Francis Sanders was born in 1782 in North Carolina. Because of cousin relationships that are mentioned in traditions among his descendants, it appears he was a brother to Benjamin Sanders, and they were probably sons of Isaac Saunders who was living in Montgomery County in 1782 and lived afterwards in neighboring Randolph County. Francis is probably the 16-25 year old male in Isaac’s household in Randolph County in the census of 1800.
My research indicates that, contrary to many statements on the Internet, Francis of Randolph was not from Gates County, North Carolina, and was not the son of Francis Sanders who died in 1783 in Gates. The son of Francis of Gates was born between 1766 and 1775, married Ann Vann in 1795, and died between 1817 and 1830. It does not appear that the younger Francis ever left Gates County. His children are named in an 1830 legal document, and he is obviously a different fellow from Francis Sanders of Randolph.
On August 21, 1801 Francis Sanders of Randolph married Rachel Sanders, daughter of Joseph Sanders. DNA tests of the descendants of Francis and Joseph show that they were from separate Sanders lines. Francis appears to be enumerated on the 1810 census of Randolph near his brother Benjamin Sanders. The 1820 census is missing. By 1830 he and his family had moved to Jackson County, Alabama. In the 1840s, the family moved to Dekalb County, Alabama.
There are five children of Francis and Rachel for whom I have found plausible documentation: Elijah (born in 1804), John Francis (1805), Elisha (1814), William Patrick (1819), and Mary Jane (1823). All were born in Randolph County, North Carolina.
Elijah Sanders was the oldest child of Francis and Rachel. There is a solid family tradition passed down among his descendants (to Mrs. Hattie Vandiver, who was born in 1923) that his father was Francis Sanders. Elijah married Mary Jane Isbell and they raised a large family of ten children. Elijah died in Jackson County in 1858.
The administrator for the estate of Elijah was his brother Francis (also known as John Francis or Frank) Sanders. John Francis was probably the oldest living brother of Elijah and chosen as the administrator for this reason. John Francis moved to Calhoun County, Arkansas, in 1871 and died there in 1875.
Another likely son of Francis and Rachel is Elisha Sanders, who died in Marshall County, Alabama in 1840. The elder Francis was one of the administrators for his estate. Elisha appears to have been a relatively young man, probably under thirty years old, because he left a young widow and two male children, both under six years old. The presence of the younger of these children in the household of Francis and Rachel in 1850 in DeKalb County, Alabama, also lends credence to the possibility that Francis was the grandparent of the two children of Elisha.
While Francis and Rachel were living in DeKalb County, Alabama, Francis applied for federal bounty land on January 1, 1851, based on his service in the Seminole Indian War. He stated on the application that he was 68 years old and that he was the same person who served in Jackson County in the fall of 1837 and spring of 1838 under Captain William S. Coffee’s North Alabama Mounted Volunteer Regiment. We know from subsequent events that his intention was to go to Arkansas and secure land there.
At nearly seventy years of age, he and Rachel didn’t travel alone but with the families of two of their children: William Patrick Sanders, who was married to Ellender Southerland; and Mary Jane Sanders, married to James Jones Biddie or Biddy. In a court case in the Indian Territory in 1903, one of their grandchildren, Sarah Ann Biddy Kinsey, stated that the Sanders migration to Arkansas involved at least five wagons and two buggies. My estimate is that there were seventeen or more people. According to another grandchild, the trip took five or six weeks. The route apparently was from Marshall County, Alabama, through Corinth, Mississippi, to Memphis, then through Des Arc in Prairie County, Arkansas, and finally to Hempstead County.
Mary Jane Sanders Biddie died in 1852 somewhere in central Arkansas, possibly near Des Arc in Prairie County. Her brother, William Patrick Sanders, moved to Pike County, Arkansas, and later served in the Union Army during the Civil War. His year of death is uncertain, but military records show he was alive in November 1863. One of his sons married in 1865 in Montgomery County, Arkansas, a granddaughter of Francis’ brother Benjamin.
Francis Sanders’ bounty land warrant was executed in August 1855 in Hempstead County, Arkansas, and the two witnesses were James J. Biddie and William (William Patrick) Sanders. The application states that Francis was then a resident of Hempstead County. Francis seems to have received the right to eighty acres in Pike County and then to have signed his rights to the land in October 1856 to Henry Merrill, an agent for the Arkansas Manufacturing Company. This is the last record we have of Francis Sanders. Neither he nor Rachel is referenced on the 1860 Arkansas census.
Census records indicate that Francis and Rachel probably had other children, but contrary to numerous postings on the Internet, Francis and Rachel were almost certainly not the parents of several children that are often attributed to them: Rebecca (born in 1806), Phoebe (1813), Isaac (1818) John (1822), Alfred Head Mashburn (1826). My research indicates these five siblings were the children of Francis’ brother, Benjamin.
Through the efforts of many researchers, we have a much better understanding of Francis’ life than we had a few years ago. It is to be hoped that further research will expand this knowledge. I am interested in documentation anyone else has to share that will help identify the children of Francis and Rachel.