William M. Singerly (1832-1898) was considered one of the main figures in Whitpain Township. He was known for his large tract of farmland, which was considered the most expensive and elaborative, on the intersection of Dekalb Pike and Morris Road where the Normandy Farm is currently located.
William grew up in the city of Philadelphia where he developed his career as a businessman. No one even knew he would transition to being in charge of a big, giant farm running herds and cattle.
In the 1850s, he obtained a position with J. Palmer & Co. where he gained knowledge in business. He then went to Chicago and became a commission merchant until he was recalled by his father to return to Philadelphia to become a manager of the Germantown Passenger Railway Company, which his father was a larger stakeholder of.
In 1877, he purchased the Record newspaper, and in 1881-1882, he built a building for the Record newspaper. Before William purchased the newspaper company, it had a small circulation of 5,200 copies. With William, the newspaper went up to over 100,000 copies. His impact had journalists look up to it as "one of the most complete newspaper establishments in the country."
When his father died in 1878, William was left with his stocks that was valued $750,000. It was then sold to the Work syndicate for $1,500,000. William ended up retiring from the street railway management, and moved to a different career path.
The Record/Home Farm
In 1873, William moved to Whitpain and purchased a small farm. From there, he expanded the farm to up to 600-700 acres, which was considered "the most expensive and elaborate high-grade stock-farm in the country."
"The land, which had been somewhat impoverished, was, by careful fertilizing processes, brought into a high degree of richness, a careful plan of drainage was carried out and the utmost pains taken to produce the most desirable crops in greatest possible quantity and best quality. Mr. Singerly's latent natural taste for the healthful freedom of outdoor life, and his love for the nobler domestic animals, were both quickened, and with the energy which has characterized him in other extensive enterprises, and the organizing ability which has made them successful, be entered ambitiously upon the difficult but absorbing task of perfecting the best stock-farm in the State. No effort or expense was spared which tended toward the realization of his ideal in this direction."
- Bean (1175)
On his farm, William had...
160 thoroughbred, Holstein Friesian cattle
200 cows, heifers and calves, all thorough or high-breds
130 fattening steers (young bulls)
10 mares (every one of which has shown him portions of a mile at a 230 gait*)
*Gait: "Any of the ways, such as a canter, trot, or walk, by which a horse can move by lifting the feet in different order or rhythm."
- American Heritage Dictionary
He was an advocate of the system of "soiling" or stall-feeding cattle that benefits the economy of agriculture.
In politics, he was a Democrat, and once ran for Governor of Pennsylvania. He ended up losing in the 1894 election against Daniel H. Hastings, who became the 21st Governor of Pennsylvania.
Spring House Sheep Farm
Prior to living in Whitpain, he lived in the Spring House section in Gwynedd where he purchased 68 acres of land for the purpose of personal comfort.
He even admitted that he and his wife had no knowledge or experience working on a farm.
"The first purchase of sixty-eight acres was made entirely for reasons of personal comfort, to get away from the city and business by six o'clock and obtain rest. The trouble was sleeplessness, caused, as said the doctors, by too close and constant application to the same daily routine. We had neither ideas nor knowledge of the workings of a farm. And of some of the things we thought we knew best it would have saved us money and annoyance if our conceit had been as little as our knowledge proved to be..."
- The North Wales Record (August 28, 1880)
Read the NRHP application of Normandy Farms below:
Bean, Theodore Weber. History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Volume 2. (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1884): 1175-1177.
Morris, Charles. Men of the Century, an Historical Work: Giving Portraits and Sketches of Eminent Citizens of the United States. (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1896): 232.
Ruth, Phil Johnson. Fair Land Gwynedd: A Pictorial History of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Lower Gwynedd Township, Upper Gwynedd Township, and North Wales Borough. (Souderton: Merk Sharp & Dohme, 1991): 87-89.
Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford, 1877.
Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Gwynedd, North Wales, Ambler, Royer's Ford, Limerick Station, 1877.