Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

James Washington Singleton Papers, 1770-1975, undated | Special Collections and University Archives

By Jodi L. Bennett

Collection Overview

Title: James Washington Singleton Papers, 1770-1975, undated

Predominant Dates:1850-1920

ID: 00/MG 10

Primary Creator: Singleton, James Washington (1811-1892)

Extent: 20.8 Linear Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is organized into eleven series: Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Legal and Government Documents; Series III: Financial and Bookkeeping RecordsSeries IV: Business Papers; Series V: Miscellaneous Material; Series VI: Speeches; Series VII: Miscellany; Series VIII: Memorabilia; Series IX: Newspaper clippings; Series X: Publications; and Series XI: Photographs.

Date Acquired: 01/14/1977

Subjects: Copperhead movement, Politicians--Illinois, Singleton, James Washington, 1811-1892, Singleton family, United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865, United States. Congress. House

Languages: English, German


Prominent Peace Democrat from Illinois during the Civil War. Served in the United States House of Representatives (1879-1883). Contains family papers spanning five generations, dating from 1770 to 1975. Includes correspondence, business papers, military papers, newspaper clippings, and photographs.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The collection consists of family papers spanning the lifetime of five generations of Singleton descendants. The collection includes papers of James Singleton, the father of James W. Singleton; James W. Singleton; Lily Singleton Thomas Osburn, the daughter of James W. Singleton; the Thomas children, the grandchildren of James W. Singleton; and Judith Ball Wysong Cofer, the great-granddaughter of James W. Singleton. The bulk of the collection concerns the lives of James Singleton, James W. Singleton and Lily Singleton Thomas Osburn.

Collection Historical Note

Biography: James W. Singleton, 1811-1892

James Washington Singleton was born on November 23, 1811 at "Paxton" in Frederick County, Virginia, the estate of his father, General James Singleton. General Singleton (1762-1815) was a Captain in the Virginia troops in 1785. He rose to the rank of Major in 1804 and commanded the Second Battalion 10th, 16th and 18th Brigades of the Virginia Militia. He commanded the 16th Brigade in the War of 1812. He served as a Justice in Frederick County from 1795-1813 and as a member of the House of Delegates during 1806 and 1807. He married Judith Throckmorton Ball in 1797 and they had seven children: James Washington, Ann, Mary, Frances, Judith, Lucy and Elizabeth. Mrs. Singleton had ancestral ties with George Washington's mother, Mary Ball of "Epping Forest", Virginia.

After attending the academy in Winchester, Virginia, James Washington Singleton moved to Kentucky in 1828. He married Mathilde Caves who died in 1832. Singleton pursued the study and practice of medicine in Kentucky. Later he married Ann Craig of Lexington, Kentucky. About 1834 he settled at Mount Sterling, Illinois. He commenced the study of law in Mount Sterling and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1841. During these years the Singletons had a son, James Washington, Jr. but he died in infancy. Ann Craig Singleton also died about 1840.

James Washington Singleton began to distinguish himself in public service during the 1840's. In the "war" against the Mormons he was in command of a military company and he was later commissioned a brigadier-general of militia by Governor Ford of Illinois for his services in the Mormon War. He married Parthenia McDonald on April 9, 1844. He had two children by his third wife: Louise(Lily) born in 1857 and James J. Singleton born in 1860. In 1847 he was elected to represent his county in a constitutional convention. He served in the Illinois legislature representing Schuyler(Brown) County from 1850 to 1854.

The Singletons moved to Quincy where James Washington practiced law and became active in politics. He served in the state legislature from 1860 to 1862. He also represented Quincy in the state Constitutional convention of 1861. That same year he purchased the most famous country home in the area, Boscobel, a mansion set on an estate of 640 acres. Here he played the roles of gentleman farmer, lawyer, and politician. He also became deeply involved in railroad projects. He was president of two railroads: the Quincy, Alton and St. Louis and the Quincy and Toledo. He was responsible for the extension of the Wabash line through Quincy. In 1862 he served on an international commission that investigated water communication between the United States and Canada.

During the Civil War Singleton may be most accurately characterized as a Peace Democrat who maintained close ties with President Lincoln. He had met Lincoln while he was in legal practice in Illinois in the 1840's. Their friendship lasted until Lincoln's death although they held different positions on the principal political issues of the time. At the beginning of the war Singleton was offered a colonelcy in the Illinois militia by Governor Richard Yates. Although he would have commanded ten companies of cavalry, Singleton refused the commission because he did not believe in the war. He opposed Lincoln's arbitrary measures and was prominent in peace conventions at Peoria and Springfield in 1864.In November 1864 he was in Canada conferring with Clay and Tucker, Confederate "commissioners". He made several trips to Richmond late in the war. He was associated with Senator O.H. Browning of Illinois and Judge James Hughes in a scheme to buy Southern products with greenbacks move them through Grant's lines with presidential permission and sell them for a considerable profit in the North. At first Lincoln apparently approved the scheme so that federal money could pass into Southern hands. He, however, gave General Grant complete discretion in the matter. Grant withheld his approval from the operations in early 1865. Singleton apparently held informal "negotiations" with several people in Richmond including President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee. Lincoln did not give official sanction to these talks but was ready to recognize them if satisfactory Confederate proposals should emerge from the negotiations.

After the war Singleton remained active in politics and farming. Besides attending to the myriad affairs of Boscobel and raising prize stock, Singleton served two terms in the United States House of Representatives (1879-1883). In 1868 he was nominated by the Democratic convention at Monmouth, Illinois for Congress but he was defeated by Mr. John Hawley, the Republican candidate. The Democrats nominated him again in 1878, and this time he was successful. Singleton carried the city of Quincy by the unprecedented majority of 1,732 out of 3,000 votes, and received large majorities in every county in the district. He was reelected in 1880.

Singleton spent most of his later years at Boscobel.He continued to entertain lavishly, manage the affairs of his large estate and give increasing attention to railroad promotion. Political animosities did not disturb his friendships, and he was often called upon to lead civic endeavors. He did not hold any other public office although he sought unsuccessfully the position of Commissioner of Agriculture in the administration of Grover Cleveland. He moved to Baltimore to be with his daughter, Louise (Mrs. Francis W. Thomas) in the fall of 1891 and died at her home on April 4, 1892.

Subject/Index Terms

Copperhead movement
Singleton, James Washington, 1811-1892
Singleton family
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
United States. Congress. House

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 35 Hollinger document cases; 1 Hollinger drop-front print box, 3 oversize boxes.1 oversize box and 1 Hollinger oversize box

Access Restrictions: The collection is open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Mrs. Judith Ball Wysong Cofer

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession #A77-5

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], James Washington Singleton Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Old Dominion University Libraries.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, 1787-1975],
[Series II: Legal and Government Documents, 1833-1908, undated],
[Series III: Financial and Bookkeeping Records, 1770-1941],
[Series IV: Business Papers, undated],
[Series V: Military Papers, 1794-1846, undated],
[Series VI: Speeches, 1812-1881],
[Series VII: Miscellaneous Material, 1785-1944, undated],
[Series IX: Newspaper Clippings, 1851-1865, undated],
[Series X: Publications, 1802-1945, undated],
[Series XI: Photographs, undated],
[Series XII: Oversize Newspapers, 1817-1932, undated],

Series VII: Miscellaneous Material, 1785-1944, undated
This series consits of miscellaneous material collected by the Singleton family including aricles on Abraham Lincoln, genealogical material, and writings.
Sub-Series A: Materials of Matthew Page Andrews, 1928, undated
This sub-series consists of articles on Lincoln and Singleton, book reviews, and notes.
Box 23
Folder 22: Article--"Abraham Lincoln's Envoy of Peach"
Folder 23: Article--"Abraham Lincoln's Envoy of Peach"
Folder 24: Article--"Lincoln's Lost Friend"
Folder 25: Biographical Information: Abraham Lincoln
Folder 26: Biographical Information: James W. Singleton
Folder 27: Book Reviews in the Confederate Veteran
Folder 28: Information on James W. Singleton
(Supplied by Mrs. Lily Singleton Thomas Osburn)
Folder 29: Interview with Anna Singleton McDonald, December 6, 1928
Folder 30: Miscellaneous Papers
Folder 31: Notes, Singleton Paper
Folder 32: Questions for Mrs. Osburn
Folder 33: Source Materials
Folder 34: Source Materials, James Singleton
Sub-Series B: Genealogical and Historical Notes Collected by Lily Singleton Thomas Osburn, undated
This series contains genealogical and historical notes collected by Lily Singleton Thomas Osburn. Includes notes on the Ball, Fauntleroy, McCarthy, McDonald, Singleton, Thomas, Throckmorton and other families.
Box 23
Folder 35: Ball Family, undated
Folder 36: Fauntleroy Family, undated
Folder 37: McCarthy Family, undated
Folder 38-39: McDonald Family, undated
Folder 40-42: Singleton Family I-III, undated
Box 24
Folder 1: Thomas Family, undated
Folder 2: Throckmorton Family, undated
Folder 3-6: Other Families I-IV, undated
Folder 7: Printed Genealogical Materials, undated
Folder 8: James Singleton, undated
Folder 9: James W. Singleton, undated
Oversize Box 38
Item 1: Family Tree, undated
Sub-Series C: Other Subjects Arranged Alphabethically, 1785-1944, undated
This sub-series contains poetry, creative writing, insurance policies, political papers, church papers, report cards, tributes, memorials, and James W. Singleton's diary for 1870. Of note in Box 25 is a recipe for beer from an enslaved person in 1785.
Box 24
Folder 10: Advertisements, undated
Folder 11: Autobiographical Sketch: James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 12: Biographical Material: James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 13: Biographical Material: James W. Singleton: Chicago Times, 1885 December 26
Folder 14: Church Papers, James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 15: Creative Writings, undated
Folder 16: Creative Writings: Anna Singleton McDonald, undated
Folder 17: Diary: James W. Singleton, 1870
Folder 18: Letter to the Editor, Richmond Enquirer, circa 1840
Folder 19: Insurance Policies, 1899-1944
Box 25
Folder 1: Inventories, undated
Folder 2: Poetry, undated
Folder 3: Poetry: Printed, undated
Folder 4: Poetry: St. John's Wood, undated
Folder 5: Poetry: Anna Singleton McDonald, undated
Folder 6: Poetry: James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 7: Political Papers: James Singleton, undated
Folder 8-9: Political Papers I-II: James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 10: Reception (Lists of Food and Guests), 1880 February 26
Folder 11: Report Cards: Lily Singleton, undated
Folder 12: Report Cards: Louise Singleton Thomas, undated
Folder 13: Report Cards: Francis W. Thomas, Jr., 1900
Folder 14: Report Cards: Francis W. Thomas, Jr., Clay Hill Academy, 1905-1906
Folder 15: Report Cards: Francis W. Thomas, Jr., Hampden-Sydney College, 1906-1910
Folder 16: Report Cards: Parthenia M. Thomas, Stephenson Seminary, 1907-1910
Folder 17: Report Cards: Cora E. Thomas, Stephenson Seminary, undated
Folder 18: Report Cards: Elinor and Willard Osburn, undated
Folder 19: Restoration of Battle Flags, undated
Folder 20: Schoolwork: Italian Exercise Book, Lily Singleton, undated
Folder 21: Schoolwork: The Thomas Children, undated
Folder 22: Slave Recipe for Beer, 1785
Folder 23: Societies: National Society, United States Daughters of 1812, Pocahontas Memorial Association, Society of the Cincinnati, Washington Club, undated
Folder 24: Travel Itinerary, undated
Folder 25: Tributes and Memorials, undated
Folder 26: Miscellaneous Fragments, undated
Box 26
Folder 1: Baptismal Certificate: Singleton Van Scharch (Copy), undated
Folder 2: Address Book: Lily E. Singleton Thomas, undated
Folder 3: Calling Book: Lily Singleton Thomas, undated
Folder 4: Booklets, Souvenir, undated
Folder 5: Booklets, Souvenir, Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1801-1851
Folder 6: Calling Cards, undated
Folder 7: Calling Cards: James W. Singleton, undated
Folder 8: Greeting Cards, undated
Folder 9: Clarke County Historical Collection, undated
Folder 10: Confederate Bonds, undated
Folder 11: Diploma, undated
Folder 12: Flowers and Plants, undated
Folder 13: Locks of Hair, undated
Folder 14: Invitations, Miscellaneous, undated
Folder 15: Momentoes, Miscellaneous, undated
Folder 16: Momentoes from Boscobel, Boscobel Stock Farm and Singleton Park, undated
Folder 17: Money and Bank Notes, undated
Folder 18: Music: Columbia's Call, undated
Folder 19: Passes, undated
Folder 20: Pedigree of Airedale Terrier, undated
Folder 21: Postcards, undated
Folder 22: Posters Advertising Sale of Land, undated
Folder 23: Pot Luck Club, undated
Folder 24: Programs, undated
Folder 25: Programs: George Washington Bicentennial Ball, undated
Box 27
Folder 1: Programs: James Exposition, 1907
Folder 2: Programs: National Music Week, 1929
Folder 3: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 4: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 5: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 6: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 7: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 8: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 9: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 10: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 11: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 12: Programs: Opera, undated
Folder 13: Programs: Plays, undated
Folder 14: Programs: Plays, undated
Box 28
Folder 1: Recipes, undated
Folder 2: Recipes, undated
Folder 3: Recipes, undated
Folder 4: Recipes, undated
Folder 5: Recipes, undated
Folder 6: Scrapbook: 19th Century Clippings, undated
Folder 7: Scrapbook: Clippings, 1830-1850
Folder 8: Scrapbook: Civil War Momentoes, undated
Folder 9: Seals, undated
Folder 10: Valentines, undated
These are in fragile condition. Handle with care
Box 29
Folder 1: Wedding Book: Lily Singleton Thomas Howard Osburn, undated
Folder 2: Wedding Invitations: Louise, Judith and Parthenia Thomas, undated
Folder 3: Wedding Invitations, 1881-1903
Folder 4: Wedding Invitations, 1917
Folder 5: Wedding Invitations, 1919, 1921
Folder 6: Wedding Invitations, 1922
Folder 7: Wedding Invitations, 1924-1926
Folder 8: Wedding Invitations, undated
Folder 9: Wedding Invitation List: Lily E. Singleton, undated
Folder 10: Wedding Invitation Lists: Louise, Judith and Parthenia Thomas, undated

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence, 1787-1975],
[Series II: Legal and Government Documents, 1833-1908, undated],
[Series III: Financial and Bookkeeping Records, 1770-1941],
[Series IV: Business Papers, undated],
[Series V: Military Papers, 1794-1846, undated],
[Series VI: Speeches, 1812-1881],
[Series VII: Miscellaneous Material, 1785-1944, undated],
[Series IX: Newspaper Clippings, 1851-1865, undated],
[Series X: Publications, 1802-1945, undated],
[Series XI: Photographs, undated],
[Series XII: Oversize Newspapers, 1817-1932, undated],

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