The Children of Nancy Griffin  Sanders and John Wesley Sanders, Spartannburg County, South Carolina

The Sanders Cemetery in the Kyles Community, Jackson County, Alabama, was dedicated as a cemetery by Jesse Elbert Sanders (1831-1906). It's a small cemetery and most of the people buried there are close relatives. One of the burials, though, seems rather puzzling:

Sanders, John W.,War of 1812, Pvt. in Captain Clement's Company South Carolina militia. Died 15 Feb, 1815 and buried Sanders Cemetery, Jackson County, AL. He was married to Nancy Griffin 15 March, 1808 in the Spartanburg District of South Carolina. Marked by the Thomas Gold Chapter A.S. Daughters of 1812 in February, 1960.

According to Jane Nichols, a Sanders descendant who provided an online transcription of the Sanders cemetery at Kyles, John W. Sanders is not buried in the cemetery: "He died and was buried in SC. Someone had a headstone put there for him in the 1960s. I don't know the relationship of him to this family."

It seems improbable that he would have been buried on the property forty or fifty years before it was donated as a cemetery, but there must be a story behind why someone erected a monument to him in this cemetery nearly a hundred and fifty years after John Sanders’ death..

After an online posting of an inquiry, I received the following response:

Re: John W. Sanders, War of 1812, South Carolina
wynnewynn      (View posts)
Posted: 22 Apr 2009 1:20PM
Classification: Query
Surnames: sanders
Your group was quite right in commenting re.  date discrepancy in posting for John Sanders. Several others also have commented. The February 1815 is the date his service ended. He appears to have come to Jackson County later. It might be helpful to check census records. I doubt that either he or his wife Mary lived until 1851 because I could not find a pension application. 1851 was the year when they began offering pensions to 1812 veterans and their widows. The SC service record checks out. The record I have indicates that the Thomas Gold Chapter of the Alabama Society of Daughters of 1812 received a request from a family member to dedicate a marker in the Sanders Cemetery and did so in or about Feb of 1960, the date given for the report (filed Feb, 1960) The member of the Thomas Gold chapter who is responsible for filing the report is a Mrs. Jesse Proctor of Scottsboro, Jackson County, AL. I have no way of determining whether she was related to the Sanders family. I would think that someone in the Sanders family submitted John W. Sander's record to the VA (a precondition of the VA providing a Veterans Marker) and asked the Daughters of 1812 to mark and dedicate the grave. Unfortunately, there is no other record, nor anyone we can ask. The Thomas Gold Chapter of Daughters of 1812 no longer exists. It members appear to have died out or off without their being able to interest younger people in the community in becoming members. That present day Sanders may not be able to identify John W. Sanders or determine any relationship does not surprise me. I am assuming that this may be the case--that someone may have asked current family members associated with the cemetery if they knew anything about a John Sanders buried in the cemetery and received a negative. I have learned from experience that the past is often forgotten as also are those whose past actions made what we have in the present possible. In many families no one can go beyond identifying grandparents and MAYBE a couple of their great-grandparents. I will be correct the entry on the web page to indicate that John Sander's service ended in February of 1815. At that time the Battle of New Orleans was over and Sanders' having been killed by anyone would be extremely unlikely. Hope this helps. Please address any additional questions or comments to me to the address given on my web site:
Here is my own response to the posting:

----- Original Message -----
From: Gary B. Sanders
Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2009 6:58 PM
Subject: John W. Sanders, message board posting

Thank you for your posting concerning John W. Sanders. It does help to know that Annie Coleman Proctor filed the report. Her husband, Jesse Proctor was the son of Finis Proctor and Sarah Sanders, the grandson of Jesse Elbert Sanders and Elizabeth Bean, the great grandson of Sampson Saunders and Rhoda Redwine, the g-g grandson of Jacob Saunders and Mary, and the g-g-g grandson of Isaac Saunders.  Jesse Proctor was my fourth cousin, as I descend through another son of Isaac.
Isaac Saunders (about 1737-about 1825) lived in Montgomery and Randolph counties in North Carolina.  In the late 1820s and continuing through the 1850s many of his descendants moved to Jackson County, Alabama.  Many researchers have worked on tracing his descendants, myself included, and none of them, to my knowledge, have ever suggested that a John Sanders from South Carolina was among Isaac's descendants. Nor am I aware of any of his descendants moving to South Carolina, even briefly (at least not until the 20th century, perhaps). Therefore I am still in the dark as to why the monument was erected.
Nevertheless, Annie Coleman Proctor placed the monument in the same cemetery where, for the most part, descendants of Jesse Elbert Sanders are buried. Jesse Elbert (1831-1906) donated the land as a cemetery either during the Civil War or somewhat later, I believe.
Anyway, thanks again for your informative reply.

The preceding exchange was in 2009. In the ten years that have passed since that exchange, I have been able to obtain other information about John W. Sanders and about his wife, Nancy Griffin Sanders. I still do not know whether he is related to my Sanders, but I think we are closer to an understanding of his family. Much of this information was obtained through the assistance of genealogical research colleagues who have been kind enough to share information and advice with me. Among these individuals to whom I am indebted are George Sanders, a descendant of Nancy Griffin Sanders’ son Ignatius, David Sanders, a descendant of Nancy’s son Hiram, and Laura Bonds Sanders, whose husband is a descendant of Nancy’s son Simpson Sanders. All are excellent researchers and it has been a pleasure to work with them. I am also indebted to the work of another descendant of Nancy Griffin Sanders, Tom Hall, who has written several excellent articles that provided documentation on this rather mysterious and complex family.

I will begin with John W. Sanders and the information I found in the pension application that Nancy Griffin Sanders filed with the federal government in 1858. Here is what I posted at the Sanders forum site in 2012:
John W. Sanders (died 1815) and Nancy Griffin of Spartanburg, South Carolina Edit Delete  Gary__BSanders     (View posts)  Posted: 14 Aug 2012 6:41PM 
Classification: Query  Edited: 15 Aug 2012 2:02PM 
Surnames: Sanders, Griffin, Pettit, Gore, Guthrie, Moore, Price 

Yesterday I received from the National Archives a copy of the pension file of Nancy Sanders, the widow who appears on the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1860 census of Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Though there is very little genealogical information in the file, there is enough to solve some of the mysteries about Nancy and her husband John.

Nancy Sanders gave several different ages in her affidavits in the file. On March 21, 1856, she stated that she was sixty-eight years old, making her birth year 1788. On other affidavits she or others testifying on her behalf gave different ages, with her birth year in one case being 1793. The census data of 1830 has a birth year of 1780-1790; 1840 gives a birth year of 1790-1800; that of 1860 has 1793.

Nancy stated that her maiden name was Griffin and that she was married in Spartanburg to John Sanders on March 15, 1808 or 1809 by John Lipscomb, Esq., (she was not sure about the exact year). She stated that John volunteered for the U.S. Army September 15, 1814 and that he was then marched to Charleston where he died in service on February 15, 1815. He served as a private in Captain Edward Clement’s Company, Colonel Means’ Regiment, and at the time of his death, he and Nancy had four small children. She also stated that she never remarried, and several residents testified that she was a respectable and honorable person of good reputation.

Among the people testifying on Nancy’s behalf were William Pettit, William Guthrie, Davis Moore, Benjamin Price, and John Gore. The latter stated that he was seventy-three years old in 1857 and he had been acquainted with John Sanders and Nancy Griffin before their marriage as they were “raised neighbors.”

Based on Nancy’s statement, I believe the marriage took place in 1808 rather than 1809. There are two John Sanders on the 1810 census, but only one has children under the age of ten, two boys and one girl. This is almost certainly the household of John and Nancy. Either a child was born in 1808, 1809, and 1810 or more likely there was a set of twins born in one year. From this, we can conclude that only one child of the four was born between 1811 and 1815.

The names of the children are not given in the file, but Eliza L. Sanders, Nancy’s daughter-in-law, filed an affidavit in Nancy’s behalf. I could not find an Eliza L. Sanders in either the 1850 or the 1860 census of Spartanburg, and at first I was somewhat baffled as to her identify. Eliza stated she had known Nancy for the “last thirty years” (that is, since 1827, as the affidavit was in 1857). In an 1859 affidavit, Nancy states that she was living near the Hurricane Post Office in Spartanburg.

I think this is our clue to the identity of Eliza. In the 1860 census, we find Simpson Sanders and his wife Lucy living near the Hurricane Post office. Nancy is living in the Northern Division of Spartanburg with Ignatius (Nathan or “Nace”) Sanders and his family. How is Nancy related to these two? My theory follows.

On July 24, 1868 letters of administration for the estate of Nancy Sanders were granted to Simpson Sanders for the estate of Nancy Sanders, deceased. I believe this Nancy is the widow of John Sanders who died in 1815 and that Simpson was her son. The difficulty is that all the census records show that Simpson was born between 1817 and 1820. Nevertheless, I think the census records are incorrect. Simpson, like many people in those days, may have lost track of the exact year in which he was born. Nancy stated in the file that she had no record of the birth dates of the children, but obviously they were all born before or shortly after John’s death in February 1815. My theory is that Simpson was born in 1815 and was the last of the four children of John and Nancy. If he is not their child, then apparently none of the children were alive in 1868 and Simpson may be a nephew of Nancy’s husband.

A further reason to think Simpson is the son of John and Nancy and that he was actually born in 1815 is that his wife was named Lucy according to all the census records, and so far as I can tell, Lucy is the only person in Spartanburg in 1850 or 1860 who could be the daughter-in-law Eliza L. (for Lucy) Sanders who filed an affidavit on Nancy’s behalf in 1857.

Ignatius Sanders, with whom Nancy was living in 1860, is not her son (unless the Nancy with Ignatius in 1860 is not the widow of John Sanders, which appears improbable because that would mean two widows named Nancy and of approximately the same age with only one appearing on the census). Ignatius may be a nephew of John.

In the file, there is a letter written by the Veterans Administration in response to a genealogical inquiry written in March 1933 by a Mrs. A. S. Bowen of Chickamauga, Georgia, asking “if you have a record of the service or pension granted to John Wesley Sanders (or Saunders) who served in the War of 1812. He enlisted in northern Alabama or Tennessee. He was with Andrew Jackson and was killed in the battle of New Orleans, or maybe, near there, in the bombardment of Fort Bowyer. The name of his wife was probably Nancy. The above is family data.” Apparently, Mrs. Bowen was not the descendant of John and Nancy who provided this information but was writing on behalf of someone who wanted to join the local chapter of descendants of veterans of the war.

The bureau responded by providing a summary similar to what I have above but the response also states that a Hiram Sanders, relationship unknown, testified on behalf of Nancy. I could not find any such affidavit in the file; possibly, it was lost years ago, or the National Archives neglected to copy that page in the file they sent me. It appears, however, that the affidavit would not provide any further genealogical information. My tentative guess is that Hiram is a brother to Ignatius Sanders. We know now that neither one can be Nancy’s son, as they were born well after 1815.

Whether John Wesley Sanders who married Nancy Griffin is the same person as the John Sanders who killed Ignatious Griffin, his father-in-law, in 1810 is still an open question. I suspect he is because on the 1810 census his family is enumerated next door to Maryville Griffin, widow of Ignatious. For more on this story, see the following:

To summarize, we know from the pension file that John Wesley Sanders and Nancy Griffin were married in 1808 in Spartanburg, they had three children before 1811, and they had one other child, who was probably born in 1815. From census data we can add that three of the children were boys and one was a girl. Nancy Sanders of the pension file appears to be the same Nancy Sanders, who was listed on the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1860 census and who died in 1868, with Simpson Sanders as the executor of her estate.

My main interest in this John Sanders, of course, is determining whether he is related to my Sanders. So far, I have found no clues on that question, though one of my cousins evidently thought so, because a cenotaph was erected in the 1960s to the memory of John W. Sanders in the Sanders Cemetery at Kyles, Jackson County, Alabama.


After further research, I have revised, as of March 2020, many of the suggestions I made in the 2012 postings.  I am far less certain, for example, that Erwin or Simpson Sanders were sons of John Wesley Sanders, nor do I currently believe that Simpson Sanders’ wife, Lucy Bogan Sanders, is the same person as Nancy Griffin Sanders’ daughter-in-law Eliza J. Sanders, who signed the 1857 affidavit. Adelbert D. Hiller, the executive assistant to the administrator of Veterans Affairs, stated in a 1933 response to an inquiry about the pension file that the name of the daughter-in-law was Eliza J. Sanders. Several years ago, because I could not find an Eliza J. Sanders on the 1850 or 1860 census of Spartanburg, I looked at the original document and at the middle initial of the daughter-in-law in the document and tried to make the case that perhaps the middle initial was an “L” instead of a “J.”  In the following material, I will explain how I came to change my mind and I will construct a scenario that I think is the most likely explanation for the identity of the children of John Wesley Sanders and Nancy Griffin Sanders. Although I use the middle name of "Wesley" in my explanation, it should be noted that the letter written by Mrs. Bowen in 1934 seems to be the only document in which a middle name is given for John Sanders. No document from his lifetime or from family tradition gives him a middle name.

John Wesley was probably too young to appear on the 1800 census of Spartanburg and he most likely still living in his father’s household. There are two John Sanders or Saunders enumerated on the 1810 Spartanburg County, South Carolina census:

United States Federal Census
John Saunders Name: John Saunders
Home in 1810 (City, County, State): Spartanburg, South Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons - Males - 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 15: 2
Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 45 and over : 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 2
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 6
United States Federal Census
John Saunders Name: John Saunders
Home in 1810 (City, County, State): Spartanburg, South Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 10: 2
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons - Females - Under 10: 1
Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 25: 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 3
Number of Household Members: 5

I believe the second John Saunders is John Wesley Sanders and his wife Nancy Griffin Sanders who were married in 1808. It shows they had three children and Nancy stated in her pension application that at the time of John’s death, she was left with four small children. We can assume from this statement that at least one child was born after 1810 (or one of the three in 1810 died between 1810 and 1815 and another was born who survived until 1815).

The 1810 census shows that John was probably born about 1785. As we have seen previously, Nancy was probably a few years younger, perhaps born in 1788. Her father was Ignatius Griffin who had violent disagreements with his son-in-law, quarrels that culminated in March 1810 with the killing of  Ignatius Griffin by John Sanders. The resulting trial provides some crucial genealogical information:

Item number 288. Spartanb. Apr. 1810. The State vs John Saunders. Murder of
Ignatius Griffin. (pgs 206-208)

Young Allen. At a muster ground the prisoner & the son of dec'd had a
quarrel. The deceased got very angry, pushed upon prisoner, who seemed to
wish not to have anything to do with him. As prisoner went off, deceased
followed him. Heard soon after a voice like Saunders's say "don't come or do
so again," and then heard a blow struck. It was late in the evening. Went to
this place. Saw S. of G. striking him with a stick. It appeared to be half
of a fence rail, as thick as his arm. Others came up. Took off Saunders.
Then took up Griffin. He fetched only a few breaths & died. Did not speak.
X'd. The deceased & prisoner went to the ground that day from his house &
appeared friendly. G. run his hors upon S. several times. Told S. he c'd
whip him. S. said he did not wish to fight him. G. a quarrelsome man. a
strong man. Very able to whip Saunders. He wanted to fight several of his
neighbours that day. Saunders's knew very much cute, almost to the bone.
Thinks it was done with a stick. The prisoner is reckoned a peaceable man by
the neighbours. The deceased had several wounds on his head. Both parties
had been drinking that day. Witness is the uncle of S. and G. married his
sister. S. is the son in law of G. married G's daughter.
Willis Allen. G & S had had frequent quarrels before. Never heard S.
threaten to do G. any mischief. There had been a fight that day between S. &
young Griffin. The were parted. Old. G. got very angry came up & told S. he
had better whip him. S. said "no, I have no harm against you." This repeated
by both several times. S. then on his horse, about to start. Very abusive
language. G. run up his horse against s. several times. S. endeavoured to
get out of his way.
X'd. The deceased & prisoner came briefly together that day. The last
quarrel they had was twelve months before. G. was as much of a man as any
other of his weight. This his general character. Very violent when his anger
was raised. G. was able to whip S. at any time. The wound on S's knee a very
bad one. Very deep & ugly. The prisoner is the half brother & G. was the
uncle of witness.
James Harrison. Went to the place upon hearing the blows. Assisted in taking
up G. He died in a few minutes. G. was about 50 years old.
Henry Griffin. Has heard prisoner once threaten to kill his father if he did
so & so. This twelve months before. They were friendly after that. His
father was 60 odd years old.

Volume XXX Fall 2002 Number 4
The South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research (ISSN 0190-826X)
Brent H. Holcomb, Editor and Publisher
Laurence K. Wells, Founder and Contributing Editor
Published quarterly at Columbia, South Carolina
© 2002 by Brent II. Holcomb
Quoted in message of  Gayle Londerlee, March 7, 2011 at

Among the genealogical facts given in the trial record, we learn that Young Allen, one of the witnesses, was the uncle of John Wesley Sanders and that Ignatius Griffin married Young Allen’s sister. The first name of Ignatius Griffin’s wife is known from other records as Mayville or Mavel. We also learn that Willis Allen, another witness, is the half-brother of John Wesley Sanders and that Ignatius Griffin was Willis Allen’s uncle. Unless the descriptions are of relationships by marriage or there is illegitimacy involved, my interpretation of this is as follows:

Young Allen had a  sister who married Ignatius Griffin. We know her name from other sources as Mayville or Mavel Allen.

Young Allen was the uncle of John Wesley Sanders. So Young Allen may have had a brother, Unknown Allen, who was the father of:

Willis Allen. We are also told that Willis Allen was the half-brother of John Wesley Sanders.  Since Willis Allen had the surname of Allen, the half-sibling relationship must have come from their mother, who first married Willis Allen’s father, then married a man named Sanders (Willis Allen was older than John Wesley Sanders). And Willis Allen was also the nephew of:

Ignatius Griffin. Therefore, Willis’ mother and John Sanders’ mother probably had the maiden name of Griffin and she may have been a sister to Ignatius Griffin.

This theory would make Nancy Sanders and John Wesley Sanders first cousins and Ignatius Griffin the uncle of John Wesley Sanders as well as his father-in-law. It is certainly a confusing situation and alternative explanations are possible. Tom Hall, for example, has suggested that the mother of John Wesley Sanders had the maiden name of Allen and that Willis Allen was only the nephew of Ignatius Griffin by marriage, not by blood.

Apparently, the citizens of Spartanburg were somewhat forgiving of John Sanders and regarded Ignatius Griffin as the aggressor in the fight. John Sanders was convicted of manslaughter but was released and pardoned. He returned to the community and his wife and children, but their lives were changed dramatically two years later by the War of 1812.

As I mentioned earlier in this document, Nancy provided details about her family in her 1856-1858 application for a federal pension. As A. D. Hiller said in his 1933 response to the previously mentioned inquiry:

Nancy stated that her maiden name was Griffin and that she was married in Spartanburg to John Sanders on March 15, 1808 or 1809 by John Lipscomb, Esq., (she was not sure about the exact year). She stated that John volunteered for the U.S. Army September 15, 1814 and that he was then marched to Charleston where he died in service on February 15, 1815. He served as a private in Captain Edward Clement’s Company, Colonel Means’ Regiment, and at the time of his death, he and Nancy had four small children. She also stated that she never remarried, and several residents testified that she was a respectable and honorable person of good reputation.

After the death of John, his personal estate was inventoried and sold, as he died intestate.  Laura Bonds Sanders sent me the following information about the estate papers in March 2014:

I have copies of the estate papers for John Wesley Sanders  ('Saunders") from SC Archives,Spartanburg County, Estate Papers, File # 1807

The Administration Bond lists three persons responsible for the bond paid to the county ($150.00): Nancy Saunders, Henry Griffin and Jesse Griffin. It was witnessed by Young Allen.Only two beds & bed stands (also called  " bed and furniture" on another list) were listed in the inventory, and Nancy kept both. There was one table and 4 chairs, and Nancy kept those as well. There is nothing baby related in the inventory. One of the beds was more highly valued than the other. Maybe one was feather and the other straw? At any rate, it sounds pretty simple. I guess the four children slept in the same bed, or maybe an infant slept with the parents & three kids shared a bed? Perhaps there was a cradle, as one Abraham Brock bought a sycthe ("sith") and a "Credle". I do not know if the cradle is for a baby, or something grain-related. 

Other items listed:
Livestock(cows, bulls, horses, sows), sadle & bridle, loom & spinning wheel & cards, tools and knives, a pocket book, ink stand, bundle of "waring cloths" (wearing clothes?), one plow gears & bridle & linen, set of shoe tools ("shew tools") and lasts & apron, one pewter ("puter") dish, 8 plates, 3 pewter basins, 2 pans & tins, knives ("nives") and forks, 3 spoons, one flesh fork, one tray, one sifter, one pot oven & lid & baker, a churn and a pail and a canteen, axe, meal "gum" or "girm" (?). 

Looks like John may have been a cobbler as well as a farmer.

On the list of the sale of the "goods and chattels of the estate of John Saunders, Decd" June 30, 1815
Britton George bought a "razor and fixings." 

Under South Carolina law at that time, when a man died intestate, and there was a desire to sell any of the personal property of the deceased, the court appointed an administrator for the personal property and preference was usually given to the widow. The property would be inventoried and creditors would  be paid. Nancy Griffin Sanders may have wanted to sell the personal property in order to raise money to pay debts or to have funds for her young family. Any real property owned by someone who died intestate passed immediately to the heirs without probate being required, but children were not able to dispose of the property they inherited without the consent of a guardian or until they reached the age of twenty-one.

In the estate papers, no mention is made of the disposition of any land that John Sanders may have owned, but Nancy Sanders under English common law would have had a right to a life estate in one-third of any real estate that John possessed at the time of his death. If she also had guardianship over the four children, as she evidently did, she would have had control of the entire property until her children attained the age of twenty-one and they could then inherit control of the property in their own right. I believe this legal issue may be a clue to the identity of children born to Nancy Griffin Sanders after the death of her husband:

From: David Sanders
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2020 3:17 PM
To: Gary B Sanders 
Subject: Re: Nancy Sanders Pension
Pursuant to the Act of April 16, 1816, Nancy Sanders received a widow’s pension equivalent to half of John’s pay for five years after his death according to: Davis, “Some South Carolina Widows and Orphans of the War of 1812,” p. 131.I don't have access to this publication, but got this info from Thomas Hall. This would mean that from around 1816/17 to 1822 she would have received a pension.—David Sanders

If Nancy had remarried, her new husband would have become the guardian of her children and Nancy would have lost control of any real estate that John had possessed. In addition, though I do not know this for certain, I assume that any remarriage would probably have led to revocation of her pension payments, as a married man was supposed to support his wife in those days.

When we look at the 1820 and 1830 census, we find young children living in Nancy’s household, many of them born well after John Wesley Sanders died in 1815. Though we cannot be certain that these individuals were children of Nancy, descendants of these children have assumed that Nancy was the mother and that John Wesley Sanders was the father, in spite of the census data conflict.

I believe there is a way to explain all of this: Nancy did not want to jeopardize her pension payments (although they were small in any case) and she did not want to give up control of the real estate and the guardianship of her children, so she remained unmarried but continued to have children by at least one and possibly two or more men. An alternative explanation is that the children on the 1820 and 1830 census are the children of relatives that Nancy raised, but all of them took the surname of Sanders, indicating that they were Nancy’s children. Autosomal DNA testing appears to indicate that the common link between these individuals was probably Nancy.

Laura Bonds Sanders sent me a few years ago a copy of an 1834 estate settlement in Spartanburg that mentions a John Sanders and his widow Nancy and their children. At that time, we both thought that this couple was a separate John and Nancy and that the settlement referred to a John Sanders who died in 1834. The settlement of 1834 was the result of a lawsuit filed by Hezekiah Sanders against his mother for the sale of the land, with the proceeds to be divided. The lawsuit does not state when John died or how old the children were but I think we can safely assume that Hezekiah had only recently attained his majority.  Here is his petition:

State of South Carolina
Spartanburg District
To wit  
     The petition of Hezekiah Sanders, showeth that his father, John Sanders decd. died leaving a widow Nancy Sanders --and your petitioner, Linny, wife of Matthew George, & Allen Sanders, heirs and distributees of his estate, and also leaving a tract of land containing 150 acres on the waters of the Pacolet River, bounded by lands of David Hall, Isaih Bolin & Thomas Jackson, which is subject to partition among the said heirs.
      Your petitioner therefore prays that the land may be sold or divided according to law, among the heirs aforesaid--- 7th July 1834
[signed] Hezekiah Sanders

Summons in Partition
Hez. Sanders VS Nancy Sanders and others
State of South Carolina, Spartanburg District
TO Nancy Sanders, Allen Sanders, and Matthew George & Liriney [?] his wife heirs of John Sanders decd
You and each of you are hereby required to
appear before me, on the 14th Inst to Show cause, if any, you have why the Real Estate
of John Sanders, decd. containing 150 acres situate on Packolete, should not be sold, and divided according to law.--
Given under my hand this
7th July 1834
Wm Trimmier OJD
We accept the service of this summons and consent to the sale of the lands disclosed 7th July 1834
Nancy Sanders [ drawn "N", her mark]

His younger brother, Allen Sanders, responded as follows:

Mr Trimmer Sir I Do giv up to My oldest brother to do what he pleases With the land other to sell or devid. June the 28 1834
[signed] Allen Sanders X his mark

The unknown factor here is whether this family is that of John Wesley Sanders and Nancy Griffin Sanders. The reconstruction I am attempting here is based on the assumption that they are the same family, and the first question that arises, is who are these children, Hezekiah, Lavinia, and Allen Sanders?

There was a Lavinia Sanders from South Carolina who is known through solid family tradition to have married a Matthew George. She was born December 12, 1804 in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, and died  after 1882 in Nodaway County, Missouri. Matthew George’s parents are not known but he may be a son of Britton George who is apparently the ancestor of some of the descendants of Nancy Griffin Sanders. Since Lavinia was born in 1804, she could not possibly be the daughter of Nancy unless Nancy and John had a child four years before they married. Lavinia, however, could have been the child of John through an earlier marriage when he was about nineteen years old. Although this possibility of a first marriage for John Wesley Sanders seems to complicate things, it also makes the 1810 census easier to explain. In 1810 John and Nancy had three children under ten but had been married only two years. If Lavinia is the daughter of John by a previous marriage, then the 1810 census makes more sense.

Hezekiah must be one of the two males under age 10 on the 1810 census, and therefore, we may assume he was born about 1809 or 1810. He is not named in any census record, but there is a reference to him in an 1839 document as living in Spartanburg County.  He does not appear on the 1850 or any subsequent census and we may assume he died at a fairly young age, probably in his thirties.

Allen Sanders, the younger son of John and Nancy Sanders, is on the 1840 and 1850 census of Spartanburg County. He is also on the 1860 census of Cass County, Georgia. He was born about 1812 and died August 22, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia, as a soldier in the Civil War.

Now, that we have identified some of the children of Nancy and John Wesley Sanders, we can proceed with a reconstruction of the 1810, 1820, and 1830 census.

1810 census:
Name: John Sanders

Males - Under 10: 2
One of these is probably Hezekiah, who was probably born about 1810. The identity of the other is unknown. It’s doubtful this second son, whoever he was, lived beyond 1840.

 Males - 16 thru 25: 1
This is John Wesley Sanders, probably born about 1785.

Free White Persons - Females - Under 10: 1
This is Lavinia Sanders, born 1804,  daughter of John by a previous marriage. Lavinia married Matthew George.

Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 25: 1
This is Nancy Griffin Sanders, probably born about 1788

1820 census:
Name: Nancy Sanders

Free White Persons - Males - Under 10: 3
Two of these are  Simpson Sanders and Erwin Sanders. The census records consistently show they were born between 1815 and 1820. On the 1850 census, Simpson was born in 1817. On the 1860 census, Simpson was born in 1819. On the 1870 census, Simpson was born in 1818. On the 1880 census, Simpson was born in 1817. On the 1850 census Erwin was born in 1816. On the 1860 census, Erwin was born in 1830. On the 1870 census, Erwin was born in 1825. On the 1880 census, Erwin was born in 1818. The identity of the other male under 10 is unknown.

Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 15: 2
One of these is Hezekiah. The other is the unknown male who was also on the 1820 census.

Free White Persons - Males - 26 thru 44: 1
This person is unknown, but he may be the father of the younger children or a hired hand on the farm or an unknown relative.

Free White Persons - Females - Under 10: 1
Possibly, this is  Mary Mavel Sanders who married  Wilson George about 1835. On the 1850 census her birth date is 1820. On the 1860 census, it is 1821. On the 1870 census, it is 1822, and on the 1880 census it is 1822.

Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 15: 1
This is probably Lavinia, who would have become sixteen years old in December 1820.

Free White Persons - Females - 26 thru 44: 1
This is Nancy Griffin Sanders, who was born about 1790

1830 census:

1 male under 5 = Ignatius Sanders. On the 1850 census, he was born in 1828. On the 1860 census, he was born in 1830. He is not found on the 1870 census. On the 1880 census, he was born in 1830.

1 male 5-9= Hiram Sanders. On the 1850 census, he was born in 1825. On the 1860 census, he was born in 1822. On the 1870 census, he was born in 1820. On the 1880 census, he was born in 1824. On the 1900 census, he was born in August 1814.

2 males 10-14= Simpson and Erwin, born between 1816-1820. See census data listed under the 1820 census heading.

1 male 15-19= Allen, born between 1811-1815. The 1850 census has him born in 1812 and the 1860 census has him born in 1815.

1 male 20-29=Hezekiah, born about 1810.(no other census data)

1 female 5-9= Mary Mayville. If she was born in 1820, she may not have been quite 10 at the time of the census of 1830.

1 female 30-39=Nancy Griffin Sanders, born about 1790.

We already have an exact birth date for Lavinia Sanders of  December 12, 1804. Since she married about 1823 and left the state, she does not appear on the 1830 census with her mother.

1840 census

Nancy Giffin Sanders appears on the 1840 census as follows:

1 males 10 thru 14=Ignatius Sanders

1 male 15-19= Hiram Sanders

1 female 40-49= Nancy Griffin Sanders

Of the other children who were living in the household in1830, Hezekiah and Allen were gone from their mother’s house by 1840.  Mary Mayvel Sanders married Wilson George about 1835. Ervin married about 1838. Ervin may have moved to Greenville County before 1840 or he and his young wife and son may have been living in a non-Sanders household in 1840 in Spartanburg.

Allen Sanders is listed in his own household in 1850 in Spartanburg:

1 male 0-5=Allen’s son John Sanders who was born about 1838 and who died in 1932 in Payne County, Arkansas.

1 male 20-29=Allen himself. The 1850 census shows he was born in 1812 and the 1860 census has him born in 1815.

1 male 30-39=Allen’s brother Hezekiah, probably. Hezekiah was probably born about 1809. Hezekiah probably died between 1840 and 1850.

1 female 15-19=this person is unknown. I do not think  she was a daughter of Nancy Griffin Sanders. Perhaps she was a sister of Allen’s wife.

1 female  20-29=Allen’s first wife, whose maiden name is unknown. The 1850 census shows she was born about 1815 her given name was Dolly.

1850 census

Nancy Griffin Sanders is not enumerated on the Spartanburg County census nor anywhere else so far as we know. Neither is her son Ignatius and we may assume Ignatius was probably living with Nancy, wherever they were.

Allen, the oldest surviving son, is enumerated with his wife Dolly and their 12 year old son John. Also in the household are two older women. One is listed as born in 1770 and her name is either Phoebe (according to or Thile (according to Another possibility may be Theney. The other woman’s name is quite clearly named Caroline and she was born in 1785. Who these women are is a mystery. Both of them are probably too young to be the grandmother of Allen. Neither one appears on the 1860 census and a search of the 1840 census of Spartanburg does not reveal any elderly women of their age residing in any Sanders household. Possibly, they could have been living in a non-Sanders household in 1840.

In the census of 1850, Allen Sanders is in household no. 1631 which means he was probably living near Simpson Sanders who is household not 1616. Household no. 2074 is John Gore who would file an affidavit in 1857 concerning Nancy Griffin Sanders’ request for a federal pension. If the enumeration indicates physical location, the closest Sanders to John Gore was Allen Sanders.

Simpson is enumerated with his first wife, Lucy Bogan Sanders and their children.

Ervin is enumerated in Greenville County with his first wife, Lucinda Barnet Sanders and their children.

May Mayville Sanders George and her husband Wilson are household no. 1619 in Spartanburg, so they are in the same neighborhood as Allen Sanders, Simpson Sanders, and John Gore.

Hiram Sanders and his wife Nancy are household no. 2048 in Spartanburg. They married about 1846.

Although Nancy Griffin Sanders is not enumerated on the 1850 census of Spartanburg, she was probably still living in the county. I am indebted to David Sterling Sanders for information about her having received a state pension soon after John Wesley Sanders died and for a document that shows she was also still receiving state funds in 1841. I have not checked the actual documents on this, but her application for a federal pension in 1856-1858 does show that she had been receiving a state pension “for many years.” One amount mentioned in the application was thirty dollars per year which would have been considered pretty small even in those days, but it may still have been an amount sufficient to make her think twice about doing anything that would jeopardize it. I do not claim to know whether this played any role in Nancy not marrying a second time after the death of John. Perhaps there were other considerations that are unknown to us.

At any rate, the application, as I have previously mentioned, shows that at the time of John’s death in 1815, Nancy had four small children. She was apparently well regarded in her community, and among the people who filed affidavits in support of her was John Gore, whose testimony is as follows:

John Gore, a credible citizen of said district, aged 73 years, on oath says that he was well acquainted with the above ??? ??? John and Nancy Sanders before their marriage as they were both raised neighbors and ??? at their marriage but ??? collect the occurrence and were married by John Lipscomb, Esq., as well as he can collect. Sanders, the above named, died in service as he always understood at Charleston, S.C., in 1815. Nancy, his widow who has never intermarried since his death is a pensioner in the state of South Carolina ??? ??? and were respectable and had three or four children when he went into the service. Nancy Sanders and one of their said children and issue of their said marriage is still living in deponent's neighborhood and that he has no interest in her claim."
Sworn to and subscribed the 21st day of February 1857
John Gore
by Davis Moore, Magistrate

When I first read this paragraph, I overlooked the very important statement of John Gore that “one of the said children and issue of their said marriage is still living in deponent’s neighborhood.” Who was that child that was living near John Gore in 1857?

If we go to the 1860 census, we find that  John Gore lived in household no. 491 and the Sanders family enumerated closest to him was that of Nancy Sanders in household 749. Simpson is household no. 750 and Hiram is household no. 751. While John Gore and the Sanders were not close neighbors, I guess they qualify as "living in deponent's neighborhood." The problem, however, is that John Gore said in his affidavit that only “one of the said children” was living in his neighborhood. My first thought was that must mean Simpson. On second thought, though, I believe there is another interpretation. Notice that he said that only one son of Nancy and John was in the neighborhood. If Allen and Simpson were both living in the neighborhood, that would rule out one of them as the son of John Wesley Sanders.

In 1850 the Sanders that was enumerated closest to John Gore was Allen Sanders. By 1860 Allen had moved from Spartanburg and was living in Cass County Georgia with his second wife, Eliza J. Sanders, whom he had married between 1850 and 1856. In 1860 their household consists of the son of the first wife, John, and a daughter Eliza, who was born in 1858 in South Carolina. Apparently, therefore, they moved to Georgia about 1859 and were still living in Spartanburg in 1856-1858 when Nancy Griffin Sanders filed her pension application. Therefore, John Gore's statement in 1857 that one of Nancy's children was living "in deponent's neighborhood" may very well have been a reference to Allen Sanders' family just before Allen and Eliza moved to Georgia.

Among the people filing affidavits in support of Nancy was someone named Eliza J. Sanders who was identified as Nancy’s daughter-in-law. At first, this affidavit somewhat baffled me, and I thought that maybe the “J” in the document should have been an L” and maybe the individual was Lucy Bogan, the wife of Simpson Sanders, one of Nancy's children. After David Sterling Sanders sent me information that Allen was in Cass County in Georgia in 1860 and that his wife was Eliza J. Sanders, everything made sense:

Eliza J Sanders, on oath says that she is the daughter-in-law of Nancy Sanders, reported widow of John Sanders who died in Charleston during the war of 1812, has known the same Nancy Sanders for the last thirty years and known that the said Nancy is a widow and a pensioner of the state of South Carolina at the rate of $30 per annum and that she has no interest in this claim. Sworn to and subscribed this 21st day of February 1857 before me.
ElizaJ Sanders
(signed with x)
Davis Moore,
Eliza's affidavit comes immediately after that of John Gore and it occurred to me that perhaps John Gore and the Sanders traveled together from their neighborhood to sign the documents. The 1860 census shows that Eliza J. Sanders’ daughter, also named Eliza, was born in South Carolina in 1858 and we can conclude from this that Allen did not move from Spartanburg to Georgia until 1858 or 1859.  In 1857 when Eliza J. Sanders filed the affidavit, her family was still in Spartanburg and according to the testimony of John Gore, still living in the same neighborhood as that of Gore himself. And we have already shown that in 1850 Allen was probably the Sanders living closest to John Gore.

The maiden name of Eliza J. Sanders is not known, nor do we know the maiden name of Dolly, Allen’s first wife. Allen himself died on August 31, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War.

Nancy Griffin Sanders, though missed by the census taker in 1850, does appear on the 1860  Spartanburg census. She is living with Ignatius Sanders and his wife, Emily Linder Sanders. Nancy died in 1868 and in July of that year, Simpson Sanders was named the administrator of her estate. The estate settlement does not give us a clear picture of how many children she had, the names of those children, or when they were born. Apparently, Erwin, the next oldest son, was not happy with how Simpson handled the estate and a lawsuit was filed.

Many mysteries still remain, and it is possible that future discoveries will change the weight of evidence regarding this perplexing family, but I think for now, it is reasonable to assume that:

John Sanders was the father of Lavinia Sanders who married  Matthew George.

Nancy Griffin Sanders and John Wesley Sanders were the parents of Hezekiah and Allen Sanders.

Nancy Sanders and an unknown male with the surname of George were the parents of the children born between 1815 and the early 1820s. Big-Y DNA test has been done of a Sanders surname male descendant of Simpson Sanders and a Sanders surnamed male descendant of Ignatius Sanders and both have genetic matches with the George surname (haplogroup FTA98579). George Sanders, a descendant of Nancy Griffin, is currently trying to find male Sanders descendants of Ervin Sanders and Hiram Sanders who are willing to take Y-DNA tests; we believe the results will confirm that Nancy Griffin had a relationship with the surname of George and that individual was the father of Simpson Sanders, Irvin Sanders, Mary Mayvell Sanders, and Ignatius Sanders, all of whom were born after John Wesley's Sanders' death in 1815. We further believe that the father of the four children born between 1816 and 1828 was probably a son of Britton George (1742-1841). We welcome any additional information that descendants of this family can provide.

Is there another way to make sense of all this data? Possibly, but the alternatives seem less likely.

One alternative theory is that none of these children, save Hezekiah and Allen, were not the children of Nancy but that they grew up in her household and took the Sanders name. Autosomal DNA data, however, seems to suggest that Nancy is the connecting link among these children.

Another possibility is that the 1834 estate settlement refers to a different Nancy and John Sanders and that the son Allen mentioned in that settlement is not the son of Nancy Griffin Sanders who married Eliza J. Sanders. In this scenario, the Allen of 1834 died or moved away. I think this theory unlikely because it not only requires two John and Nancy Sanders but for each Nancy to have had a daughter-in-law named Eliza J. Sanders.

I realize there are some unresolved issues with the interpretation presented here. DNA testing on the descendants of Allen Sanders would certainly be especially helpful with the remaining issues, some of which may never be satisfactorily resolved. With several researchers working on this family, I am optimistic that we will continue to make progress toward a great understanding of the identity of the children of John Wesley Sanders and the children of Nancy Griffin.

--Gary B. Sanders
April 8, 2020; August 28, 2022(revised)

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Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery