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SINGER, GEORGE WASHINGTON

SINGER, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1844–1910). George Washington Singer, pioneer merchant, was born on May 24, 1844, in Ashland County, Ohio. His first occupation may have been schoolteacher. His first marriage, in 1867, was to a woman named Mary Richards with whom he had two children, a daughter Ida Sorena and a son who died as an infant. Although born a Lutheran, he joined the Quaker sect after marrying Rachel Underhill, daughter of Harvey Underhill, and subsequently Singer, his bride, and his daughter accompanied the Underhills to the new Quaker settlement of Estacado, Texas. Not long afterward Singer erected a small, one-room store near the Lubbock Lake site in Yellow House Canyon, where four military routes crossed. There he catered mostly to freighters and passing cowboys from neighboring ranches. Although some accounts attempt to date Singer's store as early as 1879, the most reliable sources place the date as 1881 or early 1882. At any rate, Singer's store was a well-known area landmark by 1885. Here the Singers handled local mail and graciously served meals to hungry passersby at their nearby home. Their oldest son, Perry, was born there in 1883, thus becoming the first white child on record to be born in Lubbock County. Subsequently three more sons and a daughter were born to them. Although a settler named De Quazy attempted to give the Singers some competition at Yellow House Canyon and was listed as Lubbock County's first official postmaster in the spring and summer of 1884, his venture apparently was short-lived. Reservation Indians from Oklahoma, as well as cowboys and other travelers were welcome to camp out around the store, which was never locked, even when Singer was away; never once did a customer betray his confidence. His flowing beard and ever-present buffalo gun made "Old Man" Singer a legend among the West Texas cowboys. In September 1882 he and his wife gave the last rites to a dying Union Civil War veteran named Harve Cannon at their home before burying him in the old Estacado cemetery. In 1886 a Mexican arrived at the Singer home while he was away, was given a meal, and then allowed to wait for him at the store. When Singer returned shortly afterward, the man suddenly peppered the house with bullets and then set the store on fire; when the flames spread to the ammunition, the building exploded, killing the arsonist. Subsequently the erroneous story arose that Singer had shot and killed the arsonist himself. The Singers almost immediately set out for Colorado City to get more lumber and provisions and rebuild their store about a half-mile from the original site. The first religious service in Lubbock County was held at Singer's store on May 24, 1890, by Rev. H. M. Bandy, a Church of Christ minister. As more settlers moved into Lubbock County, both Singer and his wife filed on their land. In 1891, after the town of Lubbock was founded, Singer moved his business to the corner of Main Street and Avenue H. Gov. James S. Hogg appointed Singer as the county's first tax collector and state official on May 1, 1891. Singer desired better educational opportunities for his children, and in November 1897 he sold his store and lot to George S. Beatty. Singer and his family moved briefly to Stark, in Neosha County, Kansas, before developing a prosperous farm near Chanute. He died on December 22, 1910, while on a visit to Urbana, Kansas, and was buried in Chanute. His widow resided there until her death in 1933. In the late 1950s Marion Maxwell (Max) Coleman, a Lubbock attorney and historian, attended a Singer family reunion in Kansas, interviewed George Singer's children, and subsequently arranged for some of them to visit the Lubbock Lake site, where a historic marker designates the location of the original store.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Max Coleman, From Mustanger to Attorney (Lubbock, 1960). Lawrence L. Graves, ed., A History of Lubbock (Lubbock: West Texas Museum Association, 1962). William Curry Holden, Rollie Burns (Dallas: Southwest, 1932; rpt., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Vertical File, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University (George W. Singer, Singer's Store).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "SINGER, GEORGE WASHINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsi52), accessed December 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 1, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.