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The lost city of Singapore

Singapore was founded in 1836 and was a bustling port town until 1875 when it was buried under rolling layers of sand.

The bustling town by the sea no longer exists except in the memories passed down generationally and in what little books and artefacts that survived its demise.

Hold on a minute, what's going on here?

This history is all wrong. Singapore was founded in 1299 by Sang Nila Utama and ‘rediscovered' in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, not 1836.

Also, we certainly have not been wiped off the world map.

This is not a pitch for an alternate history novel though. Interestingly, it is all true. Singapore was founded in 1836 but it no longer exists. Yet, it is not the Singapore of Southeast Asia.

No, this town of Singapore once belonged in the U.S, in the state of Michigan.

It was established by Oshea Wilder, a New York land specialist to be a major port town that would rival Chicago and Milwaukee in 1836.

Much like Singapore of Southeast Asia, the American city flourished because of its proximity to water, in this case, Lake Michigan.

At the peak of its prosperity, Singapore had 23 buildings of which there were a schoolhouse, two hotels and several stores.

It also had two sawmills that were crucial for its economy and its own bank, the Singapore State Bank, which produced Singapore notes.

As it grew economically, Singapore had all the makings of a town that would eventually become one of the great cities of the West.

Yet, its ultimate fate would be foreshadowed during the 40-Day Blizzard in 1842 - a scant six years after its formation - when it had a close brush with extinction.

The blizzard would have wiped out the people of Singapore and the town if not for the unfortunate yet opportune shipwreck of the Milwaukee on its shore. The food that was stocked in the vessel kept the people alive until the blizzard blew over.

Oshea Wilder would leave Singapore in 1846, just as it was getting back on its feet, to return to Calhoun County. Another New York investor, James Carter, bought out Wilder's interest and moved to Singapore to watch over his investment.

Two years later, he sold the town to his brother, Artemas. Proving more innovative than his sibling, Artemas built a three-mast boat to carry lumber across Lake Michigan from Singapore to Chicago.


As Chicago began to rely upon the lumber Singapore provided, the small town thrived and attracted more people to its land. By 1871, its small population grew to several hundred people.

Unfortunately, its prosperity would be short-lived.

When the nearby towns of Chicago, Holland and Peshtigo were ravaged by a fire which swept through them in 1871, the forest around Singapore was harvested to supply lumber for their reclamation.

This benevolent act would prove detrimental to the stability of Singapore as its voracious clearing of the forest would cause the winds and sands from Lake Michigan -initially obstructed by the trees - to now erode and flood the bustling town.

Of course, unlike a Hollywood disaster film, this didn't happen immediately. It was a gradual but rapid event that gave people enough time to evacuate.

There was no saving the town and Singapore was fast joining the ranks of ancient cities buried under miles of sprawling and hot desert sands.

It took only four short years for it to be completely covered by sands. By then, everyone had left and only ruins remained before they too were buried.

The only remnant of Singapore is the Singapore Yacht Club which is situated at the end of the ill-fated town. The memory of its existence is preserved by a few institutes and organizations, one of which is the yacht club.

Some Americans can trace their family line back to Singapore but for most, the town is as mythical as Atlantis.

Yet over time, half buried cottages found in the area after a river channel was built in 1906 began to alert people to the existence of a buried town.

But there is no going back for Singapore and even as some people hang on desperately to this fast diminishing piece of history, the sands of time, it seems, is determined to claim it completely.

Written by: Christopher Chitty

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