Sanders & the Sanders Family
Grass Hills was originally the home of Lewis Sanders. Sanders is NOT the man for whom the town of Sanders is named. Lewis Sanders was born in Pennsylvania on Aug. 9, 1781, but the family came to Kentucky, and Sanders made his first money in the mercantile business in Lexington. That, along with an inheritance, enabled him to buy a 400 acre tract outside of Lexington on the Georgetown Pike (just north of New Circle Road, west of the railroad). He built a residence there, “Sanders Garden,” and a cotton and woolen factory. You can find his farm referred to mostly as “Sandersville,” but sometimes only as “Sanders.”
Sanders was noted as the man who brought fairs to Kentucky. He was the organizer of the first fair in the state, at Sandersville, on July 25, 1816. He was an expert in fibers, notably wool and hemp. He took pride in the quality of his herds of cattle, and imported, from England, along with his good friend Henry Clay, the first purebred cattle in the state. He was also a noted breeder of merino sheep, and it was a bust in the sheep market which bankrupted him in 1823.
That’s when he moved to his wife’s family farm in Carroll County. As a hemp buyer for the US government in the 1840’s, he demonstrated that Kentucky hemp was a superior product to Russian hemp. Russian hemp was introduced in the late 1830’s, and its superior strength was assumed by most buyers. Sanders created demonstrations to show that the Russian was in fact not as strong as the Kentucky hemp, and his demonstrations for the US government single-handedly revived the hemp market in the bluegrass.
Grass Hills is about 4 miles southwest of the present town of Sanders. Sanders died on April 15, 1861, and is buried on the farm.
Sanders hasn’t always been named Sanders. It started out as Rislerville, named after a man named Risler – either John or William, nobody’s quite sure – who ran a general store on the site. We know in 1816 for a short period, there was a post office for Sanders, with Nathaniel Sanders – see below - as the postmaster, but mostly it was Rislerville until the railroad came through, around 1867. The residents called it “Dixie” for a while, but it was soon changed to “Liberty Station,” as a railway access point for New Liberty. The town was ceded over to Carroll from Gallatin in 1872 (Gallatin balked at the cost of the bridge; Carroll agreed to pay it, provided that part of Gallatin became part of Carroll) and that brings us back to the Sanders’.
Lewis had a son George N., who was Franklin Pierce’s Consul to England. George was a strong Confederate during the Civil War, and was one of six confederates – another one was Jefferson Davis – who had a bounty on his head. He spent serious portions of his adult life in England and Canada. Some have tried to implicate him as a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth in the Lincoln assassination.
Lewis had a brother, Nathanial, who was deeded 2000 acres of what is now Carroll County (was then Jefferson County, Virginia), by the Governor of Virginia in 1781. He had eight children, and one of his grand-children was George Washington “Wash” Sanders. Wash had a son named Larkin Sanders, who served in the state legislature, and whose influence was used to name the town “Sanders” after his father, Wash. The town officially became Sanders on May 12, 1884.