The earliest version I have found comes from an unexpected source, a pop songster. This text is from Wehman's Songster #24, indexed at
The book dates to approximately 1890 according to the research done on the website, so the song must have been popular then or earlier. We're not used to thinking of this song as the descendant of a pop ditty sung on the vaudeville stage, but it looks like that is what it is.
By the way, I recommend the Wehman songsters as a great source of much early country music. For example, did you know that "Hold/Haul the Woodpile Down" stems from a Harrigan and Hart song? See this same Wehman Songster 24, which prints it.
I WISH I WERE SINGLE AGAIN
Once I was single and lived at my ease,
Now I am married with a husband to please,
Three little children, too, to maintain,
Oh, how I wish I were single again.
One crying, mama, I want some bread,
Another, papa, I want to go to bed,
Washing and dressing them, the daily dread,
While papa sits scolding and wishing he were dead,
Washing and ironing I also have to do,
And carding and spinning I well remember, too,
Sweeping the floor and going to the spring,
Oh, how I wish I was single again.
These young men they flirt about the town
As if they were worth a thousand pounds,
Searching their pockets, not a penny will you find,
And quite as empty is their mind,
When they first begin to love,
It's my darling, little turtle dove;
When they're married 'tis another song they sing-
Get to work, you good for nothing thing.