SINGLETON, GEORGE, army officer and merchant; b. c. 1750 in Ireland; d. 21 Sept. 1789 at Fredericksburgh (North and South Fredericksburgh, Ont.).
A merchant, presumably in the province of New York, George Singleton joined the British cause early in the American revolution and may have served in the defence of Quebec during the siege of 1775–76. In June 1776 he was commissioned lieutenant in the King’s Royal Regiment of New York (KRRNY), under the command of Sir John Johnson*. He served in Barrimore Matthew St Leger’s Mohawk valley expedition in 1777 and was wounded and taken prisoner during the siege of Fort Stanwix (Rome, N.Y.). Local histories link Singleton with an alleged “act of shameful cruelty”; he is said to have encouraged his Indian allies to kill some prisoners. In the spring of 1778 he was allowed to go to Canada, but he remained on parole at Montreal for two years. Returning to duty in 1780 he was appointed captain in the 2nd battalion KRRNY, commanded by John Ross, and was at Carleton Island, N.Y., in October 1780, possibly his introduction to the Cataraqui (Kingston) and Bay of Quinte area. In July 1782 he joined Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*] on a scouting expedition to the Mohawk valley. His journal of that moderately successful journey indicates that he was a man of some education and ability. He maintained good relations with the Indians and together he and Brant obtained 224 cattle for them and the garrison at Oswego, N.Y.
When hostilities ended he received land in the Cataraqui area, settling in Fredericksburgh Township. In July 1784, along with Edward Jessup* and John Stuart*, he successfully petitioned the government to delay drastic reduction of rations for the loyalists. Initially Singleton was more interested in trade than in acquiring a large landed estate. There is strong evidence to suggest that he had a trading post near the mouth of the Sagonaska (Moira) River in Thurlow Township in the summer of 1785; he was thus among the earliest settlers and was the first resident merchant at what is now Belleville, Ont. Israel Ferguson, his brother-in-law, was his trading partner. Singleton’s residence-trading post on the Sagonaska was a primitive but comfortable log building. He continued to spend time also at his Fredericksburgh residence. In 1788 he was appointed justice of the peace for the Mecklenburgh District.
The “Hungry Year” of 1788, caused by drought and a poor crop and complicated by a severe winter, had disastrous consequences for Singleton. His customers were unable to make payments and he was obliged to mortgage or sell land. Since he had never claimed the full officer’s allowance of 3,000 acres, he petitioned the government in August 1789 for 2,100 acres directly across from his trading post, in what is now Prince Edward County. Before the government could respond tragedy struck. Early in September Singleton set out by bateau for Kingston, where he was to obtain trading goods and to appear as a defendant in a civil court case. He was taken ill en route, and despite medical attention from the Mohawks at Tyendinaga (near Napanee) and a Kingston doctor, he died at his home in Fredericksburgh. Singleton was interred on 23 Sept. 1789, by the Reverend John Langhorn*. He was survived by his wife Nancy (Ferguson?) and his son John.
The river and location in Thurlow had been given the names Singleton’s Creek and Singleton’s and continued to be known in this way until the mid 1790s. Singleton’s untimely death, perhaps as a result of the privations of the “Hungry Year,” meant that the river and site soon took on their modern names. After 1810 his family moved to Murray Township in neighbouring Northumberland County, where his son and his grandchildren were prominent early settlers.
BL, Add. mss 21785, 21829. Corby Public Library (Belleville, Ont.), Hastings County Hist. Soc. coil., Singleton family papers. PAC, RG 1, L5, 34. PAO, Canniff (William) papers, package 9, Notes concerning the early settlers of Belleville and Prince Edward County; Cartwright family papers, Ezra Stephens to F. M. Hill, 23 Nov. 1852; RG 1, C-IV, Fredericksburgh Township papers, abstract index; Pittsburgh Township papers, abstract index; Sidney Township papers, abstract index; Thurlow Township papers, abstract index. PRO, WO 17/1574; 28/5, ff.5, 215 (mfm. at PAC).
Orderly book of Sir John Johnson during the Oriskany campaign, 1776–1777 . . . , ed. W. L. Stone (Albany, N.Y., 1882), 13. PAO Report, 1917, 203–4. “Rev. John Langhorn’s records, 1787–1813: burials,” OH, I (1899), 59–63. William Canniff, History of the settlement of Upper Canada (Ontario) with special reference to the Bay Quinte (Toronto, 1869; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1971). Ont., Dept. of Planning and Development, Moira valley conservation report (Toronto, 1950). J. A. Scott, Fort Stanwix (Fort Schuyler) and Oriskany . . . (sesquicentennial ed., Rome, N.Y., 1927), 197. E. A. Cruikshank, “The King’s Royal Regiment of New York,” OH, XXVII (1931), 193–323. R. V. Rogers, “The first commission of the peace for the district of Mecklenburg,” OH, VIII (1907), 49–78.