James Singleton

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     Who were the parents of James? Who were his children? Where and when did he come to America? Where are the records or evidence that show James is connected to our Singleton family? These questions have been asked many times. Several Singleton researchers have sought answers to these questions for more than twenty years. James Singleton has become the "brick wall" for our family.

     Most genealogists have that one person they refer to as "my brick wall." This inevitably is the ancestor who leaves little or no paper trail, which makes it much more difficult to connect that one person to the family tree. Unlike most "brick walls’ James left an extensive paper trail. Unfortunately the documents located thus far do not identify the children of James and his wife, Anna Marguerita (Annaritta) Spruill. Hopefully, someday we will discover that one document that provides concrete evidence to connect James to our Singleton family. This narrative is written to describe what we do know of James and Annarita. Readers can study the sources and documentation of information in the chronological report for James.

Historical Background

     Our search for the parents of James is being focused on the eight Singletons who emigrated from England before 1715. All Singletons migrating from England from 1607 to 1776 were extracted from the three volumes of Peter Wilson Coldham. The following Singletons were in the colonies prior to 1715: (1) June 6, 1635 John Singleton, London to Virginia, (2) August 18, 1662 James Singleton of St. Olave, Southwark was reprieved from prison and then transported from England to Barbados. He made the journey with 25 others who were also reprieved. (3) September 15-22, 1675 John Singleton from London to Maryland. John died prior to September 1678. His heir was Mary Harden. (4) August 3-18, 1677 John London to Maryland, (5) August 13 to September 14, 1677 Charles from London to Virginia, (6) 1683 to 1685 Robert an apprentice age 42 no location listed, (7) April 9 to 28, 1686 John from London to Carolina, (8) March 29 to April 20, 1690 John from London to Carolina and (9) November 9, 1699 apprenticed to Richard from Liverpool to Virginia.

     Our search for James is focused in the Proprietor Period of North Carolina. The first permanent English settlers from the tidewater area of southeastern Virginia began to move south in 1650 into the Albemarle region of Eastern Carolina along the Pamlico River. Settlement in North Carolina increased more rapidly after 1663 through Lord Proprietors Grants. Charles II granted a charter dated 1663 to eight English gentlemen who had helped him regain the throne of England. These political friends became known the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. They promoted settlement in North Carolina through land grants, which were given for special favors, service performed or money.

     James Singleton received one of the Lord Proprietor’s grants from John L. Carteret on October 11, 1716. The original grant has been located at the North Carolina State Archives. This 283-year-old document is available for patrons to actually hold and study. Words cannot adequately describe the magnificent penmanship of the beautiful lettering and scrolls used in writing this document It was a joy to receive a copy of this grant and to realize how fortunate we are that it has survived all these years with no torn edges, water damage or stains.

Early years in Chowan Precinct ~ Washington County

     The latest date James could have been born was 1696. The year of birth was estimated by subtracting 21 years, the age a man could sell land in his own name, from 1717, date James sold land for the first time. I believe he was born in the 1670s or 1680s. His father-in-law of Godfrey Spruill was born about 1650 so the next generation was born about 1670 to 1680.

     We know of the marriage of James to Anna Marguerita Spruill through a deed "double dated" January 23, 1720/21. Both James and his wife Annarita Singleton signed this deed to sell 100 acres to Joshua Turner. Marriage bonds were not in effect until 1741 and marriage licenses until 1868 so we are again fortunate to locate a deed that documents the marriage of James and Anna Marguerita.

     Anna Marguerita (Annaritta) Spruill was the daughter of Godfrey and Joanna Spruill. The Spruill family has been well researched and can be found in many texts on early North Carolina history. It appears Anna Marguerita first married John Stuart (Stewart) before 1701 and then Samuel Boutwell between 1705 to 1708. She was probably widowed prior to her father’s will dated August 5, 1718 Anna was not referenced by a married name but her sisters were in this will. Her son, Buttonhead Boutwell, born about 1709, was also listed as an heir. James Singleton witnessed the will of Godfrey Spruill dated August 5, 1718 along with neighbors Ann Davenport and Henry Norman. James and Annaritta probably married between 1718 and January 23, 1721.

     Even though we don’t know when James came to the colonies we do know he had settled in Chowan Precinct of the old Albermale County, North Carolina by 1715. This would be the present day Washington County. He was a planter and probably grew corn and tobacco, which were the typical crops in early North Carolina. James lived in Washington County about six years. He first purchased a 376-acre tract from Edward Phelps on July 17, 1715. This land was south of the Albermale Sound, west of the Scuppernong River and bounded by the Putatana (misspelled as Potato) Run.

     Two years later, James assigned these 376 acres to Godfrey Spruill and on the same day, July 30, 1717, he received an assignment of a patent for 180 acres from Godfrey Spruill. James kept this land for only about three and a half years before selling 100 acres of this tract to Joshua Turner on January 23, 1720/21 and 80 acres to John Davenport on January 28, 1720/21.

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1733 Moseley Map

Present Washington County, North Carolina


     By 1720 a chapel had been erected for the parishioners of the District on the 93 acres of the Lord Proprietor grant. The chapel was probably centrally located and fairly close for the parishioners to travel for worship. James deeded this one-acre to the parishioners on July 30, 1720 "where the chapel is now erected and built, on the West Side of the Scuppernong River at Spruill’s Back Landing on the South Shore." Joseph Spruill and Robert Hicks witnessed this deed. Joseph Spruill was the son of Godfrey and Robert Hicks was a neighbor. The chapel is shown on two old maps of North Carolina. First the 1733 map by Moseley (see portion of the map above) and also on the 1775 map by Henry Mouson.

     The Putatana (Potato) Run was also used as a boundary of the 93-acre tract of land obtained by James through the Lord Proprietor’s Grant. The grant was surveyed and laid out on December 19, 1715. It was signed and issued on October 11, 1716. The grant to James states he was given and granted the 93 acres so it is assumed he had performed a service to or received a special favor from the Right Honorable John L. Carteret. It probably was a minor service or favor since the amount of land granted was so small.

     This plat of land was described as "beginning at a pine tree same being a corner of John Davenport on Putatana Run thence, north 60 degrees west 660 feet to a pine, then southwest 2640 feet to a red oak, thence east 1287 feet to a red oak at Hopkins corner tree, thence along his line north 742 feet, thence north east 1072 feet to a gum on Putatana Run, thence, with the meanders of said Run to the first station." Below is a rough diagram of the deed. It is not drawn to scale but provides an idea of what the tract of land looked like.


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     James probably did not settle these 93 acres and allowed the grant to lapse. His brother-in-law, Samuel Spruill, received a lapse patent for this land from the court on April 4, 1722. Eventually this land passed to Joseph Spruill and the name of the chapel was identified through a Tyrrell County deed (Book 1, page 364) as St. Paul’s Chapel.

     By 1717, 336 families were enumerated on the tax list for Chowan Precinct. James was listed as owning 182 acres and only one taxable male was enumerated. He was the only Singleton listed in the precinct on this old tax list.

     From early tax lists, the will of Godfrey Spruill and court records we can extract a list of James’ neighbors and family members. The family members included: father-in-law, Godfrey Spruill, brother-in-law, Samuel Spruill who’s wife was Elizabeth and son was Godfrey, brother-in-law Cuthbert Phelps who was marred to Susannah Spruill and brother-in-law Joseph Spruill. Neighbors were Alice Long, widow of James Long, Edward Phelps, John Tarkington, John Hopkins, Robert Hicks and John Davenport.

     As a tythable male James was required by law to help build and maintain the road near his plantation. On March 29, 1718, Richard Burtonshall was appointed by the county court of pleas and quarter sessions, held at Queen Ann’s Creek (changed to Edenton in 1720) to be the overseer of the road from the Scuppernong River to the plantation of Mrs. Alice Long. Joseph Spruill, Samuell Spruill, Cutbert Phelps, Godfrey Spruill, Jr., John Davenport, James S(l)ingleton, Charles Cradock, John Fisher, Henry Normen, and Joseph Canings were ordered to clear and make the road. The plantations that were owned by these men were located along the South Shore Road.

Later years in Bath County ~ Beaufort County

     James and Anna Marguerita sold their land in Chowan Precinct in January 1721 to Joshua Turner and John Davenport and probably then moved from Chowan Precinct to Bath Precinct. James was listed on the 1717 Chowan Precinct tax list but not listed on the 1721 Chowan Precinct tax list. Court records and tax lists show he was in Bath County in 1722. Between July 30, 1722 and March 1723 the Court held at Edenton heard a suit brought by William Howett against James Singleton of Bath County which involved a debt of twenty two pounds and 10 shillings. James did not appear at the court held in Edenton on July 30, 1722 and October 30, 1722 to answer this charge. The suit was finally discontinued at the March 1723 court. We don’t know if James paid the debt or if the court found he did not owe money to William Howett.

     James was selected for jury duty in 1723 as a freeholder in Bath and Hyde Precincts. He also was selected to serve on the juries for the October 1725 and March 29, 1726 court held in Edenton. Juries were selected for service to the court by having their names drawn from the list of landowners during these years. To reach the courthouse in Edenton James had to travel on foot or by horse from his plantation to the shore of the Albermale Sound and then cross the sound by boat or around the end of the sound to Edenton. This journey and service on the jury was often a great hardship for plantation owners and they were given an option to default on their jury duty and pay a fine for failure to serve. James chose to this default option for his jury summons at the March 39, 1726 court and paid the fine of 30 shillings.

     In 1726 and 1727 James appeared to serve the district as a deputy marshal and he collected rent suits during these two years. Records show James Singleton, deputy marshal, was wounded and ‘dismembered’ in an assault by John Williams. On September 8, 1727, James brought suit against Williams for this assault. He pleaded guilty and received his sentence at the October court held in 1727.

     James purchased 340 acres of land in Beaufort Precinct in Bath County from James Turner. This deed was signed June 11, 1729. The land was located on the "North Side of the Pomptico River between two creeks were Edward Tranter formerly lived. James appeared in the court held in Bath Town on June 10, 1729 to acknowledge this deed. Witnesses were Gil Holiday and James Leigh. James sold 100 of these acres to Thomas Swindal on June (blank), 1729 and 50 acres to John Stutchbury on December 14, 1737. At the time of his death, James should have had about 196 acres remaining of the 346-acre tract in Beaufort Precinct. He seemed to have 280 acres which were later sold.

     James died prior to March 13, 1739. He did not leave a will even though he had knowledge of wills and the legal system. He had served as a witness to the will of Godfrey Spruill and was one of the executors of the will of Thomas Underwood written on January 22, 1734 and probated at the September 1735 court held in Bath Town.

     Our only source for the death of James is through the Administrators Bond entered by George Moy on March 13, 1739. Administrators appointed to settle the estate of James were: George Moy, who was a sheriff of Bath County, Seth Pilkington, a merchant and Simon Alderson, the Public Treasurer of Bath County. It was the custom during the early years for the court to appoint three men, usually neighbors, to administer a man’s estate. Administrators were appointed if the deceased died without leaving a will or if the wife was deceased and their children were not 16 years of age. It is assumed Anna Marguerita Spruill Singleton died prior to 1739 because she was not appointed to settle his estate.

     We know that James’ land was mortgaged and ordered to be sold by an act of the assembly held at Edenton, November 6, 1741.The public sale was held at the courthouse in Bath Town on December 7, 1741. Richard Holland purchased the 280-acre tract sold by the County Treasurer. On the same day Richard Holland sold 110 acres of this land to Richard Hodges. Both deeds were recorded in Beaufort County on December 15, 1741.

Conclusions Drawn

Many Singleton researchers believe James to be the father of William S(h)ingleton. We do not have evidence to document this parentage but records do support this assumption.

    • The location of lands owned by James and by William was only 2 miles apart.
    • Only three of the thirty Singletons listed in the Beaufort County Grantor and Grantee Indexes recorded from 1729 to 1900 have NOT been connected to our Singleton family. These are James, Joseph who had been living in South Carolina prior to June 1797 and Spyers in 1854. James was the only Singleton living in Beaufort County during the 1720’s and 1730’s.
    • James was definitely old enough to be the father of William.
    • William Singleton was enumerated with Richard Holland on the 1755 Beaufort County List of Taxables. Richard Holland was the neighbor who purchased the land owned by James Singleton. I believe William lived with Richard Holland after his father’s death and was probably working for Richard until he had enough money saved to purchase his own land. He purchased his own land 2 miles away from the land owned by James.

Hopefully, we will someday find that one document needed to prove the connection of James to our Singleton family. I believe he is the father of William and will continue to make this assumption until documentation proves otherwise.

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