Moses Sanders

 By Gary B. Sanders
 September, 2004 (revised 3-2008, 11-2008, 5-2016)

The Reverend Moses Sanders was a well-known Baptist preacher of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and he was instrumental in founding several Baptist churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, including Grove Level Baptist Church in Franklin (now Banks) County, Georgia. In 1902 a great-grandson, Christopher Columbus Sanders, with the help of other descendants, funded a cemetery marker for the Reverend Sanders on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Grove Level Church. The tombstone has the following inscription:

Rev. Moses Sanders
In England 1742
Died 1817
Founder of Grove Level, Nails Creek
and many other Baptist Churches.
A soldier of the Revolutionary War
The Cross of Jesus Christ My Anchor

Christopher Columbus Sanders thus appears to be the  source of the tradition among some of the Georgia descendants of the Reverend Moses Sanders that the minister was born in 1742 in England, that he served in the Revolutionary War, and that his wife was named Sally. Subsequent research has undermined the credibility of these claims. Moses was most likely born in Fairfax County, Virginia. He probably was never a Revolutionary War soldier, and his wife was named Mary, not Sally. Even though there are still numerous difficulties in creating an accurate biography of Moses' life, especially his early years, we nevertheless are now able to trace his activities through public documents that he left in his career as a minister, planter, and man of public affairs in North and South Carolina and Georgia. In a pamphlet published in the year 2000, genealogist Elden Hurst, one of Moses' descendants, was one of the first to initiate a revised history of his ancestor and correct some of the myths about his genealogy. Since then, Jim Sanders and I have contributed further articles to add more detail to the genealogy of the Reverend Moses Sanders. 

A few years after the tombstone was erected, C. C. Sanders provided material for his own personal history in a biographical collection of prominent men in Georgia. [Men of Mark in Georgia: a complete and elaborate history of the state from its settlement to the present time, chiefly told in biographies and autobiographies of the most eminent men of each period of Georgia’s progress and development (Northern, William J., 1835-1913; Graves, John Temple, 1856-1925. Atlanta: A. B. Caldwell Company, 1906-1912.]

Although there is valuable genealogical data in the article on Christopher Columbus Sanders,  it also contains much erroneous or misleading information. Below I quote the article in its entirety and add my comments in brackets and italics text where appropriate.

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COL. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS SANDERS, merchant and banker, of Gainesville, was born at Grove Level, Jackson county, Ga., May 8, 1840. [He is listed as twelve years old on the census of 1850 and as 23 on the 1860 census. According to the U.S. P.O.W. records, he was at least twenty six years old  and perhaps twenty-seven when he was released from federal prison in July 1865. Therefore, although he consistently claimed in later life on census records and his passport application that he was born in 1840, it appears more likely he was really born in 1838 or 1839.-gbs] His boyhood days were spent on his father's farm. He attended the country schools and later, in 1861, was graduated from the Georgia Military Institute, of Marietta. At the outbreak of the War between the States he was commissioned Lieutenant- Colonel of the Twenty-fourth Regiment of Georgia Volunteer Infantry. He served with that regiment throughout the war, being promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1863. Since the war he has been extensively engaged in banking and the mercantile business. For the past eighteen years he has been president of the State Banking Company, of Gainesville. [Gainesville is in Jackson County, Georgia, which adjoins Banks County, where the Reverend Moses Sanders lived.-gbs]

On July 25, 1871, Colonel Sanders was married to Miss Frances Amelia Scarborough. To this union two children were born, Robert Jackson, of Gainesville, Ga., and Arnintaine, now Mrs. Hinton, of Athens, Ga. [Frances "Fannie" Scarborough's mother, Mary Ann Pryor, was first married to Enos Scarborough and then to Christopher Columbus Sanders' brother, Martin D. Sanders.-gbs]

Colonel Sanders's great-grandfather, Rev. Moses Sanders, was a Baptist preacher. He emigrated from England in 1765 and with two younger brothers, David and John, who located in Tennessee and Alabama while Moses settled at Petersburg, Va. Later he moved to North Georgia.[Elden Hurst, on the first page of his biography of the Reverend Moses Sanders, pointed out that no evidence exists that Moses was born in England.  Moses' grandson Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878) did not refer to a birth in England for his grandfather in the family ordinances he did for the LDS chuch in the 1870s. Another grandson, Moses Marion Sanders (1838-1895), wrote a family memoir about 1880 and mentioned only that his grandfather was born in the early part of the previous century, lived in North Carolina at one time, and spent his life "in agriculture as a pursuit and theology as a profession." Further, David and John Sanders were not Moses' brothers, they were his sons. Tennessee and Alabama didn't even exist as states in the 1760s, Tennessee being admitted to the union in 1796 and Alabama in 1819. Moses' son David moved to Tennessee; his son John moved to Mississippi (what is now Alabama was part of Mississippi Territory until 1817). No evidence has yet been found that Moses ever lived in Petersburg, Virginia, nor did he move directly from Virginia to Georgia. -gbs]  He was noted for his energy, ability, strength of character, and benevolence, all of which qualities he exercised in the upbuilding of the new country to which he had come. He encouraged education, established schools, invited immigration, and planted churches. Two of these churches recently celebrated their one hundredth anniversary. He also surveyed and laid out highways across the country from the Carolinas to Alabama and to the Indian reservations north of the Chattahoochee river in Georgia. He and the brothers mentioned above took an active part in the war for American independence, participating in the battles of Kings Mountain, the Cowpens, the long campaigns in Virginia and the fierce guerrilla warfare in the Carolinas.[No record has been discovered that the Reverend Moses Sanders fought in the American Revolution, but we do have evidence that he was accused of being a Tory sympathizer. For more information see the article at this Web site on "The Reverend Moses Sanders and the Revolutionary War." The D.A.R. will no longer accept membership applications based on previously submitted but unsubstantiated Revolutionary War service of the Reverend Moses Sanders.-gbs] He died in 1817. His eldest son, Moses Sanders, Jr., an enterprising planter, was the grandfather of the subject of this sketch.[Moses, Jr., (about 1770-1846) was actually probably younger than his brother Aaron (1769-1854).--gbs]

Colonel Sanders's grandfather on his mother's side was Thomas Smythe, who, with a party of friends, came from Dublin, Ireland, to Charleston, S. C., in 1798. He settled in Jones county, Ga., where he died a few years later. He was distinguished for his great learning and for the beauty and sweetness of several poems written by him.

The parents of Colonel Sanders were Harris Sanders and Elizabeth (Smythe) Sanders. The father was a planter of
intelligence, character and hospitality, who always took an active interest in public affairs. The mother was a deeply religious woman, whose influence had much to do with moulding the moral and spiritual life of her son.

As a boy, Colonel Sanders was strong and sturdy. Besides being familiar with all the various kinds of manual work done on a farm at that time, he had a healthy love for study and travel. Since attaining to manhood, wealth, distinction and leisure, he has sought to gratify his taste for travel by visiting most of the important countries of the world. 

The physical health acquired by an outdoor life and training at a military school served him well during the trying struggles of the great war. As Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel of the Twenty-fourth Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, McLaw's division, Longstreet's corps, Army of Northern Virginia, serving from the date of its organization to the surrender at Appomattox, he took part in the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Harper's Ferry, Crampton's Gap, South Mountain, Sharpsburg, Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, and many others. 

At Sharpsburg, he was temporarily in command of Wofford's brigade. The Confederate batteries had been destroyed, and the space in front was swept by deadly minie balls, which mowed down whole lines of soldiers. The Federals were advancing with fixed bayonets, and the Confederates sprang forward to meet them. The death grapple took place at a post and plank fence, which the Confederates held, but at a terrible loss of forty-eight per cent of the five regiments engaged in the charge. 

At the Wilderness, Colonel Sanders's Regiment, at fearful loss, aided in driving back the right wing of the Federals commanded by Grant. At the critical moment, Lee himself appeared at the head of the Confederate forces, but was borne back by his soldiers. The First Army Corps succeeded in hurling Grant's right wing from the field. 

At the "Death Angle" at Spottsylvania Court House Colonel Sanders's command suffered fearfully, and he himself was wounded. The second battle of Cold Harbor and the fight at Sailor's Creek were the last in which he took part He was captured at Sailor's Creek on May 6, 1865, leaving only sixtyfour men to be surrendered at Appomattox under Lieutenant Jim Hill.
Colonel Sanders was a prisoner in the old Capitol building in
Washington City the night of President Lincoln's assassination.He was later transferred to Johnson's Island, Ohio, and was released July 25, 1865, from his fearful sufferings. 

Colonel Sanders is still interested in the history of the great war. He was at one time State Vice-President for Georgia of the American Historical Society. His favorite methods of recreation now are outdoor exercise, travel, and reading. He has traveled extensively in the Old World as well as America. He says that the reading which has helped him most has been that of current events, history and the Bible.

Colonel Sanders is a strong member of the Baptist church. He says that as a youth his one ambition was to do some good in the world. His advice to young men is that they ask divine guidance in all their undertakings. He failed, he says, whenever he chose his own course. He urges upon all who wish to succeed, even in the temporal affairs of this life, the absolute necessity for temperance, industry, benevolence and integrity. 


[David Allen Tedder (1878-1962), the author of the article, was a lawyer and Missionary Baptist preacher in Charlotte, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina. I have been unable to determine whether he had any family or business connections to Christopher Columbus Sanders but some of Christopher Columbus descendants did move to Mecklenberg County. -gbs]

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Although I have expressed reservations about the trustworthiness of the material concerning the Reverend Moses Sanders in the article in Men of Mark in Georgia, I believe that Christopher Columbus Sanders reported what he genuinely believed about his ancestor. By all accounts, C. C. Sanders was a brave soldier, an honorable man, and a well-respected citizen in Gainesville, Georgia. The high regard in which he was held by the townspeople is evidenced by their having erected a monument to his memory after his death. Evidently, though, he did not spend much time doing any research in original documents or records, and he knew little about his great grandfather and relied heavily on embellished and flattering stories obtained from other area residents, whether relatives or not. Many of these stories grew with the telling, and we know that most of them were creations of the early twentieth century and not reflective of authentic family tradition. For example, C.C. Sanders' first cousin once removed, Moses Martin Sanders, who died in 1878, recorded what he knew of the family genealogy in ordinances he did for the LDS Temple, but mentioned nothing about an illustrious Revolutionary War career or a birth in England for his grandfather, nor brothers named David and John, details that were apparently added by a later generation.

The Reverend Moses Sanders was most likely born in what was then Stafford County, Virginia, now part of  Fairfax County. His male Sanders descendants have Y-DNA that matches descendants of Lewis Sanders who died in Fairfax County about 1760.  Lewis may have been Moses' grandfather. In fact,  Lewis' son Francis mentions a young son named Moses in a land document in the 1750s.

The best clue to the family origin of the Reverend Moses Sanders is a letter written in the 1890s in Texas by Thomas Bailey Saunders, whose ancestors were from Montgomery County, North Carolina. This is what he wrote to a nephew who had inquired about their shared Sanders family history:

“My grandfather married in Virginia. My grandmother's name was Joan Bailey, of the famous old family of Virginia. My grandfather was killed in a fight with the Tories. His brother, Isaac, which is your great grandfather, was the first man that ever built a house on Cross creek below Fayetteville. And another brother by the name of Moses was a Baptist preacher and they had one sister. I have seen her myself. She married a man by the name of Hamilton. I have seen your great grandfather and his wife, and they were very old then. Your grandfather had two brothers, Ben and Joe, they moved to Alabama and their families are there yet. I saw an old lady in New Orleans a few years ago, she was a Saunders and she told me the same story about the Saunders. I have told you all about the old generation that I know…
Your Uncle,
T. B. Saunders”
This letter from the 1890s clearly refers to the Reverend Moses Sanders and two of his brothers:

"My grandfather married in Virginia.  My grandmothers's name was Joan Bailey.
" According to other records left by Thomas Bailey Saunders, the name of this grandfather was William Aaron Saunders.  William Aaron and his children are documented in land and other records of Montgomery County, North Carolina. We also have documentation that William Aaron died about 1781 or 1782 and that Joan Bailey Saunders survived until after the 1810 census.

"His brother, Isaac, which is your great-grandfather." Isaac is documented in legal and land records in Cumberland, Montgomery, and Randolph counties in North Carolina. One of Isaac's sons Jacob is mentioned in the letter, though he is not identified by name (referred to only as "your grandfather").

"...and another brother by the name of Moses was a Baptist preacher."  This refers, of course, to the the Reverend Moses Sanders, who lived in Montgomery, Wilkes, and Iredell counties in North Carolina before he moved to South Carolina and then to  Georgia.

We know all of these people lived at one time in the Montgomery County area of North Carolina, and although Thomas Bailey mentioned only three sons, it is likely that there were other brothers and sisters of Moses. One of Moses Sanders' grandsons, Moses Martin Sanders  (1803-1878) provided the name of at least one more brother, Francis,  and Francis is also documented as having worked with Moses Sanders at his Georgia church. Any plausible theory of the origins of this family must begin from the premise that William Aaron, Isaac, Moses, and Francis were brothers and they lived in Montgomery County, North Carolina. For these basic facts, we have a solid family tradition and DNA evidence.

There are, of course, other theories of Moses' parentage, and one may find these in hundreds of family trees at or RootsWeb World Connect or elsewhere online or in print,  but the difference is that none of the other theories is backed by any documentation. If there are indeed people out there who have evidence different from what I offer here at this Web site concerning the parents of Moses Sanders, it would be helpful if they would come forward and share their knowledge with others.  I have asked this question for over fifteen years and so far no one has ever provided any evidence for any other theory. 

Cristopher Columbus Sanders inscribed on his great grandfather's tombstone that Moses was born in 1742 and though there is no other documentation for the 1742 date, it is compatible with the known birth year of Moses' first son, Aaron, in 1769. Aaron was most likely born in Brunswick County, Virginia and the marriage of his father Moses Sanders to Mary Hamilton probably occurred about 1768 in the same county. Mary Sanders is mentioned in the 1785 will of her father, Joseph Hamilton, of Brunswick County. In 1772 the name of Moses Saunders appears in a court case in Brunswick County. Moses and his new bride had probably moved to North Carolina during the previous year, perhaps to escape having to pay the judgment against him. Mary's tombstone, erected by Christopher Columbus Sanders, in 1902, has "Sallie" as the name of Moses' wife, but this is apparently based on confusion with Moses' daughter who was named Sarah and called "Sally."  While we cannnot entirely rule out that Moses' wife also used a nickname of "Sally," all legal records in which she is named (her father's will in the 1780s, land records in the 1790s, and her husbands' will of 1817) give her name as "Mary." Her grandson, Moses Martin Sanders, also referred to her correctly as "Mary" in the ordinances he did for the LDS temple in the 1870s. 

Moses appears as early as 1771 in Anson County in North Carolina. At that time most of the Western part of North Carolina was divided between Rowan County to the north and Anson County to the north. Wilkes County was formed  in 1778 from Surry which had been formed from Rowan.  Iredell was split from Rowan in 1788. Montgomery County was formed in  1779 from Anson County. There are several references to Moses in legal documents occur in the counties of Anson and Rowan and the counties of Montgomery, Wilkes, and Iredell that were created from them during Moses lifetime.

In 1771 Moses was granted land between Duncombe Creek and the Uwharrie river in present day Montgomery County but lying then in Anson County. In 1772 Moses built a water mill on the Bumpass Fork of the Little River in the extreme northeastern part of present day Montgomery County and close to the Randolph County line. That land was to the east of the first grant.  On July 23, 1774  Moses Sanders received 200 Acres in Anson County on Dumcombe Creek of the Uwharrie river(Anson County record #3449. book 26 page 37). There are several other references to Moses in documents of Anson County in the period between January 1772 and April 1775.

Other Sanders were granted land in what is now Montgomery County in the 1770s. In 1771 George Sanders received 100 acres on Duncombe Creek. His relationship to Moses is unknown; he may have been a brother or an uncle or he may not have been related at all.  On May 24, 1774 Aaron Sanders received land on Barnes Creek between the Uwharrie river and Duncombe Creek. Aaron Sanders later sold land  on the Yadkin River to Edward Moore on April 3rd, 1775. Between 1773 and 1775 he received several hundred acres though several grants on or near the Yadkin River. In July of 1774 George Sanders, Aaron Sanders, and Moses Sanders were ordered to help in constructing a road from Beaver Dam Creek to Rocky Creek. It is not clear whether this refers to the  Beaverdam Creek in present day Rowan County or the one in present day Richmond County, which was formed from Anson in 1779.  Aaron Sanders probably died in 1782 because letters of administration for his estate were recorded on November 12, 1782 in Montgomery County. There is a reference in a land deed the following year to a widow Sanders. Later land records give her name as Joanah. She was evidently the same person as Joan Bailey, wife of William Aaron, mentioned in the Thomas Bailey Saunders letter. Why the Sanders brothers were able to acquire such a large amount of land as newcomers to the county is still a mystery, but  Moses had some connection to Thomas Cotton, a wealthy landowner and official in the area, and the Sanders may have used their influence with Cotton and others. In addition, Moses' father-in-law, Joseph Hamilton, appears to have been rather well-to-do, and  Moses' wife Mary may have received some money from her parents. The Hamiltons and Sanders had several family connections. Some of Mary's siblings also moved to the North Carolina and Moses' sister Tabitha is believed to have married one of Mary Hamilton's brothers.

There is a possible reference to Moses' brother Francis on a land record of March 20th 1778 when Joseph Thompson, Jr., enumerates 100 acres on the middle fork of Lick Creek, the waters of Jones Creek, joining Mathew Bailey's and F Saunders' Line.The Matthew Bailey mentioned may be related to the Joan Bailey who is mentioned in the Thomas Bailey Saunders letters as the wife of William Aaron Saunders. On November 12th, 1778, George Kirk, in a land transaction, refers to Duncombe Creek, below the Sanders Line, running towards the county line and joining the Sanders and Steeds line. Moses Sanders and Nathaniel Steed were known neighbors, but the relationships between the Steeds and the Sanders was more than just being neighbors. Moses Steed, the brother of Nathaniel, married a Jane Saunders, who could have been a sister to Moses Sanders, though nothing definite is known about her parentage. Another Steed brother, John, had a son, Francis Steed, who was the bondman for the wedding of Francis Sanders and Rachel Sanders in 1801 in Randolph County, just north of Montgomery County. This Francis Sanders was a son of Isaac Saunders and a nephew of the Reverend Moses Sanders.

In 1779 Montgomery County was split off from Anson County and a county tax list was prepared.  Moses Sanders and Daniel Sanders appear on this tax list, but they are missing from the 1780 tax list, though they were apparently still property owners in the county.  In 1780 George and Reuben Sanders are the only Sanders listed on the tax list. The relationship of Daniel, George, and Reuben to Moses is unknown, though they appear to have been neighbors of Nathaniel Steed, whose property adjoined that of Moses. There is also a 1779 reference to a William Hamiliton whose land patent, granted in 1772, was  “on the NE side of Yadkin on the waters of Barnes Creek”.  This William Hamilton is believed to be the brother of Moses Sanders wife, Mary Hamilton. At that time it appears most of the Sanders from the Moses Sanders line were living in the area between Duncombe Creek and Barnes Creek, two tributaries of the Uwharrie River, though some of their land lay further west on the Yadkin River. On the 1782 tax roll of Montgomery County three Sanders appear: Isaac (the previously mentioned brother of Moses), James, and George. Y-DNA tests on descendants of James show that he was related to Moses and Aaron. The genealogy of George, as was previously mentioned, remains a mystery.

According to a legal proceeding initiated by Moses Sanders in Rowan County, he was still living in Montgomery County in October 1781 but he moved to Wilkes County shortly thereafter.  Wilkes County is to the northwest of Montgomery and was one of the counties formed from Rowan County. In 1782 he appears on the Wilkes County tax roll. On  November17, 1783 Francis Sanders, Moses' brother, was granted 100 acres on "ye Bear Branch, the waters of Hunting Creek" in  Wilkes County. It was surveyed in April of 1785 and recorded in September 1785. On the Wilkes County Tax List of 1782, Francis Sanders is listed in Alexander Gordons District, as is Moses, with two mules and three cattle. In the 1787 tax rolls, Captain Gordon's District, Francis appears as Francis Sandris. He sold his land in 1792 and late moved to Georgia to assist in his brother's ministry.

Moses left Wilkes County at some time in the mid 1780s. Between 1786 and 1788 he is mentioned several times in Rowan County deed. In 1786 he was appointed an overseer of a road. About 1790 he was a justice of the peace in Rowan County. Though he maintained his primary residence in Rowan County, he must have traveled frequently to other counties and to Georgia and South Carolina as part of his missionary activity. On February 11, 1787 he helped organize the Nails Creek Baptist Church in Franklin County, Georgia.

Moses Sanders filed suit in Rowan County equity court on January 18, 1789, seeking redress of a grievance and restitution of property. The suit was based on an incident in 1781 when  he stated that he was arrested by a constable in Montgomery County upon the instigation of George Kirk who asserted that Moses and other Tory sympathizers had taken property from Kirk. After Moses’ arrest, he claims, he was intimidated by a threat to his life to surrender two hundred acres of Montgomery County land to George Kirk on October 3, 1781, with a mortgage of 42 pounds, five shillings. George then sold the land and obtained a judgment against Moses for non-payment of the mortgage. Moses claimed in his petition that the agreement was obtained under duress. This land was some of his holdings located on Dumcombe Creek, and the court records do not show whether Moses won the case or received any restitution.

According to family tradition as told by his great grandson Christopher Columbus Sanders, Moses served in the Revolutionary War on the American side and had several saber wounds from his service. According to Lea Humphreys in an 2008 e-mail to me, "Moses Sanders is listed in the DAR records. There are about fifty-two DAR members with him listed as their ancestor, the first having joined about 1910 and the latest sometime in the 1990s. There is a note on his record that future applicants must prove correct service." I know of at least one  Moses Sanders descendant who applied after the year 2000 and was refused admission. That application was based on Moses having signed a petition during the Revolutionary War, the assumption being that he must have taken a loyalty oath or his peitition would not even have been considered. The DAR did not consider the evidence sufficient, and they no longer accept family tradition as evidence of service.  

How, then, if his loyalty to the independence movement was unquestioned, as recounted in old stories of his having fought at the battles of King Mountain and Cowpens, could the planter George and the constable have been able to bring an incredible charge of being in league with the Tories? The traditional story is that  he was a private in the Iredell County Regiment, North Carolina Militia. He is said to have received several  bayonet scars from combat with the British in the battle of Kings Mountain. This dubious nature of this story is refected in that  Irdedell County was not even formed until 1788, well after the Revolution, and land records indicate Moses was living during the Revolution in the 1770s in the area that became Montgomery County, not in the area that became Iredell.

In 1788 Moses was living in the section of Rowan County that was split off in that year to form Iredell.  He appears on the 1790 Iredell County in a household with 4 males under 16, 4  females (3 daughters), and 5 slaves. His brother Francis was still living in neigboring  Wilkes County and appears there with a household of 4 males under 16 and  2 Females. There is also a Moses Sanders listed  in the Laurens District of South Carolina census with 1 male over 16 and two females in the household.  He is living next door to a James Bailey, William Bailey, and a William Bailey, Jr., who may be related to the Baileys mentioned in the Thomas Bailey Saunders letter. The South Carolina Moses Sanders on the 1790 census is believed to be the young son of the Reverend Moses Sanders, Moses Sanders, Jr., who married Betsy Harris in 1789 in Wilkes County,  North Carolina.

In the early 1790s Moses Sanders, Sr., moved from Iredell County to Pendleton District, South Carolina. In 1793 he bought several pieces of property in the Laurens District, and one of the deeds indicated that he had lived in Pendleton before the move. In 1798 he sold his property in Laurens and a deed in that year indicated that he had moved again, this time to Franklin County, Georgia. In 1799 he bought nearly five hundred acres in Grove Level, Franklin County, Georgia and remained there for the rest of his life. In 1801 he served as a juror in Franklin County.

In May of 1802 several members of Nails Creek Church met at Grove Level Meeting House and organized  a church. Some of the members were as follows: Moses Sanders, Silas Sanders, David Sanders, Francis Sanders, Sally Sanders, Polly Sanders, Polly Sanders Sr. In September 1802 the Line Baptist Church was organized with Moses as minister. In June of 1804 Francis Sanders was chosen deacon of the Grove Level Baptist Church.

Minutes of the Grove Level Church show some dissension and considerable backsliding, though of a modest sort. In March of 1805, Silas Sanders, the son of Francis, was censured for fighting; again, in September of 1806 he was censured a second time, in this case for gambling. By October of that year, Silas' behavior as so bad that he was "excluded for encouraging gaming and not hearing the church." Some time after 1807 Francis Sanders and his family moved to Smith County Tennessee, and Moses' son David and his wife Mary Allred moved to Bedford County, Tennessee. Though we known that  Francis and his son Silas moved to Tennessee, possibly to Smith County, the dates of their deaths are somewhat uncertain.

Moses Sanders continued to preach at the Grove Level Church until shortly before his death. He wrote his will on February 28, 1817 and died on March 29, 1817.  How long Mary lived after his death is unknown.  The tombstone erected by Christopher Columbus Sanders gives her death date as 1816 but she is mentioned in the 1817 will of her husband. A "sister Polly Sanders" is mentioned in the Grove Level Church minutes as having died in 1828. Since Polly was a common nickname for Mary in those days, this may be a reference to Moses' widow.

This article was orginally written in 2004 and all subsequent Y-DNA research has added more detail. In October 2007, as part of the Sanders DNA project, a  DNA test was completed on a descendant of John Sanders, one of the sons of the Reverend Moses Sanders, and the participant matched descendants of Isaac Saunders, William Aaron Saunders, and Francis Sanders. Additional DNA tests in early 2008 on descendants of David Sanders, another son of the Reverend Moses Sanders, and descendants of Francis Sanders, Moses' brother, also matched. These DNA tests and even more since 2008 go a long way toward confirming the family tradition that William Aaron, Isaac, Moses, and Francis were brothers.  

I am sure the preceding analysis is missing many details, and I hope that others who read this article will share doumentation they may have. There still a great deal more to be discovered about the life of one of the most significant religious leaders of the American South in the early years of our nation.

(Many thanks to Jim Sanders of California and the late Elden Hurst of Salt Lake City for sharing their land and legal document research with me and others. --Gary  B. Sanders)   

Family of the Reverend Moses Sanders

(Added March 2016)

As with the biography of the Reverend Moses Sanders, many errors about his children are perpetuated on the Internet. The eminent genealogist Elden Hurst did extensive research into the life of  Reverend Moses Sanders and each of the children. Below are brief histories of the individuals in the family and links to more detail about their lives.

Moses Sanders was born about 1742, though the exact date is unknown. His parents were probably Francis and Sarah Sanders of Fairfax County, Virginia. He may have been the same person as the  son of Francis named Moses who is mentioned in a land deed from 1753. Through Y-DNA tests, we know for certain that the Reverend Moses Sanders was related to Lewis Sanders who is believed to have been the father of Francis. Moses appears in Brunswick and Halifax counties in Virginia toward the end of the 1760s. The Reverend Moses Sanders moved from Virginia with his brothers Isaac, Aaron, and Francis to Anson County, North Carolina. He moved several times in North Carolina in the 1780s and then to Laurens County, South Carolina, and finally to Georgia. He died in 1817 in Franklin (now Banks) County, Georgia, leaving a will. The names of his children (with one exception) and many of his grandchildren are specifically given or can be inferred from this will.  Eden Hurst Research on the Reverend Moses Sanders.

Mary Hamilton Sanders was the daughter of Joseph and Ann Hamilton of Brunswick County, Virginia. She and Moses married about 1768 in Brunswick or Halifax County, Virginia. All contemporary records and her husband's will state that her middle name was "Mary." Her great grandson, Christopher Columbus Sanders, erected a tombstone about 1902 and inscribed it with the given name of "Sally."  Elden Hurst believes that the tombstone inscription was probably an error on the part of C.C. Sanders, who knew very little about his great-grandparents.  Mary is mentioned in the will of her husband. Mary was probably born about 1745 and may have died as late as 1828. Eden Hurst Research on Mary Hamilton Sanders.

Aaron Sanders, the oldest son of the Reverend Moses Sanders and Mary Hamilton, was born in 1769 in Virginia according to the 1850 federal census. Aaron was probably born in either Brunswick or Halifax county in Virginia. Aaron was married two times, the first time to a woman named Mary or Elizabeth with the possible last name of Baldwin. He married the second time in 1817, to Morning Thompson. He died in May 1854 in Franklin County, Georgia. He is mentioned in the  1817 will of his father. Elden Hurst Research on Aaron Sanders.

Moses Sanders, Jr., was born about 1771 in Anson County, North Carolina (the part that is now Montgomery County). He died after December 1846 in Franklin County, Georgia.  Moses, Jr., married Elizabeth "Betsy" Harris in 1789 in Wilkes County, North Carolina (where his parents was living at that time). Moses, Jr., is mentioned in the will of his father in 1817. The will of Moses, Jr., was probated in January 1847 in Franklin County, Georgia. 

In the will the son of the Reverend Moses Sanders referred to himself as Moses Sanders, Sr. According to Elden Hurst, this was to distinguish himself from his nephew Moses Sanders (1799-1882), who was the son of Aaron Sanders. In 1846 there were several living members of the family named Moses Sanders:Moses, Jr., son of the Reverend Moses; Moses, son of Aaron; Moses Martin Sanders, son of David; Moses Minyard Sanders, son of Harris Sanders; Moses Hamilton O. Sanders, son of Nathaniel Sanders; Moses H. Sanders, son of Minyard Sanders, and Moses Marion Sanders, son of John Sanders. All of them had middle names except Moses, the son of the Reverend Moses, and his nephew Moses, the son of Aaron, so for legal purposes, Moses wanted to make sure that it was understood that he was the older of the two without a middle name, hence calling himself "Moses, Sr."

(Additional note: There is no evidence whatsoever that the Reverend Moses Sanders or his son, Moses Sanders, Jr., were ever known as Moses Martin Sanders. All documents that refer to the Reverend Moses Sanders have no middle name or initial. Nor are there any documents that have a middle name or initial for Moses, Jr., not the 1817 will, nor the census records, nor the 1846 will of Moses, Jr., nor any land or legal documents. The son is either named in documents as simply "Moses Sanders" or as "Moses Sanders, Jr."  The son's tombstone merely has "Moses Sanders." Nor does there appear to be any family tradition that either the father or son was ever known as or used the name of "Moses Martin Sanders."  The Reverend Moses Sanders' grandson, Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878) in ordinances performed for the Mormon temple in 1877 never referred to his grandfather or his uncle as having a middle name or initial. Surely he would have done so if he had been given the same middle name as his uncle or his grandfather. A grandson of the Reverend Moses, Moses Marion Sanders, in a memoir of the family written in 1880 wrote of "our grandfather, Moses Sanders," without any middle name or initial. A great grandson of the Reverend Moses Sanders, Christopher Columbus Sanders (1838-1908) in the biography that he popularized about 1905 never mentioned a middle name for his great grandfather or his great grandfather's son. Elden Hurst in his extensive research on both the Reverend Moses Sanders and the preacher's son, always referred to them without a middle name or initial. I believe this theory that they had a middle name arose when the Internet became popular in the 1990s and people used the LDS records about Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878), the grandson of the Reverend Moses and a prominent Mormon who was interested in genealogy--and these people just copied the name without checking or scrutiny, or they assumed that since the grandson had the middle name of Martin, all the earlier Moses Sanders probably used it also. Besides, middle names were rather uncommon in the middle of the eighteenth century in either America or England and didn't occur with much frequency until well after the American Revolution.) Elden Hurst Research on Moses Sanders, Jr.

Sarah Sally Sanders was born May 15, 1773 in what is now Montgomery County, North Carolina. She married Obadiah Hooper in 1805 in Franklin County, Georgia. She is mentioned in the 1817 will of her father. She and Obadiah later moved to Pickens County and Bedford County, Tennessee. Obadiah died in Alabama in 1839 and Sarah survived until 1862, dying in Yalobusha County, Mississippi. Elden Hurst Research on Sarah Sally Sanders.

David Sanders was born about 1775 in what is now Montgomery County, North Carolina. He married Mary Allred about 1802 in Franklin County, Georgia. About 1808 he and his family moved to Bedford County, Tennessee.  During the War of 1812, in November 1814, he enlisted with the Tennesse militia. He died in New Orleans in January or February of 1815 of illness or wounds. His father's 1817 will mentions the five children of David as beneficiaries. One of David's sons was Moses Martin Sanders (1803-1878) who would become a prominent Mormon pioneer. David himself died intestate, but a settlement of his estate was made in 1815 in Bedford county. Elden Hurst Research on David Sanders.

Nancy Sanders is not mentioned as a daughter in her father's 1817 will, but Richard Mauldin is given two dollars. The Reverend Moses Sanders' grandson, Moses Martin Sanders(1803-1878), in the ordinances transcribed for the Mormon church in the 1870s mentioned Nancy Sanders Mauldin as his aunt. For this reason, Elden Hurst and other researchers have asssumed that Nancy was Moses' daughter and that she married Richard Mauldin but she probably died shortly thereafter, leaving no children. She was probably born about 1778 in Montgomery County, North Carolina.

Amos Sanders was probably also dead by the time of his father's 1817 will. His birth year is not known but was probably about 1781 in Montgomery County, North Carolina. He appears on the 1805 and 1806 tax list of Franklin County. He is not mentioned in the 1817 will of his father but Moses Martin Sanders(1803-1878), a grandson of the Reverend Moses Sanders, mentioned Amos as his uncle in the  LDS ordinances of the 1870s. Amos probably did not have any surviving children.

John Sanders was the youngest son of the Reverend Moses Sanders. He was born March 2, 1787 in Rowan County, North Carolina, and died November 15, 1858 in Tishomingo County, Mississippi. He married  Aby Alexandra Richardson Robins. His son Moses Marion Sanders (1838-1895) wrote a memoir in 1880 that gives substantial detail about the children of John and Aby. Elden Hurst research on John Sanders.

Further articles about the Reverend Moses Sanders:

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