William Sanderson, Sr. and Family

Descendants of William Sanderson Sr.

William Sanderson Sr. was born about 1820 son of John and Margaret (Whitfield) Sanderson). He married Mary Ann Watson. Mary Ann was born in New York. We believe William and Mary Ann were married in New York, moved to Ohio about 1844 where their daughter Elizabeth was born. By 1848 them settled in Wisconsin, where William purchased a flouring mill with his brother Edward. It was known as the Phoenix Mill or Sanderson and Co. See more about Phoenix and Daisy Flouring Mills

William and Mary Ann leased a cotton plantation in Helena, Phillips, Arkansas in 1862–1865. They also had a home at 165 Van Buren St. in Milwaukee. Mary Ann died at her home after a short illness on 14 September 1864.

The Cotton Plantation

Circa 1862, Wm. and Mary Ann Sanderson leased Gideon Pillow’s Swan Lake plantation outside of Helena, Arkansas in Phillips County. The place was in shambles. Prior to the start of the Civil War the Union army forced their way in and took over the Helena area. The city of Helena was the site of the Battle of Helena fought in 1863. The battle was started by Confederate forces in an unsuccessful attempt to oust the Union Army from Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Helena later served as the launching point for the Union Army in the capture of Little Rock, the state capital, later in the year.

Before William could raise a crop on his leased land, he was required by the U.S. Treasury to do improvements on the property that the armies had destroyed. He constructed eighteen cabins, built a cotton gin house, repaired a barn, and repaired the engine and boiler on the cotton gin. He invested about eight thousand dollars on the repairs. By the end of the Civil War the area was even in more chaos. The government started to deny renewals of plantation leases. William complained that if he was not allowed to renew his lease in 1865, he would lose his investment.

Officials encouraged lessees and owners of land to sublease their lands to the freedmen. William Sanderson, was one who operated in this manner. Sanderson gave “faithful and trusty” freedmen pieces of ground to work on their own, proposing to furnish food, clothing, animals, and tools in return for an interest in the crop.[1]

During most of the Civil War Helena was used as a hospital. Wounded soldiers were brought to the Helena area for medical care. The area was filled with dysentery and disease. Although much medical care was available, William died of appendicitis on 31 July 1865. His remains were brought back to be buried alongside his wife, Mary Ann (Watson) Sanderson, at the Forest Home Cemetery. He was buried on 6 Aug 1865.

The Children

Willliam Sanderson and Mary Ann Watson had the following children:

  • Celia A. Sanderson was born in Oct 1842 in New York. She married Paul J. William Loizeaux. He was a publisher of religious books. Celia and Paul had 8 children.
  • Sarah Elizabeth Sanderson was born about 1844 in Ohio. She died at her residence 693 Astor on 31 Jul 1894 at the age of 50 in Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She married Charles Henry Swan. Charles was the president of Swan Owen Coal Company in Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sarah and Charles had 7 children.
  • William Sanderson Jr (our direct ancestor) was born in May 1849 in Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He married Margaret E. “Daisy” Driscoll, daughter of Daniel J. O’Driscoll and Sarah Maria Hardy. William and Daisy had only two children. Daisy later married John Eli Pierce, son of W.Y.B. Pierce and Mary Ann Sanderson (Wm. Sr’s sister).
  • John Howard Sanderson was born about 1851 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He married Fannie Fitzgerald. We do not know yet if John and Fannie had any children.

Guardianship of William and John H. Sanderson

When William died, he left four children. Two of whom were minor children. Edward Sanderson, William Sr’s brother, was appointed guardian to the two youngest children, William Jr. and John Howard Sanderson. In exchange for becoming Guardian, Edward was awarded $8000 in bond to pay for the support and maintenance of the minors subject to change based on the value of the estate yet to be determined. In a year they would evaluate the property and adjust the bond accordingly. It was determined that at the time of his death William Sr. had two life insurance policies totaling $5000 and some household furniture worth about $2000 which was given to the daughters. When the policies were cashed in their worth was $6563.36. Edward was paid 2 payments of $2140.84 for support and maintenance of the minors. Each payment consisted of $1119.84 from one insurance policy, $521 from another and $500 (1/4 of the value of the furniture). [2]

[1] Bailey, Anne J and Sutherland, Daniel E. Civil War Arkansas Beyond Battles and Leaders, University of Arkansas Press: Fayetteville, 2000.
[2] Guardianship papers of William Sanderson Sr.

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