By Bob Mersbach
For many yearsbefore we retired to Saugatuck in 1986, we vacationed here at a house on Spear Street ownedby my mother. On the first evening of each stay my wife, Dory, and I took MissAlice "Alice" Baker, who lived next door, on a sunset drive along thelakeshore. She loved those drives and always looked forward to our arrival.
My mother and Elita Graves, another neighbor, always wondered how old Alice was, but, along withall the others, never discover her age; until one of our sunset drives. Allieused to tell us about the old days in Saugatuck. She watched the Big Pavilionbeing built in 1909 and saw the new Kalamazooriver channel under construction in 1906 and we learned about some veryinteresting local history from her.
One evening onthe drive she mentioned old Singapore and said that when she was a girl 17years old, way back in 1888, she walked on low sand dunes into the open windowsof the second story of structures still there and not yet completely buried.Bingo! It was fascinating to hear and we could hardly wait to get back to thehouse to tell my mother that Alice Baker was born in 1871. This happened in theearly 1950s, so she was already in her 80s.
In 1987 (100years after Allie was there) we were in a group of people on an Audubonchartered trip on the Queen of Saugatuck (later called Star of Saugatuck) whichsailed to the Broward Marine dock, and discharged the passengers. We were thenpermitted to walk around the Singaporesite and keep any relics we could find. On that trip we found some square nailsand pieces of sand-blown and rounded bricks.
Back in theearly years of the Dune Schooner rides, the passengers were driven all the wayto the beach. along the beach, on a trail beside theNorth Pier and over the Singaporesite. Sometimes a number of old bricks could be seen; the guide always saidthey were from the old Singapore Bank.
Map of thearea from an 1873 Atlas
A Worker Writes Home
A letter written by Charles Hinkle, a Singapore worker about 1837, to his father,William J. Hinkle of Eckford, was discovered in the1980s serving as insulation in an old western Michigan home. It is now in the collectionof the Michigan StateRegional Archives at Kalamazoo,but portions of it are missing, and other parts are riddled with nail holes.However, the readable parts still offer a wonderful glimpse of early Singapore. Theletter was transcribed by Charles J. Lorenz, an early president of theSaugatuck Douglas Historical Society.
... I would recommend you ... shall gobuy stuff enough to put ... beds. Ask for Millersnett,it comes... pr yard. anything will do for the top partthat hangs below the bedstead. Let about 3 feet of the net stuff and about 18inches of something else below. Make a frame . hang it to the joist over head by 4 strings, then it iscomplete, they all have them here. [Thisappears to be a plan for mosquito netting.]
I enjoy thebest of health. I hope you do the same. Am better pleased with this place thanI thought I would. About 2 miles from the mouth of the river, where we boardedfirst, is a village that is called Newark. There is anIndian burial ground there with about 200 graves in it. There is a great manyIndians about here of the Ottawatribe.
Singapore, our place, is coming on slowly but will becomea great place no doubt. There is ... but 4 hands on the job. It lies about 1/2mile by water from the lake and matchlessly beautiful. We board with one Ben Plummer, he lives about 2 miles from where we work. We arebuilding a large house at present. when finished wewill board on the ground. At present, our board and lodging is very good. Idon't know whether Wilder pays 3 or 4 dollars each week. I don't know what theyintend selling lots as yet. If they are reasonable, I think we must have about2 of them. There has been 2 or 3 vessels in here sincewe have been here.
Ca1840 Big House at Singapore
... Allegan is a [ ? ] ... they get all their goodsup this river with considerable lots of goods landed here. I've learned theyhave a large steam boat that runs regular up & down. We have 2 small boatsowned by Mr. Wilder. We can sail about... There is not a day but we see Indianbark canoe loads of Indians going in and out of our river. They ... are nowgoing down the Lake to Mackinaw to spend thesummers.. .
Please send to me by the first chance ... that little box of camel hairbrushes and pencils that lays on the garret at thefoot of my bed for painting signs.
My respects toMother, Rebecca and all of you and may God bless you and keep you well.