SANDERS, CHARLES JOSEPH, one of the best known and most highly respected agriculturists of Morgan County residing on his farm half a mile north of Concord, was born in Loudoun County, Va., February 14, 1825, a son of Edward and Barbara Ann (Byrns) Sanders. His father, who was born in Annapolis, Md., in 1774, served in the War of 1812, and participated in the memorable battle of North Point, when the British forces attempted to land and occupy the city of Baltimore. His wife, who was born in Bladensburg, Md., was a daughter of John Byrns, also a native of Maryland. John Byrns fought with the regular Continental Army throughout the Revolutionary War, with the exception of about eighteen months when he served in the command of General Francis Marion in South Carolina. He participated in the battle of the Brandywine, where he was wounded five times. His record throughout this great struggle was a valorous one, to which his descendants point with pardonable pride. He died at the patriarchal age of one hundred and ten years. He was twice married, first to Annie Tate, and upon his death in 1846 was survived by his widow and ten children - five by each marriage. His second wife, Barbara Byrns Sanders, left her Virginia home with her five children, in 1848, and started overland for Illinois, the journey consuming thirty-three days. Charles J. Sanders, the subject of this sketch, was a member of this party, having first visited this region in 1847, and returned home in the spring of 1848. Mr. Sanders was reared on his father's farm in Loudoun County, Va., and received a limited education in the early subscription schools. His father lost $84,000 by becoming security for the Sheriff of Loudoun County, and, finding himself unable to continue in business, freed his slaves. This left the family practically without means, and resulted in their determination to seek a home in a new State where they might build up their fallen fortunes. The first location of the family was in Springfield, where Mr. Sanders accepted any employment that offered itself. There he remained until 1852. During his residence in Springfield he formed an acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln, then a struggling lawyer, which ripened into a friendship that existed up to the time of Lincoln's death. In 1853 Mr. Sanders returned to his old home in Virginia and brought back with him his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Elizabeth Byrns, whose husband, John Byrns, had served in the Revolutionary War. She spent the remainder of her life in Illinois, dying at the age of over eighty years.
In 1852 Mr. Sanders and his brother, James J. Sanders, came to Morgan County and purchased a farm of 212 acres north of the site of the village of Concord. At this time it contained a rude house of two rooms and a kitchen, and the land was but slightly improved. The two brothers began at once to develop the property, and so successful were their efforts that they accumulated over 800 acres of land, now forming one of the most valuable pieces of farming property of its extent in Morgan County. It is finely located and includes a commodious and attractive residence, with other improvements, all of which are the result of the combined labors of the two brothers, who remained equal partners until the death of James J. Sanders, August 20, 1897, at the age of seventy-four years.
Though Mr. Sanders has operated his farm continuously since settling upon it with his brother, for several years he also dealt in grain, making his headquarters at Concord. In politics, he was originally a Whig. Upon the organization of the Republican party, in 1856, he entered its ranks, and as one of the six residents of Concord who dared defy public sentiment and vote for General Freemont for the Presidency. He went to Jacksonville with Samuel French's company to participate in the first Fremont parade held in Morgan County. His first vote, as a Whig, was for Zachary Taylor for President, and Richard Yates, for Member of Congress. For the past twenty years he has been an ardent Prohibitionist. During his entire lifetime he has never sought political office, and has consented to fill none excepting such local posts as good citizens are called upon to occupy from time to time, such as Supervisor of Roads and School Director.
Mr. Sanders has been one of the most prominent men in Odd Fellowship in Morgan County. Initiated into the order at Concord in 1852, he has served many terms as Noble Grand of that lodge. For several years he was Representative of the Grand Lodge of the State, and for eight years was Deputy Noble Grand of the Grand Lodge. While occupying the latter exalted office, he instituted the lodges at Bethel and Arenzville, and reorganized the Bethel Lodge, when it was removed to Chapin. (See history of Odd Fellowship.)
Soon after the beginning of the Mexican War, he enlisted for service in Colonel Mason's regiment, which was organized in Loudoun County, Va.; but before the command could enter active service the war had terminated and, much to his disappointment, the regiment was disbanded. But he has an honorable record of service in the Union Army throughout the Civil War. In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company B, One Hundred and First Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served continuously with that command to the end of his term of service, or until the close of the conflict. At the battle of Peach Tree Creek, Ga., he was wounded in the frontal bone and the ear, though not seriously. At Holly springs, Miss., he was one of the members of the four companies of his regiment which were captured by the Confederates, and held prisoner for about six months. He was with his command on the memorable March to the Sea, and participated in the Grand Review at Washington, D. C., where, in June, 1865, he was mustered out as First Sergeant, receiving his discharge at Springfield, Ill. He still retains custody of the battle flag presented to his company by a Miss Smith, a relic which is prized very highly by his family and the citizens of concord generally. For many years he was a member of the Grand Army Post instituted at Chapin.
On May 21, 1856, Mr. Sanders was united in marriage with Hannah Eagle, who was born in England, September 19, 1835, and came to Morgan County in 1855, with her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth (Stagles) Eagle. The latter, who became well known and highly esteemed residents of this county, came to America in 1853, first locating in Monroeville, Ohio. Mrs. Eagle is still living at the age of ninety-one years. Mrs. Sanders' brother, Thomas Eagle, entered the Union Army at the age of fifteen years as an attache of the One Hundred and First Regiment, though not as an enlisted man, on account of his youth. He subsequently enlisted in Company B, Sixty-eighth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, serving with credit. Her father served three months in the defense of Washington in the Civil War, and her grandfather, Reuben Eagle, served with the King's Troops in England at the time his son, Thomas, was born.
Mr. and Mrs. Sanders have been the parents of ten children, of whom five are deceased, namely: Elizabeth, Edward Lincoln, Louie, William Sherman and Grace. Those now living, are named as follows: Martha Ellen, who married Thomas R. Smith; Mecca Delores, who married Charles W. Yeck; James Edward, Minnie Byrns and Charles Ernest. The three youngest children reside with their parents, the two sons sharing in the operation of the home farm. James Edward Sanders, who was born July 1, 1874, enlisted June 13, 1898, in Company K, Nineteenth Regiment, U.S.A., and served nine months during the Spanish-American War. His command first went into camp at Tampa, Fla., and afterward participated in the maneuvers in Porto Rico. He was discharged at Lares, Porto Rico, April 16, 1899.
Charles J. Sanders belongs to that rugged type of men who form the bone and sinew of a community or a State. In their ambition for financial success, he and his wife, and Mr. Sanders' brother, James J., never forgot their duty to their fellowmen, but always assisted in the promotion of all worthy projects which had for their aim the advancement of the general welfare. Mr. Sanders has been a useful and helpful citizen, liberal in his support of educational and religious institutions, and always willing to extend a helping hand to his friends and neighbors who have been less fortunate than he. Now, in the twilight of a long and honorable career, he and his estimable wife are surrounded by their affectionate family and enjoying the comforts to which their years of devotion to their family and friends entitle them. A high-minded, unselfish, public-spirited citizen, a man whom all delight to honor, he is entitled to recognition among the representative men of Morgan County, and his life record should be a source of gratification and pride to his descendants and to the entire community.