Sanders Genealogy
Moses Sanders
of Franklin County, Georgia
who died 29 March 1817

The Reverend Moses Sanders was a Baptist preacher who is most famous for having founded Grove Level Baptist Church in Franklin (now Banks) County, Georgia. He first appears in the land records of Anson County, North Carolina in 1771 and he later lived in Montgomery, Rowan, Wilkes, and Iredell counties in North Carolina. He moved to Laurens County, South Carolina, in the 1790s and eventually to Franklin County, Georgia, where he died in 1817.   

Moses  Sanders and his brothers, Aaron, Isaac, and Francis left many descendants who, from their original home in the Randolph/Montgomery county area of North Carolina, followed the path of western expansion as American pioneers moved West. They were in the forefront of settlement in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. Some family members moved north to Illinois or Indiana; others moved west to Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California. Sanders were with the Mormon pioneers as they trekked to Utah, and there were Sanders cowboys who drove cattle on the great trail drives. Most were subsistence farmers, but some became citizens of considerable wealth and influence. There were Sanders who owned slaves and even more who fought and died for the Union; there were Sanders who were Baptists and Methodists and those who were Mormons. They were farmers and doctors and lawyers and teachers and musicians and businessmen, but usually they were what Thomas Bailey Saunders III called "just plain folks." In their diversity, they reflected the American experience, especially that of Scotch-Irish pioneers.

One of these Sanders descendants was Thomas Bailey Saunders (the first of six individuals who would bear that name), who left his home in Montgomery County, North Carolina to become one of the most successful ranchers and cattle drivers in Texas in the late nineteenth century. In the 1890s, he wrote a letter to a nephew who had inquired about their shared Saunders 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, incomplete as it is, has been a key document for genealogists studying the descendants of the Reverend Moses Sanders and his brothers. Unfortunately, earlier researchers were not aware that the Moses mentioned in the letter was the same Baptist preacher as the one who died in Georgia. Only in the past ten years and with the emergence of the Internet have researchers pooled their efforts; the result is that we have a much fuller and more reliable documentation of this family. In addition, we now know that many of the previous assumptions about the Reverend Moses Sanders are dubious. For example, we have no proof he was born in England or that he served in the Revolutionary War, as previous researchers had suggested. 

Below are links to several articles that deal specificially with the life of the Reverend Moses Sanders, but information about him may also be found in articles that deal with other topics at the "Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery" and the "SandersGenealogy" Web sites.

One of the most eminent genealogists who have contributed to the re-assessment of the research on the Moses Sanders was Elden Grant Hurst¹ of Salt Lake City. Mr. Hurst was a descendant of Moses' grandson, Moses Martin Sanders, who became one of the early converts to the Mormon Church and eventually moved to Utah. Because of the Mormon emphasis on genealogy, Moses Martin Sanders left documents in which he recorded his family tradition about his ancestors. Unfortunately, however, he knew almost nothing about his grandfather's brothers or other relatives. Later researchers, such as Elden Hurst, have struggled to fill in the gaps.

Elden Hurst's work on the Reverend Moses Sanders was published in October 2000 and was based on a lifetime of research in original records and documents. The most thorough and accurate assessment of the immediate family of Moses Sanders, it was printed as a spiral bound pamphlet, and copies of this work have been difficult to obtain for several years. In the spring of 2008, Mr. Hurst gave permission to copy and distribute his work to make it available to a wider group of researchers. Accordingly, through the assistance of Chuck Sanders, who initially contacted Mr. Hurst for permission, and Jim Sanders, who provided a copy of the manuscript, we are now making this important work available in PDF format to other Sanders researchers. Please remember all the material on these pages is furnished solely for use of individuals researching their family history. This work remains the intellectual property of the Elden Hurst estate and copying and distribution for profit or for commercial use, whether in print or through electronic means, is prohibited by copyright law. In order to open the chapter files of Elden Hurst's work, you will need  Adobe Reader or a similar PDF program. If the program is not available on your computer you can download it by clicking on the icon below. Some of these files are very large and may take take quite a while to download over a slow connection. In February 2017 Elden Hurst's daughter's Jeanette Hurst Drake donated a copy of her father's work on the Reverend Moses Sanders to and one may now access the complete work at that site also.
---Gary B. Sanders, June 2008 (revised May 2016, February 2017)  

¹Elden Grant Hurst was born May 17, 1922, and died May 23, 2009. He graduated from Utah State University, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and worked as a high school biology teacher for many years. He was also a bishop in a ward of the Mormon church and spent several years in England as a missionary. He and his wife, the former Josephine Rollins, had ten children. He was a Sanders descendant through his great grandmother on his father's side, Rebecca Ann Sanders. She was the daughter of Moses Martin Sanders who was the son of David Sanders and Mary Allred and a grandson of the Reverend Moses Sanders who died in 1817 in Georgia. Moses Martin Sanders was one of the early converts to Mormonism in the 1830s and was one of the pioneers of the Utah settlements. Elden Hurst's mother, Alice Lambert Romney, was the great aunt of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Elden Hurst's Find A Grave memorial has a short biography and  pictures of him as a young man and later in life.
(note on Elden Hurst's death added January 21, 2012)

Below I am also reproducing in text format the entire introduction and preface of Elden Hurst's work in order to add some notes and comments of my own.The "editors notes" in the preface are the notes that Elden Hurst appended to the material he quoted. I have made a few minor changes in spelling to correct obvious typographical errors or in paragraph indentation in order to make the meaning clear but have not otherwise altered his words. My own comments and additions are in the endnotes after the text of the preface.

Moses Sanders

Who died 
29 March 1817
As recorded in the
Groves Level Baptist Church
Banks County, Georgia

Elden G. Hurst
1441 Yale Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84105-1614
Phone: 801-583-0604
E-Mail: [email protected]
20 Oct 2000 


This publication is an attempt to clarify what is fact or fiction concerning the life and family of Moses Sanders, whose death date, 29 March 1817, is entered in the minutes of the Grove Level Baptist Church in Maysville, Georgia, and whose will is dated 28 February 1817. Family members and historians have relied on several several sources of unsubstantiated but authentic appearing writings. 1 Among these are the following:

  1. Two tombstones placed in a private Sanders Cemetery near Homer, Banks County, Georgia. The epitaph for Moses Sanders reads: “Rev. Moses Sanders, Born 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.” His wife’s epitaph reads: “Sallie Hamilton, Wife of Rev. Moses Sanders. A native of Virginia born 1745. Died 1816. She died as she lived, A Christian.” 2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         [Editor's note: Research fails to confirm his birth in England, or that he served as a soldier during the Revolutionary War. He was serving as Justice of the Peace in Iredell County during the war. His wife was Mary Hambleton and she survived him and is mentioned in his will of 1817. These headstones were likely installed 85 years after the death of Moses Sanders by a great grandson, Christopher Columbus Sanders at the the same time he had commemorative markers placed at the Line & Grove Level Baptist Churches in 1902 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Groves Level Baptist Church.]   
  1. “Men of Mark in Georgia” Vol. IV edited by William F. Northen, Ex Governor of Georgia, and published by A.B. Caldwell. Pub. At Atlanta, GA in 1908. This publication contains an article about “Col. Christopher Columbus Sanders, merchant and banker of Gainesville, Ga., born at Grove Level, Jackson County, Ga. May 1840." 

Quoting from this publication: “Col. Sanders’ great grandfather, Rev. Moses Sanders, was a Baptist preacher. He emigrated from England in 1765 and with his two younger brothers, David and John, who located in Tennessee and Alabama while Moses stttled at Petersburg, Va. Later he moved to North Georgia. 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 guerilla warfare in the Carolinas. He died in 1817. His eldest son, Moses Sanders, Jr., an enterprising planter, was the grandfather of the subject of this sketch…the parents of Colonel Sanders were Harris Sanders and Elizabeth (Smythe) Sanders…” 3

[Editor’s Note: No evidence that he emigrated from England has been located. He was in Virginia in 1769 when his eldest son, Aaron, was born. He was in Anson County, N.C. by 1771 and purchased property in Rowan County, N.C., in 1785 which becomes Iredell County in 1788. He moved to South Carolina in 1794 and then to Franklin County, Ga in 1798. His only identified brother is Francis who appears with him in Franklin Co., Ga and who moved to Smith County, Tenn. n 1807. The two younger brothers mentioned were likely his sons, David & John. David moved to Bedford Co. Tenn in 1807 and was one of the Tenn. Volunteers who was killed in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans fighting the Tories of Great Britain in the last battle of the War of 1812.John sells his inheritance from his father in 1818 and moved to McNairy County, Tenn. In 1837 he moved to Tishomingo County, Miss. No evidence has been located which states Moses served in the Revolutionary War. He witnessed his will with an “x” indicating his degree of education.]  4

“History of Banks Co., Georgia 1858-1976” a book compiled by Jessie Julia Mize Page 53: Repeats the inscription on tombstones mentioned above. Page 81: “The Line Church was constituted by the Rev. Moses Sanders, Thomas Maxwell, and Daniel White, September 13, 1802. Rev. Moses Sanders served the church he had helped found from 1802-1810. He was then succeeded by Littleton Meeks who served for 35 years.” 

“The Line Church is indeed a part of the history of this area. The church’s name is derived from being near the Line of the Last Four Mile Purchase Tract that the government bought from the Cherokee Indians. This is identified by marker sput up by the Georgia Historical Commission. These markers can be seen at the church entrance and on the Line. Because of shifting boundaries the Line Church has been in three counties: Franklin 1802-1819; Habersham 1819-1858; Banks 1858-today.”

“The memorial tablet of the church and the silver communion service were given by the late C.C. Sanders, Gainesville, Ga., in memory of his grandfather, Rev. Moses Sanders.”

[Editor’s Note: This reference is to the grandfather not the great grandfather of C.C. Sanders. This Moses Sanders, Jr. moved from South Carolina to Georgia in 1801, three years after his father.]

Page 94: “Nails Creek Baptist Church. The Georgia Historical Commission marker erected in 1954 states: ‘Nails Creek Baptist Church, the first Baptist Church in Banks County was established Feb. 11, 1787. It was the mother church of Middle River, Grove Level and Indian Creek.’”

 Page 95-96: “Histories of Nails Creek Church have been prepared by Rev. J. F. Goode and by George Garnet Strange (1950).”

 “The Reverend Moses Sanders was the Missionary and leader in founding the Church. Associated with Sanders in Missionary Activities among the Indians and early settlers at that time were Dozier Thornton, Littleton Meeks, and Thomas Johnson. What part if any these men had in assisting Sanders in the organization is not known. It is believed that Thornton was a member of the presbytery, assisting Sanders in the organization. Both Meeks and Johnson were young men at the time. Possibly neither had been ordained. Brief personal sketches of these leaders are included here.”

 “Information gathered from family records of the descendants of Moses Sanders, Littleton Meeks, and Dozier Thornton, has proven quite helpful. A brief sketch of these flaming evangels of the Gospel will be informative in connection with his church.”

“Moses Sanders was born in Dawnton parish Westshire, England in 1732. He came to America in his early manhood and settled in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Soon after his arrival he married Miss Sallie Hamilton the same county. Several children were born to them. He made two or three missionary journeys down in the New Colony of Georgia before moving to the state in 1784. Moses served as pastor of Nails Creek until he organized a congregation at Grove Level in 1802 and became the first pastor there.”

 “He located on a farm in western Franklin county, now Banks County, about four miles east of the present city of Maysville, Ga., where he lived out the remainder of his life. He died in 1817 and was buried in a family cemetery nearby. He served as a soldier in the Continental Army under General Washington. He bore a number of scars caused by baynet wounds on his body proving his valor as a soldier of the cross.”

 “Dozier Thornton was born Lunenburg, Virginia in 1755. Early in his ministry he became associated with Moses Sanders in Missionary Activities on the frontier in Georgia and among the Cherokee Indians. Like Sanders he was obsessed by an impelling urge to preach and spread the Gospel. He came into Georgia, along with Sanders in the year 1784…”

 “Littleton Meeks was a native of Pittsylvania county, Virginia. He was converted at an early age under the ministry of Moses Sanders and was baptized by Sanders in the Dan River. Soon after his baptism he entered the ministry under the tutorage of Sanders and accompanied Sanders and Dozier Thornton on some of their missionary journeys into Georgia, before moving to Georgia along with Sanders and Thornton. He settled on a farm, a neighbor to Sanders in Western Franklin county, now Banks County, Ga., some four miles east of the present city of Maysville, Ga.” 5

 [Editor’s note: Moses Sanders did not move to Georgia until 1798 and there is no Dawnton, Westshire, England. It should read Downton, Wiltshire, England, but a visit there and correspondence with the minister reveals no Moses Sanders in 1732 or 1742. Coming from Pittsylvania Co., Va has not been documented. His wife was Mary Hambleton, not Sallie Hamilton and there appears to be on official record of his having served in the Revolutionary War under George Washington.]

  1. Wills of Moses Sanders dated 28 Feb 1817 proved in May court 1817, reg. 5 May 1817. Two separate writings of his will appear in the county records. One is more correct in identifying his family and it will be quoted in this manuscript. It is located in the Franklin County, Georgia Will Book 1814-1823 pages 58, 58a, 59, 59a.

This publication is a contribution of the author to the descendants of Moses Martin Sanders in fulfillment of his duties as Family Genealogist. It is recognized that errors do exist and some assumptions may be flawed. The author would appreciate receiving correspondence point out errors & their clarification. He would also be pleased to receive further data concerning Moses Sanders and his descendants. [End of preface and introduction by Elden Hurst]

Endnotes(by Gary Sanders) to Preface:

1. As previously mentioned, Elden Hurst published his work on the Reverend Moses Sanders in the year 2000. At that time  genealogy forums were flourishing on the Web and the first generation of Internet family researchers were busy exchanging information. One may wonder why Hurst was unaware of the family tradition in Texas among the descendants of Moses' brother Aaron, a tradition that is documented back over a century, to the 1890s. The solution to this question is somewhat complicated, but I believe part of the answer is that Elden Hurst did most of his work before computers were common household items. His research was in land and legal records and in printed material. He does not seem to have spent much time with Internet research and his research was mainly in the records of North and South Carolina and Georgia. His work was apparently typed on a typewriter, not a word processor. Another reason is that the tradition in Texas did not necessarily associate the Reverend Moses Sanders, Baptist preacher, and brother of Isaac and William Aaron with the Reverend Moses Sanders who was died in Georgia.  Sam Sanders, a descendant of  William Aaron Sanders, organized a Web site in 1997, the William Aaron Saunders Research Group, devoted to research on the descendants of William Aaron, Isaac, and Moses Sanders and at one time more forty or fifty people were members. Most of them were busy researching their immediate family lines and did not spend much time trying to reconcile or combine the varying family traditions. And most of them were descendants of Aaron or Isaac, not Moses. A few believed that there may have been two Moses Sanders who were Baptist preachers, and the insistence by some of the descendants of Christopher Columbus Sanders and Moses Martin Sanders and that the Reverend Moses Sanders was born in England further hindered efforts. Of course, now, due to the work of Elden Hurst, Jim Sanders, and others, we know that the Moses Sanders who lived in Anson, Montgomery, Rowan, and Iredell in North Carolina was the same person as the Moses Sanders who later moved to South Carolina died in Georgia. There were other individuals named Moses Sanders living at the same time: for example, there was a Moses Sanders in Dobbs County, North Carolina, and there was a Moses Sanders in Darlington County, South Carolina, but neither one was a Baptist preacher.-gbs   

2. The graves of Moses Sanders and Mary Hamilton Sanders are located on private property near the Grove Level Church near Maysville in Banks County, Georgia. To visit the site one would need permission from the landowner. Among other family members buried at the site are Moses' grandson Joel Sanders (1795-1856) and his wife Esther Johnston (1795-1866). According to Charles W. (Chuck) Sanders and Tom Sanders, who have visited the cemetery, there are probably 10-20 burial sites, but many of the headstones are broken. The cemetery is not maintained at all and there is heavy brush growth in the area.  Mold and lichen covers many of the remaining stones. Charles W. Sanders, who maintains the Find-a-Grave memorial for the Reverend Moses Sanders, is a descendant of Moses'  son David who died in 1815 while serving in the War of 1812. Christopher Columbus Sanders appears to have been unaware of the given name of Moses' wife and he was also unaware that she was still alive when Moses died.-gbs 

3. Elden Hurst appears correct in his theory that the reference to a David and John Sanders in the article is actually a reference to Moses' sons, not his brothers, as the mention of Tennesse and Alabama is an anachronism in the context of traveling evangelists in the 1760s. The mention of an English birth for Moses has misled genealogists for generations. Moses Martin Sanders, in the ordinances performed for the LDS temple in the 1870s, mentioned nothing about his grandfather being born in England. Moses Marion Sanders, another grandson,in a memoir written about 1880 said only that his grandfather was born in the early years of the previous century. The first documented occurrence of the claim that Moses was born in England is the article in Men of Mark in Georgia in 1909. Since this was only a few years after Christopher Columbus Sanders erected the new grave markers to his great grandparents in 1902, we can probably assume that Christopher Columbus Sanders or a close relative popularized this theory. By the 1920s and 1930, further elaborations were added. Moses was said to have been a participant in many Revolutionary War battles and to have born scars from the conflict for the rest of his life. In those days, the Daughters of the American Revolution usually accepted undocumented family traditions and by the 1950s or 1960s, there were several dozen women who had been admitted to the D.A.R. based on Moses' supposed patriotic service.Today, the D.A.R requires more substantial documentation than family tradition. Further, at some point, family historians made rather feeble attempts to discover the parents or geographical location in England from which Moses supposedly emigrated. One of the the most persistent was the claim that Moses was from Downton in Wiltshire, England. I have been unable to determine when this theory began but it was widely accepted by 1977 when Jessie Julia Mize wrote her book on Banks County, Georgia. There was a Sanders family from Downton in the 1600s and some of them apparently emigrated to Massachusetts and there are some records that suggest a Moses Sanders among them, but all of this was 70 to 100 years before the Reverend Moses Sanders was born and, of course, had nothing to do with him, but once these theories get started, they are hard to control. Even today, at dozens of family trees continue to claim that Moses was born in Downton. It is, of course, in the estimation of many people, more prestigious to be descended from English Puritan gentry than from Scottish sheep herders or Irish potato farmers, which may account in some part for the popularity of these theories.-gbs 

4. Of course, we now know that Moses had brothers in addition to Francis. William Aaron, Isaac, and Francis are his documented brothers, but there could have been others. There is a tradition in Texas that Tabitha is the name of a sister and that she survived until the 1820s and that she was married to a Hamilton. Based on likely family relations, I believe her husband may have been Samuel Hamilton, the brother of Mary Hamilton, the wife of Moses. Samuel appears on the 1790 census of Randolph County, North Carolina.  Elden Hurst also states that John Sanders, the youngest son of Moses, sold his lands in 1818 and moved from Georgia. From the research of Jim Sanders, I believe that John moved first to Franklin County, Tennessee, where he appears on the 1830 census. Perhaps he did later move to McNairy County, Tennessee, and then to Tishomingo County, Mississippi, but John is not the John Sanders who appears on the 1830 census of McNairy. Elden's statement that Moses' having signed his will with an "x" indicates his level of education may or may not be relevant. Many people who could read and write did sign their letters and documents with a mark in those days, and there were also people who could sign their names but not read, so the record here is probably inconclusive about whether he was literate or not.-gbs 

5. Here again, we have the unsubstantiated claim that Moses was born in Downton, England and that he served in the Revolutionary War. The date of 1784 as Moses' move to Georgia is obviously wrong, as there are documents showing he as still living in North Carolina in the late 1780s. As Elden pointed out, he did not move to Georgia permanently until 1798. The mention of Littleton Meeks(1766-1852) and Dozier Thornton(1755-1843), though, is somewhat helpful in providing a clue to Moses' whereabouts immediately before he moved to Anson County, North Carolina. Meeks was said to have come from Pittsylvania County, Virginia (which was created from Halifax County in 1767) and Thornton was said to have come from Lunenberg County (from which Halifax was created in 1752).The research of Jim Sanders has established that some of our Sanders were in Halifax in the 1750s and 1760s and that Moses was in Brunswick County (which adjoins Lunenberg) at the time of his marriage to  Mary Hamilton, whose family lived in Brunswick. Certainly, it appears Meeks and Thornton were associated with Moses after Moses moved to South Carolina in the 1790s, but the claim that the Reverend Moses Sanders baptized Meeks in the Dan River is somewhat harder to accept because Moses left Virginia by 1771 and apparently never lived near the Dan River after that (Meeks was four years old in 1771.-gbs

Files concerning Sanders genealogy that are available at this Web site:

Moses Sanders of Franklin County, Georgia, who died  29 March 1817 (pdf files of the work of Elden Hurst of Salt Lake City)

The Sanders  Family of Anson/Montgomery County, North Carolina 1757-1810 (an article by Jim Sanders of Ojai, California)

The Sanders of Stafford, Loudoun, and Fairfax in  Virginia 1739-1783 (an article by Jim Sanders)

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Montgomery County Original Land Grants (a map by Joe Thompson of Raleigh, North Carolina)

Isaac and Elizabeth King Sanders of Prentiss County, Mississippi--Research of Barbara Radcliffe Rogers, Barbara Burns Nall, and Alma Sanders Owens

Sanders Siftings, an exchange of Sanders/Saunders family research
, edited by Don E. Schaefer

Sanders of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi(John Sanders and Abby Robins, Moses Marion Sanders and Cynthia Bruton)

Biographical Sketches, Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery and related families

Other files, articles, and pictures:  Sanders of Randolph and Montgomery 


Antique map provided by RootsWeb.  Graphic design from freeware collection of  Cari Buziak.