Thursday, February 18, 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

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