Sidney and Annie Saunders Part II

            Annie was born to the union of Alfred N. and Catherine Livingston in Bastrop around the year 1852.  One of the rumors was that Annie was of mixed race.  From census records, her father Alfred was from a very well-respected family in Georgia and Catherine, called “Kate”, was an Irish immigrant.  The couple had another daughter named Alfraetta, but she seems to disappear after the 1860 census.  Annie’s father died in the 1850’s and her mother remarried to a man named J.C. Wright.  They would go on to have several more children, so Annie’s life was filled with step and half siblings!

It is quite possible that Annie and Sidney grew up together in Morehouse Parish.  This is probably how they met.  The two fell in love and in the year 1874, they had a son together named Willie St. John Saunders.  As an interesting side note, living with Annie’s parents on the 1850 Morehouse Parish census two years before her birth, is a young thirteen year old boy named William St. John, born in Ireland.  Unfortunately, relationships were not noted on this census, so we will probably never know who he was to the family.  He was an important enough person in Annie’s life though, to have named her son after him!

The happy couple decided to marry a year after Willie’s birth.  On March 25, 1875, they were wed in St. Louis, MO.  Why they ran away to another state to marry is forever lost to history!

As soon as the little family arrived back in Monroe, the gossip began anew.  They said Annie was never married to Sidney.  “She was just a ‘woman of ill repute’ he must have picked up!”  “They weren’t really married!”  They ignored the gossip.  The 1880 Ouachita Parish census seems to strengthen that position, since Sidney is listed as being single and Annie and Willie are living with her mother Kate Wright just down the street.  Annie is also listed as a Wright.  Something that is quite puzzling is the fact that no relationship is listed for Willie to the head of the household!  His mother’s listing says “daughter”, but for Willie, that field is blank! 

            The Monroe Bulletin of May 19, 1886 carried the following article:  “Willie St. John Saunders, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.W. Saunders, died suddenly at his father’s residence in this city Thursday night, aged twelve years.”  It is unknown why Willie died.  Almost a year later, the paper announced that Mr. and Mrs. S.W. Saunders had left on a pleasure trip to California.  It was probably to take Annie’s mind off of the anniversary of Willie’s death.

            Two years after Willie’s death, on August 10, 1888 a fire was discovered inside one of Saunders’ buildings at old Five Points.  It eventually destroyed eight buildings and did about ten to fifteen thousand dollars in damage.  The 1871 fire had been chalked up as an accident.  This time, the citizens of Monroe decided that Sidney set the fire to collect insurance money.  He was put on trial, but his lawyers received a continuance on the grounds that Sidney was unable mentally and physically to stand trial.  In the same issue of the Ouachita Telegraph that has a transcript of the trial, there is a list of proceedings from a meeting of concerned Monroe citizens.  On August 14, 1888, citizens gathered at Lemie & Simon’s Hall.  Chaired by Fred Endom, the group’s resolutions urged the Monroe police force to “…rigidly enforce the laws in accordance with their oaths of office without fear or favor…” and investigate the fires thoroughly.  In other words, convict Saunders, or they would do it themselves.  Judge Richardson, the trial judge and Mr. Hudson, the prosecutor, defended their actions and claimed they were doing all they could. 

            Sidney was constantly afraid of being lynched for the fire and was deeply troubled by his problems.  On January 22, 1889, Sidney bought a lot in the Monroe City Cemetery from Mayor A.J. Herring for fifty dollars.  On January 31st or February 1st, neighbors heard Annie screaming and came running.  Sidney was found in his room with a bullet wound to the back of the head.  Physicians were called, but were unable to do anything.  Sidney died a few minutes later.  The death was quietly ruled a suicide.  Was it murder?  Suicide?  Was Sidney planning his suicide or preparing for any eventuality when he bought the cemetery lot?  Did someone who lost his business in the big fire decide to get even?  Did Annie finally have enough of Sidney’s treatment and decide to once and for all be free?  Can a person bent on suicide shoot themselves in the back of the head?  That is all left to speculation unfortunately.    A hint of what Annie’s thoughts were are written on her husband’s monument:  “Sidney, I could have well forgiven that last seemingly cruel act of thine, for you wanted me with you in heaven, had you with your life taken mine.” 

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