The Sanders from Montpelier, Vermont

These three photos came together from the one antique seller from the United States. The sitters all share the same surname – SANDERS. Surely that was no coincidence and there’s a connection! I was excited to find out.

First up is Harry Sanders whose photo was taken in Barre, Vermont. Harry was not hard to find in the records.

Harry Lee Sanders was born on January 10, 1868, to Rhoda B. née Wing (1839-1892) and her husband George Washington Sanders (1840-1925), a farmer in East Montpelier, Vermont. Harry was the oldest of 5 siblings, including Adelbert “Bert” Wing (1869-1918), Alice Mary (1872-1943; later Trepto), Nettie Ida (1875-1972; later Pierce) and Florence Rhoda (1881-1964; later Townshend).

Harry never married or had any children. He died in May 1920 at just 52 years of age from chronic myocarditis. He was buried at the Green Mount Cemetery in Montpelier, Vermont. His younger brother Bert’s tragic death by suicide had shaken the family just 2 years earlier. Now old George outlived his second son.

But what about his connection to Barre where this photo was taken? I found the connection in his obituary. He moved to Barre as a young man and learned the trade of granite cutting. He was employed in the granite industry in Barre for fifteen years. Harry returned to Montpelier in 1910. In the summer of 1919, he fell ill. Maybe he tried to get back to work too soon, while his body still needing to recover, which might have resulted in him developing a chronic inflammation of heart muscle which eventually was fatal.

I have added his photo and the obituary to his profile on FindaGrave.

Next up we have Lillian Sanders whose photo was taken in North Calais, Vermont. The very faded image shows a young woman in a bodice with fashionable leg-o-mutton sleeves, typical of the 1890s women’s fashion.

Lillian was born in July 1870 to parents Lucius Sanders and Irena née Hart. She married Orrin L. Slayton on August 4, 1894 in Hyde Park, Vermont. The photo of Lillian was probably taken shortly before their wedding day. Orrin was a farm labourer on a dairy farm in East Montpelier.

Looks like the couple did not have any children of their own. By 1910, they had adopted a girl named Olive. I was curious if she was perhaps an orphaned relative whom Orrin and Lillian took in. I did indeed find out that Olive May Lipsey, born on February 27, 1900, had been the daughter of one Eleanor D. Slayton and Lewis Lipsey, a Quebec Canadian. In 1900, Olive was living with her mum Eleanor and sister Ruth in Calais, Vermont, but no sign of her father Lewis. In 1904, Olive’s mum re-married. And perhaps this is when it was decided that one of the girls should be given to relatives to raise. Olive married Walter Fuller in 1925, settled down in Hardwick, Vermont, where her adoptive parents lived, and had a son Paul Fuller (1927-2006).

Now back to Lillian. She passed away in March 1952, at the age of 81. Her obituary was published in the Hardwick Gazette of March 13, 1952:

The third photo is of Ralph Eugene Sanders, taken in Pasadena, California, aged 7 months and 11 days, and the additional comment says “Milo Sanders’ boy”.

I found one Milo Henry Sanders in the records who was born on February 11, 1846 in Montpelier, Vermont. In the 1880 Census, I find him living in Bozeman, Gallatin in Montana, a carpenter by profession. That is about 2400 miles from Montpelier! I wonder what motivated him to move so far away from the rest of his family?

In December 1886, Milo married Alta M. née Thornton in Gallatin, Montana. Milo was in grocery business in Bozeman. After leaving Bozeman, they lived in Butte for a few years, Milo being engaged in the grain business of that city.

Then in 1890, I find him living in Los Angeles! By the 1900 Census, he had moved his family to Walla, in Washington State, and by the 1910 Census, Milo and Alta and their three children, Wendell, Ronald and Florence, were living in Seattle. Milo was 55 years old and one of the thousands of adventurous men infected by gold fever! I wonder if he ever found any?

But Milo was not your average gold-digger, he actually had a bit of experience. He had mined silver in the Silver King Mine in Missoula gulch and a newspaper article from 1899 mentions that he “cleaned up about $15,000” – that’s about $500,000 in today’s value!

But by now, I think Milo was succumbed to Gold Rush and the next choice of location was obvious:

For a while, Walla Walla was the largest town in the state due to its status as a camp supply town for mines in Idaho. And the discovery of gold in the Klondike transformed Seattle from a sleepy backwater to a bustling staging ground for eager prospectors.” (Bellevue Rare Coins).

But there is no mention of Ralph Eugene Sanders in connection with Milo in any records. The only probable explanation that came to my mind was if Ralph had perhaps been born in between Censuses and died as a toddler?

Sadly, my fears were confirmed. I found a memorial for one Ralph Sanders in Montana on FindaGrave. The boy died at just 4 1/2 years of age in 1892. If I’m not mistaken, the back panel of the double-tombstone says “Children of M. H. and A. M. Sanders”. Those could be Milo Henry and Alta M. Sanders! The couple had lost another son, Harold, just a month earlier! Just awfully heart-breaking… The photo memorial is only showing the back panel of the gravestone. I have contacted the person who uploaded the photo to see if they have a front view of the gravestone as well.

The FindaGrave memorial also gave me the clue about a newspaper mention of this tragic event:

So why is there no written record of little Ralph’s birth and death? I have a theory. Milo and Alta’s daughter Florence had been born in 1899. And it was only in 1942 that she applied for a delayed birth certificate for herself in connection with her upcoming marriage. Looks like her birth had never been officially recorded either. It says her birth had been recorded in the Family Bible. How interesting! So perhaps Milo and Alta never bothered to register Ralph’s birth and death officially either. But at least there is a gravesite for him and my photo to prove that this little angel existed.

But how does it all tie together? How were these three persons related?

We have Harry, whose father was George Washington Sanders. Then we have Lillian whose father was Lucius Sanders. And then we have Ralph, Milo Sanders’ boy.

Fanfare sounds :)! They were first cousins! Their fathers George, Lucius and Milo Sanders were brothers! I didn’t put one and one together until I read the different Sanders obituaries and all of a sudden, it made a click! And to go one generation further, the grandfather of Harry, Lillian and Ralph was one Willard Sanders (1807-1893), a farmer from Montpelier, originally from New Hampshire, and their grandmother Fanny née Hoyt (1816-1884) was originally from Canada. I just love a full circle!

I hope that there are relatives out there who might miss these images and would like to add them to their family photo archive. If you are related to Harry, Lillian and Ralph Sanders, please do contact me!

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