Jesse Sanders of Moore County , North Carolina

Gary B Sanders

The first documented record that indisputably refers to Jesse is the 1810 Moore County , North Carolina, census in which he is listed as age 26-44. Also in the household are one male child and one adult female. Through records left by his son, we know these other members of the household to be Jesse's wife, Sally Lewis, and his son, Hardy Sanders, who was born April 16, 1807.

Researchers of this family have documented that Jesse was a Methodist circuit rider. By 1815, he owed about 260 acres of land in three tracts in Moore County. In 1819 he was postmaster for the town of Carthage, and in 1826 he was a justice of the peace. He died in 1848.

Hardy Sanders is the only known and proven child of Jesse. As mentioned previously, a male child matching the age range of Hardy appears on the 1810 census, but no child at all is listed on the 1820 census in Jesse's household, creating something of a mystery because Hardy's own marriage certificate states that his parents were Jesse Sanders and Sally Lewis. Perhaps Hardy was temporarily in the custody of relatives in 1820. After Sally's death in the early 1840s, Jesse married Christian McNeil December 28, 1843, but there were no children from this union. Christian McNeil Sanders was born in 1802 and died after 1860. Like his father, Hardy became a minister, but he was also a blacksmith and at one period in his life worked as a gunsmith.

Descendants of Jesse Sanders have no authentic family tradition about their Sanders family origin. A letter written in 1953 by John Sanders (4th great grandson of Jesse) states that Jesse came from south of Raleigh, in Wake County. This statement may be based on the assumption that Jesse and his son Hardy were related to the two well known Hardy Sanders who lived in Wake around 1800.

A publication of the Moore County Historical Association states, without giving any documentation, that Hardy and his brother John came from Randolph County. This explanation is confusing, since Jesse, the father of Hardy, was already living in Moore when Hardy was born, and so far as we know, Hardy did not have a brother named John.

A log cabin built on Hardy Sanders’ homestead in Moore County and which still exists today is considered a prime example of Scottish pioneer architecture, suggesting that the family, like many others in the area, was Scots-Irish. Further, the occupations of blacksmith and gunsmith were especially common among the Scotch-Irish Saunders of nearby Randolph and Montgomery counties.

Traditionally, researchers of the Jesse Sanders line have identified his father as William Sanders of Chatham County. The most extensive research done on the William Sanders line was by the late R.S. Sanders in his book, Ancestors and Descendants of Henry Simeon Sanders (1983). It should be noted, however, that R.S. Sanders himself did not identify Jesse's father as William of Moore County.

William Sanders was born about 1740 and died in July 1790 in Chatham County, North Carolina. Wills and other documents show that he had a son named Jesse. A 1796 court record refers to a guardian being appointed for this Jesse; therefore we know he could not have been born before 1776. A Jesse Sanders appears on the 1800 census of Chatham as age 16 to 26. Because he was head of a household, he was most likely between 21 and 26 in 1800, but because he could not have been born before 1776 (if so he would have been over 21 in 1796), he was probably born between 1776 and 1779. In 1804, Jesse appears to have sold all the land he inherited, and he then disappeared from Chatham County records. Some William Sanders researchers think he may have moved to Oglethorpe County, Georgia, as did some of his brothers.

Jesse of Moore County is listed on the 1810 census as age 26-44 (born 1766-1784) , on the 1820 census as over 45 (born before 1775), and on the 1830 and 1840 census as born between 1770-1780. Therefore we know he as born between 1770 and 1775, and it appears unlikely he can be the same fellow as the orphan son of William mentioned in the 1796 record in Chatham County. An orphan has to be under 21. In fact, even if he was nineteen or twenty years old in 1796, it appears unlikely Jesse of Chatham would have needed a guardian. William Brewer, a descendant of Jesse Sanders of Moore County, recognized this problem in his notes on his ancestor: "Some of the research that has been done points to the 1796 guardianship hearing that indicates Jesse was no more than sixteen (the legal age not needing a guardian to be appointed) as the basis for establishing his birth date as no earlier than 1780. The obvious conclusion seems from the census data and the court data seems to be that Jesse of Moore was born between 1770 and 1775 and Jesse of Chathmam was born between 1776 and 1779 (perhaps even later if he was under sixteen in 1796).
Because Jesse of Chatham County leaves no records after 1804 and Jesse of neighboring Moore County appears in the 1810 census and because they were both about the same age, many researchers have concluded they were the same person.There is no documentation or valid family tradition supporting this conclusion, but it did seem to be a valid possibility until a DNA test in 2008 provided contrary data.

The individual who participated in the DNA test is a direct Sanders descendant of Jesse of Moore County through his son Hardy and through Hardy's son Brittian.The documentation for this descent is solid. Surprisingly, the result is not a match with the descendants of William Sanders of Chatham (who have also participated in the test) but with the Saunders family of neighboring Randolph and Montgomery counties. Therefore, unless there is some unfathomable problem with the DNA test itself, the evidence is conclusive that Jesse of Chatham County cannot be the same person as Jesse of Moore. We have to look to Randolph and Montgomery counties to find the father of Jesse of Moore County.

Establishing likely candidates for the parentage of Jesse of Moore is not easy, although there are several individuals who can be tentatively identified as possibilities. Below, I will briefly discuss each one of them. In compiling this list, it was necessary to choose only those individuals from the Randolph and Montgomery Sanders line who were old enough to be the father of Jesse and who were known to be living in Anson County in the 1770s when Jesse was born. Anson is the county from which Randolph and Montgomery were formed. Of course, there is also the possibility that Jesse was the son of a member of the Randolph/Montgomery line who, for one reason or another, never appeared in any land or legal record in Anson County. We know there were Sanders from this line living in Fairfax and Loudoun in Virginia and in South Carolina during this period, and Jesse could have been from those states.

Nevertheless, below are the Sanders living in Anson in the 1770s who are of the right age to be the father of Jesse. The dates of birth and death given below are, in most cases, estimates. All these Sanders, except Daniel,George, David, and Thomas, are proven through DNA testing to have been related to each other.

William Aaron Saunders (1735-1782). Four children are documented (Stephen, Luke, Sally, Nimrod), and it is unlikely that he had additional sons or daughters.

Moses Sanders (1742-1817). His children are listed in his will, so Jesse can be ruled out as his son.

Francis Sanders (1755-1820). The number of his children is not known, but two of them are documented as Peter and Silas. He probably had other children named Sarah, Moses, and Francis. We can't rule out the possibility that Jesse is his son, but Francis appears to have moved to Georgia by 1798, at a time when Jesse may have been a minor. In 1790 he was in Wilkes County instead of Randolph or Montgomery.

Isaac Saunders (1737-1825). Isaac was the brother of William Aaron, Moses, and Francis. He was probably living in Anson in the 1770s but was in Montgomery in 1782, and he moved to Randolph by April 1794 when his land is referenced in a deed. He is mentioned as a chain bearer for a survey in November 1798, and he appears on the 1800 census. My research (Isaac was my third great grandfather-gs) indicates that Jacob (1760), Benjamin (1766), and Francis (1782) were his sons. He may also have been the father of Isaac (1763-1845), Mary Katherine (1765-1809), and a son named Joseph (dates unknown). A letter written in the 1890s mentions only three sons, though the letter doesn't state these were the only sons in the family.

George Sanders (1750?). George may or may not have been a brother of William Aaron, Moses, Francis, and Isaac. He appears to have been of the same generation, but he does not appear in any records after the 1783, when his land boundary is used as a reference for a grant to Reuben Sanders. This Reuben may have been the son of George. Joshua and James Sanders were listed as chain bearers on this grant, and they may also be sons of George. George would be old enough to be the father of Jesse, but the other three were probably too young to have children born in the 1770s.

Nathaniel Sanders (1740?). Nathaniel acquired a tract in 1766 on Buffalo Creek near Little River. He seems to have some connection to William Sanders who first acquired land in 1757 in Anson County.

James Sanders (1740-1810). James seems to have been the son of William Sanders of Anson County. The assumed children of James (James, Jr., Jeffrey, and William Moses) were born in the late 1760 or the 1770s. James died in Spartanburg, South Carolina, but his whereabouts in the 1780s and 1790s are somewhat obscure, although his son James, Jr., is listed on the 1790 Montgomery County census.

Patrick Sanders (1735-1805). Patrick was probably the brother of James and a son of William of Anson. His reputed sons (Patrick, Elias, and William A.) were all born in the 1770s. By 1782, Patrick was in Rutherford County, North Carolina. Like his brother James, Patrick was in Spartanburg, South Carolina by 1800.

Daniel Sanders (1738-1780). Daniel is a mystery. A Daniel Sanders appears on the 1759 Rowan County tax list and on the 1779 Montgomery County tax list. These may actually be different individuals. However, the Daniel Sanders on the 1779 list was certainly old enough in the 1770s to have sons.

David Sanders (born before 1750?). All that is known about David is that he was listed as one of the Anson County participants in the Battle of Alamance in 1771. There are no other land or legal records and he may have moved elsewhere.

Thomas Sanders (born before 1750?). As with David, nothing is known about Thomas except that he an Anson County participant in the Battle of Alamance.

In reviewing this list, we can eliminate William Aaron and Moses and probably Francis as possible fathers of Jesse, but all the others are still candidates. If George, Daniel, David, or Thomas were the father of Jesse, then he was probably an orphan and was raised by someone other than his father because these four Sanders men don't appear in any records during the years of Jesse's childhood. That leaves Isaac, Patrick, and James as possibilities, though one or more objections could be raised to any one of these three as the father of Jesse.

Of the eleven Sanders or Saunders we have examined, the one who seems the most likely father of Jesse is Isaac of Randolph. We can rule out most of the others because we already know who their sons were or their parenthood seems unlikely because they don't appear to be in the vicinity when Jesse was a child.

In assessing parenthood issues in genealogy, naming patterns are sometimes helpful. Unfortunately, Jesse had only one son, Hardy, and the name Hardy is not common among the Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery. According to various sources I consulted, Hardy had the following sons: Jesse, Benjamin (died in infancy), Brittian, Isham, Simon, and John. Of these names, Jesse, Benjamin and John are common among the Randolph and Montgomery Sanders group and Isham was not unknown. My father and grandfather were both named Jesse, for example. The name Brittian brings up a connection that may or may not be relevant.

Britton L. Sanders was born in 1809, presumably in Montgomery County. According to tradition among his descendants, he had a brother named Bryan. His parents are unknown, but he did have business dealings with Aaron H. Sanders, son of Luke Sanders and grandson of William Aaron Saunders. He named one of his children Aaron. Britton was most likely a cousin to Aaron H. Sanders, but the exact relationship is unknown. Possibly, he was a son of Stephen Saunders, Luke's brother. In the 1810 census, however, no son under ten is listed in Stephen's household. Possibly, the infant was temporarily living with another family member. There is a male in the 1810 household who could be the other brother, Bryan. In 1832, Britton married Lydia Yow of Moore County, North Carolina.

Like Hardy Sanders of Moore County, Britton was a gunsmith. His rifles were highly prized for their skilled craftsmanship. Of course, blacksmiths were as common in those days as automobile mechanics are today, but, nevertheless, occupations were often passed down from father to son or to other male relatives. Benjamin Sanders, son of the the Isaac Saunders living in Randolph in 1800, was a blacksmith and/or gunsmith, as were two of his sons, William, and Benjamin, Jr.

Isaac was a brother to William Aaron, Moses, and Francis. Although he was living in Montgomery County in 1782, we don't have any  records for him between 1782 and 1794 when his land in Randolph County was referenced in a deed. He appears on the 1800 Randolph census. In 1806 he transferred in Randolph County a one acre tract, including a mill site, to Benjamin.This mill may be of more significance than it appears. In article titled, "A slice of history," issued by the Moore County Historical Association, May 2007, p. 7, I found the following written by William D. Brewer, a descendant of Jesse: "First, you will find Sanders and Saunders used interchangeably, often in the same generation (the Saunders usually drove newer cars). The first Saunders of record in Moore County was Isaac who bought land and a mill on upper Tillis (now Mill) Creek near present day Rt. 211 west of Eagle Springs. He disappears by the time of the 1790 census."

The mill site that Isaac owned in Moore County is  described in more detail at Carol Vidales Web site: "On 4 Feb 1765 Richard Tullos of Anson Co. NC bought 200 acres of land and a mill in Cumberland County, NC from John Smith, Sandhill. Rassie E. Wicker, in his book MISCELLANEOUS ANCIENT RECORDS OF MOORE COUNTY, NC (1971), page 357, wrote this about Richard Tullos (or Tillis): "The late Neill Dowd who, until his death a few years ago, lived on this land, told the writer that it was said that Tillis attempted to improve his mill by the construction of a flume or ditch along the rocky bank of the creek, to a point downstream where a great head could be secured. The work progressed until a particularly refractory ledge of rock was encountered. In a bull-headed attempt to remove this obstruction, Tillis spent all his means and finally committed suicide. The writer has seen the traces of this flume, and the obstruction which defeated Tillis' efforts. On February 10th, 1780, Elizabeth, Temple and Willoby Tillis conveyed this land and mill to Isaac Saunders." (I don't know if Richard Tullos really committed suicide. Elizabeth Tullos appears on the 1782 tax list for Anson County, and on the 1783 census for Duplin Co. NC. Temple and Willoughby Tullos are also heads of household in the 1783 Duplin Co. census.)"

Moore County was formed from Cumberland County in 1784. According to a letter written in the 1890s to one of Isaac's descendants, the Isaac Saunders who later lived in Randolph County was the "first man to build a house at Cross Creek." Cross Creek is at the site of present day Fayetteville in Cumberland County. Isaac seems to have been living in Cumberland County from about 1760 until after he acquired the land in 1780 on Tillis Creek in the part of Cumberland that later would become Moore County. In 1782 he was listed as owning land in Montgomery County. Like the other Saunders of Montgomery County, his land was near the Randolph border, and after 1794 all references to him are from Randolph County.

We don't really know the history of land transactions concerning the land Isaac bought in 1780. William Brewer, in his notes on Jesse Sanders, points out that many of the land records of Moore were lost in an 1889 fire, but the 1815 tax list survives and shows that Jesse owned several portion of land. He seems to have acquired other tracts over the years. One of these portions, about 200 acres, he sold to Joseph Deaton in 1848. After a digression concerning the birth years of Jesse and his wife, William Brewer continues:

"This probably has no relevance, but on page 357 of Wicker's book: on February 10, 1780, the Tillis family conveyed this land and mill (on upper Mill Creeek near Highway 211) to Isaac Saunders. Saunders supposedly later sold it to a Sowell."

Actually, I think it has a great deal of relevance! If this means what I think it means, the 200 acre tract Jesse sold in 1848 to his neighbor Joseph Deaton is the same 200 acre tract Isaac bought in 1780. Since the records of Moore are somewhat fragmentary, it's possible that Isaac retained some or all of the land until it was acquired by Jesse, maybe even by inheritance.

We have no documentary evidence that the Isaac who owed a mill in Moore County is the same Isaac Saunders who owed a mill in Randolph, but this conclusion is the most logical one to be drawn from the available records.The evidence that Isaac is the father of Jesse is stronger than the evidence that anyone else is the father of Jesse. We know there was an Isaac Saunders owning land in Cumberland (Moore) County during Jesse's childhood and we know of no other Sanders who lived in the area at that time. We know there was an Isaac Sanders in Randolph who once lived in Cumberland County. We know the descendants of Isaac of Randolph share the same Y-DNA as the descendants of Jesse. Further, Isaac's oldest son Jacob named his first son Jesse, which would fit with the theory that Jacob was the brother of Jesse Sanders of Moore County.

Jim Sanders, in his booklet The Sanders Families of Montgomery County, North Carolina, mentions that a Jesse Sanders was a chain carrier for a survey for Little Berry Hicks on Spencer Creek on February 18, 1787. Spencer Creek flows into the Uwharrie river south of the mouth of Barnes Creek. Most of the Saunders of Montgomery lived near Barnes Creek, and the Hicks survey was about five miles south of the Saunders property. When I first read this description a few years ago, my first thought was that this Jesse was the same person as Jesse, son of Jacob, and grandson of Isaac Saunders. Jesse, the son of Jacob, was born May 17, 1780 and is one of the few Saunders of that time for whom we have an exact birth date.

There is a problem, however, with this identification: Jesse, the son of Jacob, was six years old in February of 1787, and carrying a thirty-three to sixty-six foot chain was not a task usually entrusted to a six year old child. Yet, because, I didn't know of any other related Jesse Saunders who would have been old enough to be a chain carrier in 1787, I put my reservations aside until recently when I began to research Jesse of Moore County. The solution is easy if Jesse, the chain carrier in Montgomery County, was the same person who later moved to Moore County. In 1787, he would have been twelve to seventeen years old. It was not at all unusual during that period for teenagers to be chain carriers for surveys on the land of relatives. Therefore, I think it likely that the chain bearer on the 1787 survey is Jesse Sanders, who later moved to Moore County.

In summary, we can establish that there are no major objections to identifying Isaac as the father of Jesse of Moore County. We can establish that there were occupations shared by the Jesse Sanders line and by the Randolph/Montgomery line, and we can identify some similarities in given names. We recognize the DNA evidence that shows these two lines to be related. What we cannot do, at the present time, is identify with certainty the father of Jesse Sanders of Moore County. Nevertheless, I believe there is enough documentation to assign tentative status to Isaac Saunders of Randolph as that father.

--Gary Sanders
December 8, 2008

In researching this article, I have relied heavily on these sources: