Sidney and Annie Saunders Part III

Annie Saunders had now lost her husband and son.  She was inconsolable.  Rumors that Sidney and Annie were never married were still active among Monroe society.  When Sidney’s brothers and sisters demanded proof of their marriage, Annie was so distraught that they understood her to say they were married in New Orleans.  When the marriage license was not found there, the siblings swooped on the inheritance and cut her out.  Sidney’s inheritance was worth almost $83,000, which was a princely sum in 1889.  Annie came out of her grief long enough to fight back.  She claimed they had married in St. Louis, MO, sent a courier north to retrieve proof and eventually won her case.  Annie’s part of the inheritance was property in Texarkana and about $7,250 in cash and notes.  The total was a little less than ten percent of the inheritance.  The rest was divided among the siblings.  She wasn’t through with Monroe though.

            Because Annie had been so degraded and reviled among society, she used most of the inheritance to build Sidney a lasting tomb and monument in the City Cemetery.  On top of the tomb is a statue of Sidney.  It isn’t an exact likeness though.  The model was a man named Mr. Wingold, an employee of the monument company.  In the statue’s left hand he holds a scroll.  Engraved upon the scroll was a copy of their marriage license.  His gaze stares fixedly on what was then the prominent side of Monroe.  It was basically a slap in the face of the society that shunned them.  The citizens of Monroe were not impressed.  Martha Frances Surghnor said of the monument in her diary, “Sid Saunders the ‘fire bug’ has a monument that would almost do for a U.S. President, but it will only ‘perfect his infamy.’”

            A lady who had attended Annie’s funeral as a little girl and whose family had lived in Monroe at the time of Sidney’s death, stated that Annie didn’t bury Sidney until the monument was built.  His coffin was kept out in back of Annie’s house in a shed.  Citizens were so disturbed that they would cross the street near the house to keep from walking near where the body was stored! 

Willie’s coffin, Sidney’s desk and chair, a sewing machine and her son’s velocipede (a type of tricycle) were also moved to the tomb.  According to her obituary, she even hung curtains!  Rumors said she would go to the tomb daily to cry, pray, read her Bible and sew. 

            Annie eventually moved to Texarkana, AR where she married William C. Hardin in 1891.  William became mayor of Texarkana, TX from 1896-1900 and Annie was first lady.  In 1911 William deserted Annie and secretly divorced her.  He died May 25, 1925 in Waco.  The Hardin family fought Annie over the inheritance saying they had been divorced!  She fought the Hardins and successfully had the divorce annulled two weeks before her death.  On Sunday, November 21, 1926 at her home in Texarkana, TX, Annie Hardin got too close to an open flame on her gas stove and her clothes caught on fire.  She was about seventy-four years old and left behind an estate worth about $5,000.  Her body was brought back to Monroe and placed in the last niche in the Saunders tomb.  There is no inscription for Annie on the monument.  She is most certainly there, however.  At the request of Saunders family members in 1985, the tomb was opened and drained.  Found inside were pieces of a sewing machine, a red wagon and three coffins:  two adults and one child. 

            Even in modern times, the question remained.  Were Sidney and Annie really married in St. Louis?  In 2001 Researchers found a copy of Sidney and Annie’s Marriage Register in the records of the city of St. Louis, MO.  The record is word for word what is engraved on the scroll on Sidney’s monument, stating they had been married on March 25, 1875 in St. Louis.  The Clerk of Court for St. Louis stated that the license itself could not be found, but that the Register, which is when the marriage officiant states that the marriage was performed by him, is more legal that the license itself!  The certified register now hangs in a frame above the Genealogy Department’s door at the Main Branch Library in Monroe.  The discovery of the register should have ended the rumors but there is still room for speculation.  The Register was not filed and recorded until April 24, 1889, fourteen years after the marriage and almost three months after Sidney’s suicide; right in the middle of Annie’s fight with Sidney’s siblings.  Quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

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