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

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