Saunders-Sanders family came to Covington County during 1840s

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

The name of the Saunders family of Covington County sometimes appears as Sanders, therefore the name is often interchangeable. The earliest local Saunders ancestor found by this writer was Richard Saunders, a native of the State of Georgia. He was born there in 1820, and he came to Covington County before 1850.

Richard was a reasonably equipped farmer when the 1850 agricultural census was taken. He had farming implements and machines valued at $30 along with the following livestock: One horse, eight milk cows, five other cattle and 22 swine. The total value of the livestock was listed at $150

Richard appears to have settled in the Leon community in the northern area of the county. In 1856, he acquired 242.06 acres of land from the federal government. This property probably fell within the new Crenshaw County when it was created in 1866.

Richard probably married his wife, Betty Ann or “Betsiann,” before they left Georgia. However, their first child was born in 1841 in Alabama according to the 1850 census of Covington County.  At that time, they had living with them their four oldest children.

Richard Saunders and his family resided in Covington County when the censuses for 1850 and 1860 were enumerated. They had three additional children born between 1850 and 1860. The oldest son, John, had married by 1860 and was residing with his wife near his father. When the 1870 and 1880 censuses were taken, the family had moved to Geneva County where they were still farming. Richard lived until 1896 and Betsiann, until 1901. They were both buried in the Purvis Cemetery in Malvern, Geneva County, Alabama.

During the War Between the States, Richard Saunders at 45 years of age enlisted on May 18, 1864, to serve in the Confederate Army. He was assigned to Company I, 4th Regiment Alabama Senior Reserves as a private. His registration form revealed that he had blue eyes, dark hair, fair complexion, and stood six feet and one inch. Also during the same year on August 27, a Thomas Sanders at 50 years of age enlisted as a private in Company A, Covington County Reserves (First Class). His relationship to Richard Saunders has not been identified.

They actually reared the following children: John, b. 1841, m. Elizabeth ?; Frances, b. 1843; Frederick, b. 1847, d. 1917, single; Mary Ann, b. 1849; Richard S., b. 1852, d. 1870, m. Spicey Ann ?; Robert, b. 1854, d. 1870, single; Thomas G., b. 1857, m. Rhoda ?; Elijah H., b. 1861, m. Josephine?; Martha, b. 1864, d. 1870; and William H., b. 1868, d. 1944, m. Margaret Elizabeth ? (1865-1906).

The oldest son, John Saunders, and his wife, Elizabeth, were also enumerated in the 1866 Covington County, Alabama, Census. Records of any children for them have not been found by this writer. John appears to be the one who homesteaded two tracts of land from the federal government in 1886, 79.93 acres and 39.47 acres, both in the Leon Township. near his father’s property.

Some other Saunders men who acquired land in Covington County from the federal government include the following: In 1893, Howell J. Sanders homesteaded 159.37 acres of land reserved for railroads in the Leon Township. In 1894, Franklin J. Sanders homesteaded 160.55 acres of land reserved for railroads in the same area. In 1901, John T. Sanders homesteaded 162.71 acres in the Blue Pond Township. In 1912, Lawrence T. Sanders homesteaded 80.05 acres in the Yellow River Township. (Anyone who might have knowledge of how these men might be related and anything on their families is requested to contact this writer.)

Richard and Betsiann’s son, Thomas G. Saunders, and his wife, Rhoda, reared the following four children: Alice, b. 1881; Virgil, b. 1887; Ola, b. 1894; and Curtis, b. 1899.

The next son, Elijah H. Saunders, and his wife, Josephine, had the following children: Mamie, b. 1881; Eliza, b. 1883; Pearl, b. 1886; Joseph, b. 1888; Jewell, b. 1890; Roy, b. 1893; Bertha, b. 1895; and John, b. 1898.

The next and youngest son, William H. Saunders, and his wife, Margaret Elizabeth, resided in Geneva County and reared the following four children: Willie, b. 1887, d. 1890; William H., b.1891; John Richard, b. 1896, d. 1924; and Laura M., b. 1898, d. 1900. William, Margaret Elizabeth and some of their children including John Richard, Laura M. and Willie are buried in the Purvis Cemetery in Malvern, Geneva County.

In 1900, a year before her death, Betsiann Suanders, at 76 years of age, was head of a household in Geneva County with her son, Frederick, 54 years old, living with her. Also, her son, Richard at 48 was living near by with his wife, Spicey Ann, who was 44 years old.

From the county heritage book, it was learned that a Frances Ann Sanders, daughter of William Carroll and Eliza (Heath) Sanders, was married to William James Cowart. William James came to Gantt, Alabama, during the early 1900s with his wife. Frances Ann was born in 1849 in Talbot County, Georgia, and died in 1940. They had at least the following children: Leola, m. ? Cook; Willie, m. ? Livingston; Mildred, m. ? Wright; Homer G. who moved to Gasden; and Charles Hansford who moved to Niagara Falls, New York. Any relationship of this family to the above Saunders is not known to this writer.

The sources for this review of the Saunders/Sanders family included the following: The Heritage of Covington County, Alabama, Wyley Ward’s Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871 and Original Land sales and Grants in Covington County Alabama, research done by Jerry L. Segars, and Lisa Franklin’s web site, Tracking Your Roots.

Obviously much more research is needed on this family to identify and relate all those in the area who have worn the Saunders/Sanders name. It is hoped that some will share any additional information they might have with this writer.

If anyone who might have any correction to the above information is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email:

HISTORICAL MEETING: The Covington Rifles Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., May 5, in the Dixon Memorial Room of the Andalusia Public Library. Those interested in Confederate Heritage are welcome to attend.