SANDERS, WILLIAM DAVIS, D.D., (deceased), orator and educator of Jacksonville, Ill., a man of marked literary ability and great scholarly attainments, was born in Huron County, Ohio, the son of Dr. Moses Chapin Sanders, a distinguished physician and surgeon. He prepared for college at Huron Institute, Milan, Ohio, and in 1841 entered the Western Reserve College at Hudson, Ohio, from which he was graduated in 1845. During the next three years he was principal of the Richfield Academy, Summit County, Ohio. In 1848 he entered the Western Reserve Theological Seminary at Hudson, completing his course there in 1851, and during this period executing a plan which rescued the college from great peril and added over $100,000 to its resources.
Soon after completing his studies in theology, July 10, 1851, Dr. Sanders was united in marriage with Cornelis Ruth Smith of Cleveland, who still survives him and resides in her beautiful home in Jacksonville. Of the five children born to them, one has died, and the remainder occupy prominent business and social positions in Cleveland and Jacksonville. Immediately after completing his studies, Dr. Sanders was ordained by the Presbytery of Portage and took charge of a church at Ravenna, Ohio, where he labored three years with marked success. He was then called to the chair of Rhetoric, Elocution and English Literature in Illinois College, which he ably filled for fifteen years from the fall of 1854, through his personal exertions, relieving the institution from financial embarrassment. Dr. Sanders was recognized as among the most powerful of the anti-slavery orators of his day and as among the most eloquent of the supporters of the Union cause. One of his most patriotic appeals was pronounced by him in Strawn's Opera House, April 12, 1861, to the Hardin Light Guard and the Union Guards, on the Sabbath preceding their departure for the field. Among other oratorical efforts which gave him great celebrity, were his welcome to Gen. John A. McClernand in 1862, to Gen. Benj. H. Grierson in 1863, his discourse at Quincy upon the fall of Richmond, his oration in Carlinville the same year, and his welcome to ex-President Grant on occasion of his visit to Jacksonville in 1880.
Dr. Sanders' name, however, will perhaps be perpetuated longer as that of the founder of institutions of learning, than from any other cause. He was the originator of the "Young Ladies" Athenaeum," a school established in 1864, which enjoyed the patronage of the wealthiest and most intelligent families, and under his superintendence, occupied a large field of usefulness. It was first in this region, if not in the West, in promoting the higher education of women. The Illinois conservatory of Music is also the offspring of his untiring energy, its establishment dating from 1870. Dr. Sanders was repeatedly called to pulpits in the large cities, but persistently declined such alluring offers. In the socio-literary life of Jacksonville he was active, and in 1860 or 1861 he, with Rev. Dr. Hamilton, established The Club, one of the first literary organizations which have become so numerous throughout the West of late years.
Dr. William D. Sanders was a man of the strongest convictions, of great courage, and of the broadest, yet most individual sympathies. He was possessed of an unusual fund of information, acquired by extensive reading upon almost every topic, keeping in close touch with the progress of religion, politics and great enterprises and movements in general. As a teacher his ability to impart instruction was extraordinary, and the enthusiasm he could arouse in pupils was a matter of enduring value to them in the acquisition of knowledge. He belonged among the great teachers, and in that lofty realm his influence will probably be the most enduring. His death occurred October 29, 1897.