Pioneers of Ellis County
The Sandersons and Chapmans of Ellis County, Texas
Contributed by Pamela Bell
Written August 1979
Revised August 2006
"My great great grandparents, Joseph Sanderson and Sarah Strange Sanderson, and Joseph's brother Morris Sanderson and Sarah's sister, Hannah Strange Sanderson completed a double Sanderson-Strange arrangement. Of Joseph's five children, only one (James Strange Sanderson) migrated as a youth to Louisiana; however, of Morris and Hannah's fifteen children, many sons and daughters migrated to Louisiana, many becoming quite wealthy.
Morris and Hannah's daughter, Hannah Aurora Sanderson had married William Wheeler and was living near Hannah's siblings in Bossier Parish. When they were just getting their start in life, both Wheeler parents died of measles within a two weeks' period, leaving the two orphans, whom none of Hannah Aurora's brothers would adopt. That left my (Virginia Chapman Stovall) Great Grandfather, James Strange Sanderson, to take them into his home and bring them to Texas with his family.
It was the two of them that established the Uncle Jimmie and Aunt Liza titles. Only the marvelous memory of my mother's (Anna Laura Chapman Stovall) eldest sister, Mary Lula Chapman (b July 1, 1867, d April 30, 1960) was I able to make headway on research of the Sanderson/Strange/Chapman family histories.
"Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the James Strange Sanderson home was located on a Red River Plantation, near Minden, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, where the family had resided since about 1850.
With large farm acreage and insufficient labor to cultivate their fields, they disposed of their land holdings and slaves, and migrated in the spring of 1869 to Ellis County, Texas, where less manual labor was required. The caravan consisted of James Strange Sanderson (Uncle Jimmie); Martha Harris Sanderson (Aunt Liza) his wife; their three sons, the eldest, Elbert, was deaf and dumb, a result of scarlet fever when he was about three years old; a Mr. Buster Drury, who took care of Uncle Ebb; and two minor children, Walter Wheeler, aged fourteen and Mattie Wheeler, aged twelve years.
The Sanderson's joined A. C. Chapman and their daughter Virginia in the southeastern part of Ellis county. There they bought approximately 3,000 acres of land on Onion Creek for $1.00 per acre. Almost one hundred years later, this land was still owned by Sanderson descendants. The Sandersons' only daughter, Virginia Elmina and her husband, Alexander Campbell Chapman family, had preceded her parents by only a few months. The young couple, with fewer holdings, could "pull up their stakes" more quickly and easily for their new Texas home.
Mrs. Pearl Sanderson Cook, a granddaughter of the James Strange Sandersons, wrote this account in the 1960's of her grandparents' migration to Texas:
"James Strange Sanderson, one of the early pioneers of Ellis County, was born in Madison County, Alabama. He moved to Louisiana when a young man and married Miss Martha (Mary) Eliza Harris, daughter of Jesse and Eleanor Harris. Together they reared a family of three sons and one daughter: Charles, George Clinton, Virginia and Elbert.
"The family home was located on a plantation on Red River, near Shreveport, during the Civil War, and hospitality was extended to visitors from many sections of the country. They were many Sanderson cousins in the area also, with another plantation in the Richland area. James was the son of Joseph Sanderson and Sarah Strange. His cousins were the children of Morris Sanderson and Hannah Strange - - two Sanderson brothers married two Strange sisters - - all of Madison and Limestone Counties, Alabama.
"After the War and the slaves were freed, like many families of other states, they turned their hopes toward the West and Texas. With five yoke of oxen and one team of horses hitched to covered wagons, they started on their journey, which took five weeks, a distance which can easily be made in one day with our modern mode of travel. The Sandersons ferried the Sabine and Trinity rivers on a flat boat . . . there being no bridges. The roads were winding and some were little more than cow trails.
"In April, 1869, he arrived in the neighborhood now called Byrd. The first night this family pitched camp was on land later bought for $1.00 per acre and used as ranch land. He later moved across Onion Creek and established the family home. Part of the house was made of logs; but later, when it burned, a comfortable seven-room house was built.
"The nearest Post Office was at Waxahachie, a distance of eighteen miles. The nearest railroad was the Houston and Texas Central with terminal at Bryan. Mail was carried by stagecoach, drawn by four horses, each team being driven a distance of sixteen to twenty miles and changed for a fresh team.
"There were a few families living in this community at that time; but though separated by several miles, there was a neighborly feeling, an interest and warm hospitality for all.
"Some of the families were: Cal Rushing; C. K. Goodwin; Jim McCollum; A. J. Bateman; B. L. Hamm; John Matlock; and N. B. Rankin, lovingly called 'Uncle Boney'; Steve Seabolt; and Charlie Whatley. The Taylor Monterey Duke family lived in the Byron Settlement, but later moved to Rankin."
James Strange Sanderson was born June 8, 1816, in Madison County, Alabama, the son of Joseph and Sarah (Strange) Sanderson who were married in Madison County, Alabama, August 12, 1815. James Strange Sanderson married Martha (Mary) Eliza Harris, the daughter of Jessie and Eleanor Harris, January 25, 1840, in Limestone County, Alabama."
Martha (Mary) Eliza Harris was born September 13, 1819, in Alabama. Her brother, Woodson Terrel Harris born June 05, 1817 in Alabama. They also had a sister, Sarah (Sallie) Harris. Woodson Harris, with his family, resided several years in Ellis County and at Chatfield, Navarro County, Texas. His son, Arthur Benjamin Harris was a long-time, prominent citizen of Italy, Texas, where he and his family are buried. Miss Myrtle Harris of Italy was his only surviving issue in 1964.
The James Strange Sanderson household consisted of five to ten people besides the immediate family. As was the custom, field workers lived in the home as the family until they were able to establish homes of their own. This seemed a practical arrangement for both the landowner and for the itinerant laborers. Two other unrelated members of the household were Miss Margaret A. (Maggie) Ray (born 1853; died 1931, Ennis) and her brother's orphaned daughter, Miss Gertrude (Gertie) Ray (born 1877; died 1937, Ennis).
Miss Margaret and Miss Gertrude came to the Sanderson home about 1878 seeking a home and to help with the household duties. After the deaths of "Uncle Jimmy" and "Aunt Liza", as the elder Sandersons were called, the Rays continued to live in the same home when headed by George Clinton Sanderson. When Miss Gertie married September 6, 1897, Freddie U. Wood (born 1875; died 1900), Miss Maggie left the Sandersons to live with the Woods. The Freddie Woods had one child, Myrtle F., who was born August 13, 1900 and who died March 5, 1918.
This writer (Jennie Chapman Stovall) remembers Myrtle's death of pneumonia as having been the saddest and most tragic she has ever known. For Miss Maggie and for Miss Gertie this was losing their one last flicker of hope for a brighter future. Their only resource was a little cottage and the charity of friends and neighbors. By this time, Miss Maggie was aged; Miss Gertie was, and had been since the birth of her daughter, an arthritic invalid, unable to do a thing for herself. Until the end of her years, Miss Maggie cared for her niece, who then was cared for by friends who included the descendants of James Strange Sanderson. They always loved and admired the energy, loyalty, and thrift of Miss Maggie Ray. The Rays and the Woods are buried in the Bardwell Cemetery.
In the James Strange Sanderson household were two cousins, orphaned of both parents within a few months in 1865. Their Mother was Hannah Aurora (Sanderson, born 1834); their father was William B. Wheeler. The children, William Walter Wheeler (1856-1935) and Martha Jane (Mattie) Wheeler (1860-1936) migrated with the Sandersons to Ellis County and continued to live with them until they were grown and established homes of their own. They were probably responsible for the Sandersons being known as "Uncle Jimmy" and "Aunt Liza". A daughter of Cousin Mattie, Mrs. Ruth Turner Smith of Floydada, Texas, wrote: "When the Wheeler parents died, their closest relations were the James Strange Sandersons. My mother taught me to call them Grandpa and Grandma."
As Hannah Aurora had four sisters and five brothers, it seems more to the credit of the James Strange Sandersons that they took these children, who with their descendants have been very appreciative of what the Sandersons did for them. Mattie Wheeler married November 29, 1878, John Thomas Turner (1859-1884) of Ellis County, Texas. Mrs. Della Turner Gooch (Mrs. R. E.) of 409 North Clay, Ennis, is her daughter.
Uncle Jimmy Sanderson was a public-spirited citizen. In a "History of Ellis County," Mr. W. H. Getzendaner recalled at the death of Mr. J. W. Couch, February 21, 1902, the Committee composed of J. W. Couch, A. J. Loyd and James S. Sanderson. They were appointed about 1875 at a time when Ellis County was bankrupt and heavily in debt. They were to "resolve the financial difficulties of the county and lift it out of the Slough of Despond." Mr. Getzendaner praised their business-like approach to the solution of their problem and he stated that the success of the committee was highly appreciated by the people. Uncle Jimmy Sanderson gave land for the Sanderson Church, School and Cemetery, about a mile west of his home.
The Sanderson Home stood in the center of a beautiful, tree-dotted pasture of some one hundred acres or more, with the entire ranch amounting to 3,000 acres. This writer (Jennie Chapman Stovall) can picture his driving up the long lane in his new horse-drawn buggy, which was one of the first three in the whole countryside. "Uncle Boney" Rankin and "Uncle Joe" Boren had the other two buggies. The James S. Sanderson homestead was located near the present site of the Bardwell Lake, near the spillway some three miles east of Bardwell. The house still stood in 1964.
When the original log home burned about 1878, a result of live ashes being placed too near the house, the frail Mrs. Eliza Sanderson saved only one thing. Alone she carried a heavy-laden crock of milk for some one hundred yards. She was often teased about saving milk, which ended up having to be poured out.
The new house consisted of seven rooms with a wide passageway all the way through the house. This writer (Jennie Chapman Stovall) well remembers a visit to this home in her childhood when George Clinton Sanderson occupied it, some time before Irl's death in August of 1902. Driving in a surrey from Ennis, the Stovalls crossed Waxahachie Creek, climbed a rather steep hill, and gazed at one of the most beautiful scenes that remains in this writer's memory. A pretty white house stood in the middle of a beautifully kept green pasture on which grazed sheep, goats, and cattle. The sheep ate the weeds; the goats trimmed the trees of their low branches and cleared the pasture of brambles and bushes; the cattle cropped the grass. It was an unforgettable scene of rural beauty, peace and serenity.
James Strange Sanderson met his untimely death by accident. For branding cattle, the Sandersons kept a large bottle of carbolic acid in a "chimney niche," in this same niche, they also kept bottles of whiskey, of which the men took "nips" after a hard day of branding. Someone had failed to return the bottles to their respective places. Without observing the labels, James S. Sanderson drank of the carbolic acid. He realized his mistake, but he died before help could reach him. In the Bardwell Cemetery are twin headstones with the following inscriptions:
"James S. Sanderson, born June 8, 1816, died October 31, 1890:
Husband dear take thy rest
The summer flowers will bloom
While you the purest and best
Doth wither in the tomb"
"Mary Eliza Sanderson, born August 13, 1819, and died November 30, 1896:
We trust our loss will be her gain
And that with Christ she's gone to reign."
The Sandersons' two eldest children, Ebb and Virginia Chapman, are also buried in the Bardwell Cemetery. The cemetery has many Sanderson, Chapman, Stovall graves
The James Strange Sandersons' issue consisted of three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, Elbert, was born June 21, 1841, in Alabama. At the age of three he had typhoid fever that left him a deaf-mute. Because of the public's lack of understanding of and sympathy for one so afflicted, he was called "Crazy Ebb." Had he been born a century later, educators could have made of him a useful citizen; and for the public he would not have been the subject of ridicule.
Uncle Ebb roamed the countryside with his axe, walking twenty miles or more a day. He liked to cut down dead trees. By pointing to the dead tree and mumbling, he obtained permission before cutting down any trees. One day, about 1905, Uncle Ebb knocked at the farm home of his nephew, Charles Frank Chapman. He was crying because he had broken his axe handle. Mrs. Chapman (Lizzie Stovall Chapman) tied the split handle with a piece of twine, but Uncle Ebb left smiling and happy. That was the writer's first time to see him. Uncle Ebb had his own chair and his own bed, which only he was to occupy. On one occasion because of company, Great grandmother Sanderson told Uncle Clint to sleep with Uncle Ebb, who had already retired and was asleep. By chance, or premonition, Great Grandmother Sanderson went to check about the boys in time to see Uncle Ebb with his axe raised to rid himself of his unwanted bedfellow. Never again was anyone assigned to share Uncle Ebb's bed. Great Grandmother Sanderson prayed that she would outlive Uncle Ebb, but he survived her by thirty-three years. He died in 1923.
After the death of his mother, Uncle Ebb was cared for by the parents of Britt Drury, who were reimbursed from Uncle Ebb's inheritance of 960 acres of land and all the Sanderson cattle because he was afflicted. For many years, Uncle Ebb's brother, Clint, was the guardian and manager of Uncle Ebb and his property. About 1920, Uncle Ebb's nephew, Charles Frank Chapman, was made manager of Uncle Ebb's estate, which had dwindled, to about 200 acres and no cattle. At Uncle Ebb's death the 200 acres were still in tact.
When Uncle Ebb was about seventy years old, he started coming to the Bardwell home of his brother-in-law, Alexander Campbell Chapman. Several times he stayed almost too late for his five-mile walk to the Drury home, which was the old two-story home on Sanderson Ranch west of Bardwell. When Grandfather Chapman handed him his hat and told him it was time he was starting homeward, he understood. He left to return many times.
As events sometimes go awry, he was once deeply hurt by what he thought was the request of the Chapman granddaughters for him to leave. On that fateful day, five of them entertained him by playing the piano and singing. His enjoyment of music and of other experiences led the family to the conviction that he was not deaf . . . only unable to speak. Awhile later the girls tried to show Uncle Ebb a passing train; he looked questioningly from one to the other. All nodded toward the door. He misinterpreted their gestures as requests for him to leave. And leave he did; never did he return, although he frequently walked by. This is just an example of good intentions going awry and leaving young girls with guilty consciences. This incident convinced the Chapmans that Uncle Ebb was the victim of being born some sixty years too early in a pioneer country.
The Sandersons second child was Virginia Elmina, born April 23, 1843, in Alabama. She was given a good education for the time and was taught to plan "the piano accordion." Virginia married Alexander Campbell Chapman, about 1865. She died January 6, 1891, at the Chapman home, which adjoined the Sanderson Ranch on the west and is now a part of it.
The third child, Charles Edmund Sanderson, was born September 27, 1847, in Alabama. He died February 21, 1937, at this Ennis, Texas home where he had resided some thirty years. He was married to Laura Janie Shead, who was born July 7, 1853. She died in 1933, a year or two after she and her husband celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. The Charles Sandersons amassed thousands of acres of good Ellis County farmland to the 960 acres Charlie had inherited from his father. Some five miles west of Bardwell, he built a (presuming, for the times) two-story family home, which was destroyed by fire about 1950. Today this constitutes Sanderson Ranch on which graze numerous herds of cattle and on which is now located Bardwell Lake. The Charles E. Sandersons had two children.
Their daughter, Pearl, was born February 3, 1879, at the Ranch. She attended Ferris Institute conducted by a Mr. Spears at Ferris, Texas. She married Dr. Charles P. Cook (1871, Mississippi-1940, Ennis). Their only issue, Charles Sanderson Cook (1899-1951) first married Fern Maie Rowe (1901-1940). His second marriage was to Jessie Mae Redding (?), a Dallas school teacher. Charles S. Cook had no issue. The Cooks lived in Ennis practically al the time after about 1900. Dr. Cook was the company doctor for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Mrs. Pearl Cook died November 30, 1956. The Sandersons and Cooks are buried on a family lot in the Myrtle Cemetery, Ennis, Texas.
The Charles E. Sandersons' second child, James Shead Sanderson, was born March 15, 1889, on the Sanderson Ranch. He died suddenly May 17, 1958, at his Ennis home. He first married Nell Shegog (1890-1954) of Ennis. To them were born two daughters, Camille who married Roy McBrayer, and Gloria who married _____ Walker. James Shead Sandersons' second marriage was to Mrs. Ruth Redding (?) of Ennis about 1955.
The youngest issue of the James Strange Sandersons was George Clinton Sanderson (Clint), who was born on the Sanderson Plantation near Benton, Louisiana, August 27, 1854. He died in Ennis, October 11, 1933, and is buried in Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Texas. On October 7, 1891, he married Lula Celeste Greer who was born June 4, 1870, near Gilmer, Texas. She died January 28, 1962, in Celina, Texas. She is buried in the Myrtle Cemetery beside her husband and her son, Irl. The Greers and the Sandersons were neighbors in the Sanderson Community, Ellis County. The Clint Sandersons resided in his paternal home until about 1900. Ellis County records show that George Clinton Sanderson was a trustee of the Sanderson School District #108, from 1897 to 1898 and that Miss Sadie Richmond was the teacher. The Sanderson School, located about a mile west of the homestead, was where this writer received her first experience as a schoolteacher.
Virginia (Jennie) Chapman Stovall applied in the autumn of 1917 for a teaching position in this school. On the reverse side of her letter of application, Mr. E. P. Gerron, the president of the school board, wrote "We don't want no woman; we want a man." They secured from east Texas, a Mr. Hayes, who was chased and stoned off by the boys. When the trustees solicited her services in the spring of 1918 to finish the school year, Judge H. R. Stovall was unwilling to have his daughter exposed to such bad children. Her argument was, "They can only kill me; and I must get experience to be able to get a school." The children were so well behaved that she taught another year as the only teacher. Subsequently, 1920-23, she taught there with Mrs. J. T. Sutton (Florence Roach), when it was made a two teacher school.
The cemetery at the rear of the school had only a few headstones and only a few additional mounds. The school consolidation program eliminated the school about 1925. The construction of Bardwell Lake necessitated the removal of the graves to the Bardwell Cemetery about 1964. Thus, in about one hundred years, the name Sanderson has died out for this family, except for a few headstones in the Bardwell and Ennis Cemeteries and for Sanderson Ranch.
After moving to Ennis about 1900, Clint continued the management of his and his brother Ebb's property. At one time he was City Secretary for Ennis. He was especially skilled in mathematical calculations.
The Clint Sandersons had three daughters and one son. Bertha, born September 16, 1892, Sanderson Homestead, married June 20, 1916, in Ennis, Rupert T. Blakey (born November 4, 1889, Ennis; died December 25, 1950, Dallas). They had two daughters: Corynne married first in November 1939, Tyson Woods in Dallas and they had one issue, Patricia Woods (born October 11, 1940, Dallas). Corynne B. Woods was divorced in 1940. On February 1, 1945, she married Stanley Nash. Their son, Thomas Blakey Nash was born October 24, 1948, in Tampa, Florida. Bertha's second daughter, Felice, was born December 5, 1919, Ennis. Felice never married and is still employed in Dallas.
Clint's second daughter, Joycie (born February 1, 1894, Sanderson Homestead) married Walter K. McLaurin of Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the couple resided many years. They now live in Louisiana. They have no issue. Clint's son, Irl Sanderson, was born December 24, 1896, at the homestead.
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