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Quite a ride from (Allegan) to Singapore

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Fenntucky Mike


This is a follow up to a previous Journal entry where I mentioned a story about "borrowed" specie, see Journal entry "But it was obsolete before I opened the box" for additional info on The Bank of Allegan and Michigan "wildcat" banks in general. 

Here is an Obsolete banknote from another wildcat bank, The Bank Of Singapore (Michigan), organized Dec. 7, 1837, closed 1839. The settlement of Singapore was established in 1836 and subsequently abandoned by 1875 when the last saw mill was moved. Nothing visible remains of the settlement as anything that was left behind including buildings was buried by the shifting dune sands located along Lake Michigan. 


The Bank of Singapore issued notes in denominations of $1, $2, $3 & $5, which was common for the time period and type of bank. The bills were printed by Rawdon, Wright & Hatch of New York, the denominations were printed on one side of a single sheet, these sheets were then shipped to the Bank and stored as remainders, as notes were needed the sheets were cut then signed and dated by the Cashier (Rob Hill) and Bank President (Daniel S. Wilder), both signatures are present on this note. It is common to find 1837 notes dated Dec 25 and Jan 1, this note is dated Jan 10, 1838. Records indicate that banknotes valued at $15,952 were put into circulation, this would be equal to about 1,450 sheets or roughly 5,800 individual bills if complete sheets were cut. The hard money or specie reserve (which should have totaled $15,000 based on the bank's capital stock, but probably wasn't even when it was present) was kept in the vault in an old nail keg.

As was common at this time Banks pooled their specie and shipped it from bank to bank ahead of the inspectors who were there to verify these banks had enough specie on hand to back the notes being issued, this leads to the story mentioned in a previous Journal entry. The Bank of Allegan and the Bank of Singapore being "neighbors" commonly pooled their specie, after the state bank inspector viewed and counted the pooled specie at the Bank of Allegan the bag of gold was quickly packed up and given to a local Native American, who loaded it into his canoe to transport it down the Kalamazoo River to The Bank of Singapore, which was the inspectors next stop. The inspector was in route to Singapore via horseback and roads being nonexistent in those days, traveling by canoe down the river was the fastest mode of travel. The Native American, paddling swiftly to beat the bank inspector, hit an obstacle in the river and capsized. The bag of gold sank to the bottom in a particularly deep part of the river, the man righted his canoe and rushed ahead to tell the Bank officials at Singapore what happened, immediately a plan was devised. The local blacksmith began to fashion a drag hook to retrieve the gold, in the meantime a dispatch was sent to the town of New Richmond, centrally located between the two banks at a ferry crossing. The inspector was plied with food and drink, a party was staged and night's logging offered. Meanwhile, downstream the men of Singapore were using the hook on the end of a dragline to recover the bag of gold from the river, the gold was pulled from the river and sent to the bank to dry out. Word was sent that the inspector could proceed and a short time later (maybe the next day) the inspector and specie met again at the Singapore Bank. 

Another story involved a local merchant who purchased a supply of boots, boots being in short supply and the locals being desperate for them tried to pay with banknotes from The Bank of Singapore, the merchant refused to accept the notes. This did not suit the officers of the bank so they promised to redeem their bills from the merchant with eastern money in time for him to remit to his dealers. The parties agreed and the entire stock of boots was sold out, amounting to about $600. On the day the Bank was supposed to redeem the money, they were unprepared and pushed the date back, this went on for over a month. Having run out of time and at his wit's end the merchant knowing where the cashier resided and suspecting he carried the "good money" of the bank with him decided to wake him one morning. The merchant went to the clerks room, entered and locked the door, then woke the clerk, laid the wildcat bills on the bed, drew his pistol and demanded the exchange be made then and there. Suffice to say the clerk made the exchange, having raised his pillow and removing a roll containing about $1,000 (the total genuine capital of the bank), $600 was given to the merchant leaving the bank with $400 of good money.

The charter of the Bank of Singapore was formally annulled by the Michigan Legislature on February 16, 1842, along with charters of most of the other wildcat banks of Michigan. One evening several locals were invited to the home of one of the officers of the Bank of Singapore to witness the destruction of the bills on hand at the bank at the time of suspension. There was a 4" x 4" table covered with bills in packages lying in piles from three to six inches deep. These were burned in a stove and "sufficed for boiling a tea kettle twice", or so the story goes.

Remainders are fairly common with these notes, including uncut sheets. I've read stories and first hand accounts of people lining their boots with uncut sheets or stuffing them into the cracks of walls to keep drafts out or pillows. Signed notes are much harder to come by as most (it seems) were destroyed. It's not a bad looking note, with a depiction of Justice & Liberty on the left, a factory and canal on the right and a depiction of a port in the center. They definitely didn't skimp out on the ink for these notes. 



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