Where There’s A Will ~ Jonathan Singletary ~ 52 Ancestors #18

Map-of-Salisbury-Massachusetts-circa-1639When I think of “Where There’s A Will” I think of the rest of the statement that goes “There’s A Way”. This is so true in all of our lives. When you have the will to do something you can almost always find a way to accomplish it. This is evident in the life of my 9x Great Uncle, Jonathan Singletary. He was born on January 17, 1639, in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts. He was the only child born to Richard Singletary and his first wife Humility Dunham. Humility died shortly after this and Richard married Susannah Cooke.

Growing up Jonathan was always in trouble, both at home and with the authorities of whatever town he was living in. He appears to have had a dual personality having led a stormy life in Haverhill, Massachusetts…perhaps a scoundrel, a notorious vagabond, an antagonizer of the Puritan leaders, etc…, or perhaps the victim of religious and political unrest among the Quakers, Puritans, and other religious groups of that time period. At about age 23, Jonathan got into court trouble with John Godfrey, accusing John of witchcraft. In return, John sued Jonathan for defamation and slander. This was followed by Jonathan being found guilty and having to pay a fine or having to make a public apology. He refused to apologize, so he paid the fine. He was also placed in prison for his erring ways. He evidently had disputes with the Plymouth government for some sort of rebellion. In government records, he was described as being a “ranter” and “disseminating corrupt religious principles among his neighbors.”

Jonathan married Mary Bloomfield (1643-175) in 1661. They had 10 children over the Jonathan Singletary house in woodbridge NJnext 15 years. After getting married Jonathan seemed to settle down. In 1662, his father Richard conveyed the newlyweds 150 acres of land in Haverhill, but he put it in Jonathan’s wife’s name. Perhaps this reflected the fact that Jonathan was not yet settled due to his erring ways, and his parents felt it best to place the land in the hands of his wife, Mary. At this point, he decided to change his last name to that of his mother. In most records after about 1663, he is referred to as Jonathan Dunham alias Singletary.

In about 1665 Jonathan and Mary moved to Woodbridge, New Jersey. Here he erected ameetinghouse 2 grain mill and it appears he led a respectable life. Jonathan was not just an “ordinary miller,” but one of the founders of Woodbridge, a New Jersey legislature representative, and a community and church leader. In the history of Woodbridge, it is written: “This respected and energetic man provided leadership in founding a new community and shaping its growth into a prosperous town.”  In 1671 Jonathan was listed as acting as the foreman of a jury, and also as the overseer of the highways. In 1673 he was elected as a member of the New Jersey Assembly. In 1675 he served as the Clerk of the Township Court. Apparently, he had the will to make this change in his life.

Unfortunately, his will to change did not last. In 1677 he was called a “mad man” by the Council of War for the Achter Colony and apparently punished in some manner. Later that same year he was arrested for removing goods from Governor Phillip Carteret’s house and he was condemned for the act. At some time after this, he deserted his wife and 10 children and moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Here he became involved with a couple of Quaker women, including a Mary Ross. They reportedly engaged in some bizarre behavior, including the killing of a dog. There is a Court record from Plymouth from 1683, which apparently concerns this later incident. Jonathan was condemned by the Court for his actions and ordered to be publicly whipped and to leave town. He later became involved with Mary Ross in some very inappropriate way.

Jonathan traveled between New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts for the next 10800px-Jonathan_Dunham_WoodbridgeNJ_Memorial years. In 1702 he was given the power of attorney to dispose of the lands given his wife by his parents in Massachusetts. This seems to indicate that despite the problems he had there, he still maintained ties. Jonathan’s wife Mary reportedly died in Woodbridge in 1705. Jonathan is reported to have lived there another 18 years. After her death, he once again became a model citizen. Jonathan died on April 24, 1724, and was buried near his house in Woodbridge.

Although Jonathan used his “will” to make changes in his life it seems that he was not strong enough to maintain it.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.
























10 thoughts on “Where There’s A Will ~ Jonathan Singletary ~ 52 Ancestors #18

  1. Sounds like Johnathan Singletary was quite a character. His relationship with Mary Ross seems a bit intriguing. You may need to write a sequel to this post! Great read.

  2. While I understand that DNA distinguishes his line from that of his siblings, has there been linkage to the DNA of descendants of the siblings of Humility Dunham?

  3. I should have been more exact in my question. Do you not know if this has been checked between descendants of Humility Dunham vs. descendants of Jonathan Singletary’s siblings? Or is it that you know it has been tested but without getting any DNA matches? Sorry for the confusion.

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