dunes

After the fires swept through Chicago, Holland, Peshtigo, and Manistee in late 1871, the area around Singapore was almost completely deforested supplying lumber for rebuilding. Without the protective tree cover, the winds and sands coming off Lake Michigan quickly eroded the town into ruins and within four years had completely covered it.[8] The town was vacated by 1875.

Today, Singapore lives on only in the name of the Singapore Yacht Club, which is at one end of town. Just as the "cow kicking over the lantern" story was born out of the Great Chicago Fire, this event also gave birth to a legend. The story persists that one resident of Singapore refused to move, even as the sand enveloped his home. Eventually, he had to enter and leave the dwelling by a second-floor window, and he stayed until the sand reached the roof.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brennan, James (2009). "Singapore, Michigan". Michigan Historical Markers. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  2. ^ "Singapore". Ghost Towns. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  3. ^ Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan (1881). Report of the Pioneer Society. Vol. III. W. S. George & Co. p. 273 – via Google Books. |volume= has extra text (help)
  4. ^ "Singapore Michigan Obsolete Bank Notes: The Story".
  5. ^ "Michigan Tours". Pure Michigan. Archived from the original on March 20, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Starring, Charles R. (Winter 1953). "Singapore: Michigan's Imaginary Pompeii (Part One)". National Museum of the Great Lakes. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  7. ^ Keith, Jim (August 14, 2020). "Michigan ghost towns". Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Royce, Julie Albrecht (2007). Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast. Dog Ear Publishing. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9781598583212 – via Google Books.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°40′39″N 86°12′20″W / 42.67750°N 86.20556°W / 42.67750; -86.20556