Thursday, February 18, 2016


JAMES L SAUNDERS, an educated free man of color, was born about 1843 in Warrenton, Fauquier Co Virginia, the son of  Major JORDAN M SAUNDERS born about 1795,  a white man who was a slave trader, then later a farmer, and his mulatto housekeeper/common law wife, MARY WILKINS born about 1820.

JAMES' early life was interesting.  He was born & raised on the plantation that his father owned, and was listed in nearly all census records 1850-1900 as a mulatto with the SAUNDERS surname, while his mother was consistently listed as MARY WILKINS, also mulatto.

According to several records,  including the 1860 census, JAMES apprenticed on a US Naval Man-of-War, enlisting Nov 10, 1858 at Norfolk, Virginia, and returning home to Fauquier Co in late 1860.

JAMES remained at home during most of the Civil War, until pressure & threats from the Confederate Army compelled him to go north to Connecticut, where he enlisted March 4, 1864 in the Union Army, 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (Colored), under Col Wm B Wooster. He was discharged Dec 10, 1865.

After the war, JAMES returned home to Warrenton, Fauquier Co Virginia, where he worked on his father's farm. The 1870 census shows him as a mulatto, age 28.

On March 2, 1878, Fauquier Co Virginia, JAMES L SAUNDERS made a claim for reparations for his horse, which had been stolen from JORDAN SAUNDERS' farm in 1862 by the Confederate Army. JAMES had to make a deposition, which was basically a detailed interrogation, consisting of 80 questions. This entire file gives a wealth of information about JAMES: he was a school teacher in 1878, a free man of color, that he served in the US Navy, and in the Civil War in Connecticut , and the fact that JORDAN M SAUNDERS was deceased by the date of the affidavit.

The horse in question was a gift from JORDAN M SAUNDERS, given to him in 1860. JAMES also states that after the war, he worked on JORDAN M SAUNDERS farm.  But at no point does he ever claim to be the son of Major JORDAN M SAUNDERS.

Two other witnesses also made depositions, CHARLES BALL & EDWARD SHEPPERD.  Both stated that they had known JAMES since childhood, and had been raised on the same farm (they no doubt were slaves prior to Civil War).  

CHARLES BALL in his deposition does clearly state that "the Claimant, JAMES SAUNDERS was the natural born son of Major SAUNDERS" -- leaving no doubt who JAMES' father really was!

The three accounts varied slightly in how JAMES came to have possession of the horse, causing the claim to be denied.

The only other record I have found so far for JAMES L SAUNDERS is the 1900 Fauquier Co Virginia census, which shows him as black male, a school teacher, wife CECELIA, and two sons FRANK SAUNDERS born Nov 1889 and CLAUDE B SAUNDERS born 1893. No idea if there were other children, or if JAMES was married previously.  I have been unable to trace this family any further than 1900.

Likewise, I have not found the will of Major JORDAN M SAUNDERS. It does not appear that he left his house & land to his children.

JAMES' brother FRANK SAUNDERS born 1845 died childless in 1883 in Fauquier Co Virginia; his death record shows a black male, widower. He had married MARTHA CLARKE in 1871 (see previous post)

The two sisters SARAH SALLIE SAUNDERS born 1848 & LILLIE SAUNDERS born 1854 who married LUDWELL CARROLL HUDNALL are difficult to trace also. LILLIE's husband died before 1880, but they did have at least one daughter ROSENA HUDNALL, born 1877 Fauquier Co Virginia.

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2016

JORDAN M SAUNDERS & MARY WILKINS, a Free Woman of Color, of Fauquier Co Virginia, Part Two

In the 1840 Fauquier Co Virginia census, JORDAN M SAUNDERS was listed as a single white man, age 40-49, with seven slaves: 2 older females, 2 middle aged females, 1 girl under ten, 1 middle aged male, and 1 male age 10-23.

Things changed by 1850 Fauqier Co Virginia census: MARY WILKINS, a mulatto woman age 35 was living in the household of JORDAN M SAUNDERS, with three mulatto children, JAMES age 7, FRANK age 5 & SALLIE age 3.

So who was MARY WILKINS?  She & her children were not slaves in 1850.   Perhaps she was a former slave of THOMAS WILKINS, a local plantation owner, a widow with children purchased by JORDAN M SAUNDERS, and then freed. Or perhaps she was never a slave at all, possibly the daughter of THOMAS WILKINS, a free man of color, and MARGARET PEGGY WEEKS, who married Feb 20, 1800 in Fauquier Co Virginia. PEGGY WILKINS, free person of color, is listed in the 1840 Fauqier Co Virginia census, an older woman with two young children in household. MARY is not listed with her.

Something curious happens in the 1860 Fauquier census.

All of MARY's children are listed with the SAUNDERS surname! This was before the Civil War, after which many freed slaves assumed the surname of their master. The census taker, for whatever reason, did not note the race or color of anyone on the page. Only MARY, age 40, listed as the housekeeper, retains the WILKINS surname. And even more curious & unusual is the notation that JAMES L SAUNDERS, the eldest son, had apprenticed with the a US Naval Man-of-War for two years!  I am no expert in African American genealogy, but all of this struck me as highly unusual.

JORDAN M SAUNDERS is also listed on the 1860 slave schedule, which shows that he owned twelve slaves.

The 1870 Fauquier Co Virginia census shows the same family, ten years older:

Once again, only MARY is listed with the WILKINS surname.  MARY & all the children, now young adults, are all listed a mulatto, and the two sons are working on the farm.

So what was going on here?  Was MARY WILKINS, a free woman of color, the common law wife of JORDAN M SAUNDERS the former slave trader, and the father of her children? They certainly could not have married legally.  Or was MARY only his housekeeper, and he took an interest in the welfare of her children, so allowed then the use of his surname, and arranged for the eldest son JAMES to join the US Navy??

I strongly suspected the first scenario, partly because the youngest daughter LILLIE SAUNDERS was born 1858, after MARY WILKINS & her older children first show up in JORDAN's household in 1850.

Then I discovered the marriage records for two of the children of MARY WILKINS.

On Jan 26, 1871, FRANK SAUNDERS married MARTHA CLARKE in Fauquier Co Virginia.

Name:Frank Saunders
Marital Status:Single
Birth Date:1845
Birth Place:Fauquier Co., VA.
Marriage Date:26 Jan 1871
Marriage Place:Fauquier County, Virginia
Father:Jordon M. Saunders
Mother:Mary Wilkins
Spouse:Martha Clarke
FHL Film Number:31635
Reference ID:p103 e6

JORDAN M SAUNDERS is actually listed as the father of FRANK SAUNDERS!

And here is the marriage record for LILLIE SAUNDERS, who married LUDWELL CARROLL HUDNALL:

Name:Lillie Saunders
Marital Status:Single
Birth Date:1854
Birth Place:Fauquier Co., VA.
Marriage Date:30 Sep 1875
Marriage Place:Fauquier County, Virginia
Father:J. M.
Spouse:Ludwell C. Hudnall
FHL Film Number:31635
Reference ID:p 129 e 22

Again J M SAUNDERS as her father, and MARY as her mother!!

JORDAN M SAUNDERS died before March 1878 in Warrenton, Fauquier Co Virginia.  This is per a legal deposition made by his son JAMES L SAUNDERS, who made a claim that his horse had been stolen in 1862 by the Confederate Army, and was seeking reparation.

I have not been able to find the will of JORDAN M SAUNDERS, but from subsequent census & court records, it appears that the four children that he had with MARY WILKINS did not inherit his house or lands.

JAMES L SAUNDERS was well-educated and literate; he became a school teacher in Fauquier Co Virginia for the African American community there. His story, as far as I have been able to trace it, will be the subject of my next blog post.


© Betty Tartas  2016

JORDAN M SAUNDERS & MARY WILKINS, a Free Woman of Color, of Fauquier Co Virginia Part One

New Orleans Slave Market

When I first started researching the SAUNDERS/SANDERS family of Virginia, Caswell Co North Carolina and Tennessee many years ago, I attempted to trace every one of the children of JAMES SAUNDERS/SANDERS Sr (born Feb 1706 New Kent Co Virginia; died May 1776 Orange Co North Carolina) & his wife ANN PATTERSON. My maternal great x 4 grandfather was their son,  THOMAS SAUNDERS/SANDERS, who married MARY POLLY MITCHELL. They  lived mainly in Buckingham Co Virginia. THOMAS died Nov 28, 1812 in Davidson Co Tennessee.

Of particular interest to me was Captain WILLIAM SAUNDERS, the youngest son of JAMES SAUNDERS Sr, who married first in 1775 to ELIZABETH MITCHELL  and second in 1795 to  NANCY CUNNINGHAM.  Shortly after his second marriage, WILLIAM moved his family to Davidson Co Tennessee, which part later became Smith Co Tennessee.  He died there in 1803.

One of WILLIAM's sons from his second marriage with NANCY CUNNINGHAM was JORDAN M SAUNDERS born about 1795 in Caswell Co North Carolina.  As I began to research JORDAN, I found that the most common remark that I encountered in published genealogies was that JORDAN never married,  had no children, and died 1886 in Warrenton, Fauquier Co Virginia. It is now my belief that none of these "facts" are correct.

This particular branch of the SAUNDERS/SANDERS family was very wealthy, educated & politically prominent in the 1700s & 1800s. JORDAN's half brother, ROMULUS MITCHELL SANDERS, was a well-known politician,  who from 1821-1827 represented North Carolina in the US House of Representatives; he was also minister to Spain 1846-1849.  Another brother, Judge LAFAYETTE SAUNDERS, married in 1826 MARY DONELSON SMITH, a relative of first lady RACHEL DONELSON JACKSON.  The wedding took place at The Hermitage, home of President ANDREW JACKSON. Judge LAFAYETTE SAUNDERS  died Aug 1848 in Clinton, East Feliciana Co,  Louisiana.

But JORDAN M SAUNDERS did not follow in his brothers' footsteps.

In about 1820, JORDAN M SAUNDERS became a slave trader, and partnered with DAVID BURFORD of Smith Co Tennessee. Their business was called J M SAUNDERS & Co, and they became agents for the infamous slave trading enterprise of Franklin and Armfield of Alexandria, Virginia.

As the business of interstate slave trading, which had started in the 1760s,  increased exponentially in the 1820s & 1830s,  speculators abounded.  It was during this time period that slaves truly became a commodity. There was money to be made, lots of it, attracting the worst kind of individuals, and creating deplorable conditions for the slaves who were being sold. Families were ripped apart. It was a heinous and utterly reprehensible business. (For more on the history of the interstate slave trade, see the book, "A Troublesome Commerce" by Robert H Gudmestad.  There is also a large collection of correspondence between JORDAN M SAUNDERS and DAVID BURFORD available in the archives of the University of Tennessee).

JORDAN M SAUNDERS eagerly took part in this business, and developed strategies to manipulate prices in order to make the most profit. Perhaps the only positive thing that can be said of him is that he was exceptionally literate, and documented what he saw in his business.

From his correspondence with DAVID BURFORD, it appears that JORDAN M SAUNDERS was living in New Orleans from about 1829-1831, and moved to Warrenton, Fauquier Co Virginia about 1830-1831

 The 1840 Fauquier Co Virginia census shows JORDAN M SAUNDERS, a white single male age 40-49, with seven slaves. This is consistent with the "facts" as presented by the published genealogies.

But it was what I found in the 1850-1870 Fauquier Co Virginia census and other records that thoroughly surprised me.

To be continued....


© Betty Tartas  2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016


I must admit it. Most of the time I am frustrated with all the tantalizing DNA matches that I receive, and with the fact that in nearly all cases, I can't quite figure out how I am related to those matches.

But sometimes a match will suddenly come sharply into focus, and when it does....WOW!!

MOSES WHITECOTTON & HAPPY RIDDLE, my great x 3 grandparents had the following children:

--LINDLEY M WHITECOTTON b 1823 Alabama or Tennessee m SUSAN HORN; died 1889 Logan Co Arkansas

--JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON b Oct 1825 Jackson Co Alabama; married at least 5 times; died 1906 Jackson Co Alabama, my great x 2 grandfather

--ISAAC M WHITECOTTON b Feb 1830 Jackson Co Alabama m SARAH E SMITH; died after 1901 in Logan Co Arkansas

--ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON b 1832 Jackson Co Alabama

--WILLIAM WHITECOTTON b 1836 Tennessee

--PLEASANT "PLES" WHITECOTTON b 1839 Alabama or Tennessee; died 1871 Huntsville, Madison Co Alabama

--HARRISON "HARRY" WHITECOTTON  b 1840 Alabama or Tennessee; died after 1870  Alabama or Georgia

This has been a difficult family to trace, but over time I have been successful in researching all of these children--except for WILLIAM WHITECOTTON b 1836 (possibly died in Civil War?) and ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON b 1832.

Recently I was contacted by a GRIZZELL/GRIZZLE descendant who is a DNA match with me on Chromosome 2.  She indicated that she suspected that her great x 2 grandmother, ELIZABETH, who married WILLIAM GRIZZELL about 1850 in Hamilton Co Tennessee, was likely ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON,  the daughter of MOSES WHITECOTTON & HAPPY RIDDLE.

Hamilton Co Tennessee really caught my attention.  In 1860 census, ISAAC M WHITECOTTON lived in Hamilton Co Tennessee with his wife & children.  The two youngest brothers, PLEASANT WHITECOTTON & HARRISON "HARRY" WHITECOTTON, both enlisted in the Confederate army in Hamilton Co Tennessee.

So could this ELIZABETH who married WILLIAM GRIZZELL and was living in Hamilton Co Tennessee by  1860 census actually be their sister?

DNA proved it so.

This GRIZZLE/GRIZZELL descendant is an exact match on same location of Chromosome 2 for several descendants of LINDLEY M WHITECOTTON, and so far, two descendants of LINDLEY'S brother, JAMES MONROE WHITECOTTON.  Since this descendant has only tested with one company, & it's not the same company as the majority of my family who are WHITECOTTON descendants, any further exact matches are as yet undiscovered.

Here's what the numbers look like so far:

Descendants of James Monroe Whitecotton vs Grizzell/Grizzle descendant
Betty                              Chromosome 2  61000000    75000000   14.48 cM  
Betty's brother               Chromosome 2  61000000     75000000   14.73 cM

Descendants of Lindley M Whitecotton (all from same family) vs Grizzell/Grizzle descendant
Matriarch                       Chromosome 2     61000000    71000000   9.89
Son                                 Chromosome 2     61000000    71000000   9.89
Grandchild                     Chromosome 2     61000000    71000000   8.95
Grandchild                     Chromosome 2     61000000     71000000  9.89
Grandchild                     Chromosome 2     61000000     71000000  9.89

And here's what I have so far on the family of WILLIAM GRIZZELL & ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON:

--1850 Decatur, Morgan Co Alabama census; ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON age 18, in household of her mother HAPPY (RIDDLE) WHITECOTTON, with siblings.

--1860 Hamilton Co Tennessee census; ELIZABETH b 1832 Alabama with husband WILLIAM GRIZZELL b abt 1829 Tennessee, and three children, as listed below. (WILLIAM was conscripted into the Confederate Army, Capt. W.C. Kain's TN Light Artillery Company. He ended up as a POW in Camp Douglas, Chicago, Illinois, where he apparently died before the end of the war).

--1870 Meigs Co Tennessee census; ELIZABETH "GRESSELL" born 1833 Alabama, two sons, as listed below. Daughter was married & living in Chattanooga, Hamilton Co TN in 1870.

--1880 Dallas, Texas census, listed as "ELIZABETH GRIZWOLD", with son MILO age 22 (working as a marble cutter). HARRISON MILO GRIZZELL was enumerated twice in the 1880 Texas census; both times listed as a marble cutter.

--ELIZABETH WHITECOTTON GRIZZELL died Feb 15, 1890 Dallas, Texas.


--NANCY GRIZZELL born about 1851 Tennessee, married WILLIAM H "HARRY" SHUTTE; 1860 Hamilton Co TN census with parents & siblings; 1870 Chattanooga, Hamilton Co TN census with husband.

--GEORGE WASHINGTON GRIZZELL born April 22, 1855 Chattanooga, Hamilton Co Tennessee; married MARGARET ANN "MAGGIE" TERRY; died July 29, 1944 Breckenridge, Stephen Co Texas.

--HARRISON MILO GRIZZELL born 1858 Hamilton Co Tennessee; married MARY L SMITH Sept 15, 1883 in Dallas, Texas; died Texas

Have a great day!


© Betty Tartas  2016