A HISTORY OF THE JOHN WESLEY SANDERSON FAMILY
By Mrs. Jeannine K. West Shoemaker
The great grandparents of John Wesley Sanderson, an early Nederland resident, were Asa Sanderson, who was born in North Carolina in 1797, and his wife, Eliza Edna Long, who was born in South Carolina in 1795. Asa was the first Sanderson born north or east of Alabama, and they are recorded in the Washington County, Alabama, census, enumerated on November 6, 1850. He was a farmer, owning land worth $250, and according to the census, none of his family were able to read or write, probably because no schools were available to them in that early period of American history.
Asa and Eliza Sanderson raised five children, of whom son Oscar Percy Sanderson, born on October 5, 1834, at Frankville, Alabama, was the grandfather of John W. Sanderson and his numerous brothers and sisters, who moved to Nederland during the early 1920s. Oscar P. Sanderson married Nancy Summerlin, born in Alabama on October 25, 1839, and they too were farmers just as their parents had been. Family traditions held that Oscar fought as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, but the family has no official documentation of that fact. In the census of 1880, the census enumerator described Oscar Percy Sanderson as being age 45, as well as being crippled or mutilated.
Of Oscar and Nancy Sanderson's seven children, the father of the large Sanderson Family that moved to Nederland, Texas, around 1920, was Percy Eugene Sanderson, who was born in Frankville, Alabama, on May 1, 1868, and who around 1890, married Emma Eugenia Irby, also an Alabama native (born on October 22, 1873-died 1951). John W. Sanderson was the oldest of their twelve children (b. November 19, 1891-d. June 20, 1948). His brother and sisters (of whom a record is available to me) were Annie Lee (Gunn, b. November 3, 1893); Percy Fred Sanderson (b. March 30, 1896); Mattie Josephine (Davis, b. January 17, 1899); William O. Sanderson (b. April 5, 1901); Clyde M. and Claude M. Sanderson (twins, b. September 5, 1903); Gracie Maybelle (Reed, b. August 12, 1907); Howard Douglas Sanderson (b. July 22, 1910); Jessie Edward Sanderson (b. August 22, 1916); Emogene, and Eloise Sanderson.
John Wesley Sanderson grew up in Frankville, Alabama, where he received a ninth grade education. This was near Bladon Springs, in Western Alabama near the Mississipi line, northwest of Mobile. Because he had to leave school early to help out on the farm, John Wesley Sanderson "preached" education to his children. Later, he would have to turn down a promotion at the Pure Oil (now Unocal) refinery at Nederland because he lacked the math background that the job required.
As a young adult, John W. Sanderson worked as a shipyard worker, building wooden schooners, at Pascagoula, Mississippi; as a wheat farmer in Happy, Swisher County (south of Amarillo), Texas; and as a refinery worker at Pure Oil Company in Nederland.
About 1911, John W. Sanderson married his first wife, Minnie Gunn, and she died in childbirth, giving birth to a son, John Chester Sanderson, in 1912. The son was raised by his maternal grandmother, and he lived out his life in Pascagoula, Mississippi, dying there in 1977.
When World War I started, John W. Sanderson and his brother Fred found employment in a Mobile, Alabama, shipyard, caulking the seams of wooden hull ships. In 1918, John W. and Fred moved to a shipyard in Pascagoula, where they boarded at a rooming house, owned by Hardy and Amy Rouse. While living there, he met a sister of Amy Rouse, named Winnie Martin, whom he courted and later wed in 1920.
Winnie Inez Martin Sanderson was born on January 22, 1896, one of four daughters and a son born to George Redditt Martin and Martha Drusilla Roberts of Martin's Bluff, Mississippi. While her husband worked at the shipyard, Winnie Sanderson worked for her sister at the boarding house, and she also played the organ for her local church.
After their marriage in 1920, John and Winnie Sanderson moved to New Orleans, where soon they heard "wonderful tales" about what life in West Texas was like. They soon left for Happy, Texas, intending to raise wheat there. However, they soon learned that West Texas farmers were at the mercy of precious little rainfall, and in most places there, irrigation water was not available. After bouts with the weather, sand storms, and other nuisances, John W. and Fred Sanderson ended up breaking horses to supplement their meager incomes. While living at Happy, Texas, John W. and Winnie Sanderson's oldest child, Winnie Marguerite, was born on June 6, 1922.
In 1923, John and Fred moved to Nederland, Texas, where other family members had already arrived or would later arrive to find work in the area refineries. John Sanderson soon found employment at Pure Oil refinery, and daughter Dorothy Veach observed that, although her father did not lose his job throughout the Great Depression (1929-1940), he did have his salary reduced to $106 per month. W. O. and Doug Sanderson also worked for Pure Oil Company; Fred worked for Texaco at Port Neches; and during and after World War II, Claude and Clyde Sanderson joined Neches Butane Products Company rubber plant at Port Neches, Texas, as pipe fitters.
At first, John Sanderson rented a house on Block Road, now Avenue H. Later he built his home at 715 Boston Avenue, in days when Boston deadended at Ninth Street, and the final one and one-half blocks to the Sanderson home was a dirt road to an isolated house out in the prairie (Ed.'s note: I threw John W. Sanderson's Enterprise and Journal newspapers when his house was 1 1/2 blocks off the route--W. T. Block).
The remaining five members of the John Sanderson family were born in Nederland, as follows: Dorothy Jewel (b. November 26, 1923); Elsie Ruth (b. October 26, 1927); Johnnie Mae (b. October 6, 1931); Mary Alice (b. September 6, 1933), and Elmer Wayne (b. August 25, 1935-d. April 3, 1983).
In the 25th year of his employment at Pure Oil Company, John W. Sanderson died on June 20, 1948, a terrible blow for the entire family, but especially for his young son, Elmer Wayne, who was especially hard hit by the loss of his father.
His widow, Winnie Sanderson, eventually moved to a farm near Spurger, Texas. She raised small crops of vegetables, watermelons, and peanuts on her land, which was situated off a dirt road in the woods, surrounded by pine trees and a pasture on one side. The six-room house stood on piers, with wide concrete steps that led to a front porch the full length of the house. In back of the house, there was another porch, as well as a well that supplied drinking water. There was a living room with fireplace, den, kitchen, and two bedrooms inside. Most of Winnie's grandchildren remembered the "farm" because of the peanut crops and the trees to be climbed, where the grandchildren built their play houses and "club houses." There was no livestock kept on the farm except the loose animals or wild pigs and goats from the Neches River bottomlands that sometimes wandered into the front gate.
Winnie Sanderson finally sold her farm at Spurger and moved back to Port Neches about 1970. She suffered a stroke some years later, but made a complete recovery. Winnie died on September 16, 1981, at age 85.
My mother, Johnnie Mae Sanderson (West) was born, educated in Nederland, and graduated from Nederland High School (voted the "prettiest girl in her class"). She then went to work for the school as a secretary, and her subsequent occupations were bookkeeping positions at Sinclair-Koppers Credit Union and KOLE radio station. She married my father, Jim West, of Port Arthur, and they became the parents of three children. The West family now lives at Crystal Beach, Texas.
My aunt, Winnie Marguerite Sanderson, married Donelly M. Barnett and they have two daughters. My aunt, Dorothy Jewell Sanderson, married (1) John Parks of Port Neches, now deceased, and (2) Ed Veach. She is the mother of three children. My aunt, Elsie Ruth Sanderson, married Herman Root of Nederland, and they are also the parents of two children. My aunt, Mary Alice Sanderson, married Earl Pullin of Groves, and they have three children. My uncle, Elmer Wayne Sanderson, remained single, and he died on April 3, 1983.
John Wesley and Winnie Sanderson were a hard-working, loving, Christian couple, who raised their family in a disciplined, wholesome environment. They are still remembered and sorely missed by their five daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as a whole host of friends in Southeast Texas whose lives they touched.