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On the 20th July 1856 in Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, John Andrew Saunders, a carpenter and second son of William and Susan (Tyrie) Saunders, married Catherine MURRAY, born in West Meath, Ireland in about 1828, the youngest daughter of William and Alice MURRAY. She had emigrated from Ireland some years earlier and in the 1850 census for Rochester, N.Y. she was lodging with Henry Holland, a carpenter, and family. It might be that John Andrew, also a carpenter, could have met Catherine through possibly working with Henry.

In a pamphlet called ‘History of Linn County, Iowa’ published in Chicago in 1911, there is a section devoted to the MURRAY family. A paragraph in this section reads as follows; -

‘In 1855 Mr. [Thomas] MURRAY sold his farm [near Montreal] and with his family migrated westward to Iowa, travelling by way of the St. Lawrence river and lakes to Chicago (except from Toronto to Collingwood), thence by rail to Rock Island, Illinois, and on by team to Benton County, Iowa, where they arrived on the 11th of October. There, for the first time since leaving Ireland, Mr. MURRAY met his father, mother, brother John B. and sister Catherine, who had come from Rochester, New York, the previous March.’

From this it would appear that John Andrew would have come from Rochester to join Catherine and get married in Iowa City, Iowa.


John Andrew Saunders
John Andrew Saunders
1832 - 1913

A further paragraph in ‘History of Linn County, Iowa’ states; -

‘Michael, another brother, born in 1818, came to New York about 1846 and to Cedar Rapids in 1875. He was city street commissioner here for several years and also acted as foreman and subcontractor under MURRAY Brothers. His demise here occurred in 1898. John B., born in 1824, remained on his farm in Benton County until 1887, when he removed to Plymouth County, where he died on September 6, 1901, - the day on which our beloved president, William McKinley, was shot. Catherine, the youngest sister, married John A. Saunders, of Iowa City, in 1856. She died there on the 24th April, 1906, at the age of seventy-eight years.’


The 1860 Census for Iowa City shows;-

John Saunders 27 - Carpenter - Born; England
Catherine Saunders 27 - Born; Ireland
Rosanna Murray 16 - Born; Ireland
William Saunders 2 - Born; Iowa
Mary V. Saunders 1 - Born; Iowa


John and Catherine (Murray) Saunders had six children in Iowa City.

1. William J. Saunders - born about 1857
2. Mary V. (E?) Saunders - born about 1859
3. John E. Saunders - born about 1860
4. Charles J. Saunders - born 26th February, 1862 (see Merrill for details)
5. Herbert M. (?Murray) Saunders - born 7th April 1865
6. Susan Alicia Saunders - born about 1867


1. William J (?James) Saunders was still living at home in 1880 and was described as a physician and doctor, aged 23. Sometime later he had a practice in Scranton, Iowa. Unfortunately he died at the young age of 34 on October 2, 1891. The “Iowa Citizen” of October 9, 1891 reported; -

"Dr. Wm. J. Saunders, of Scranton, Ia., died last Friday, heart failure being the immediate cause. He was highly esteemed, and his death brings grief to many. He was a son of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Saunders, of Iowa City. The remains were buried from the St. Patrick's church last Sunday, and were accompanied to the cemetery by many."

There was also an article in the “Jefferson Bee” dated October 8, 1891 and published in Jefferson, Greene County, Iowa. He was obviously known locally as Dr. James Saunders having dropped the William from his name.

The untimely death of Dr. James SAUNDERS, of Scranton, on Friday of last week, is one of the saddest events that The Bee has been called upon to chronicle in many and many a day. It was only on Monday of that week that a pretty, bright-eyed boy baby was born into the family fold. Mother and child were doing nicely, and the prospects for happiness in the SAUNDERS home seemed assured. On Thursday morning the doctor complained of a pain in the region of his lungs, and said he was going to take a dose of something to relieve it. A few moments later he was found in an unconscious condition by his wife, who immediately summoned physicians, and everything possible of a restorative sort was done, to no avail. He had taken an overdose of opium, a drug he had been accustomed to use when feeling badly, and his system could not shake off the terrible effect of the poison thus unwittingly taken in so large a quantity. The patient rallied sufficiently to recognize friends, and it was thought for a time could be brought out of his lethargy by artificial aid in respiration, but at a critical time heart failure set in and took him off in less than an hour's time. His death occurred just at noon on Friday. The deceased was a young man, but thirty-six years of age, and was one of the most promising medical practitioners in the county. He was highly esteemed, both professionally and otherwise, at Scranton, where his years of industry had built the foundation for a splendid business. A man who knew him well and knows Scranton well told us that he would be missed from the town as much as any single man who could have been taken away. The family is of course left unutterable sad by his death.”

Unfortunately the name of his wife, baby son or any other family member was not mentioned in this article. How did an experienced doctor come to take an overdose of opium ‘a drug he had been accustomed to use when feeling badly’ ? Was he actually a drug addict or is that an incorrect assumption?


2. Mary V (?E) and her sister Susan Alicia Saunders {6} never appear to have married. They were both living at the family home when their father died in 1913 and also still shown as living in Iowa City when their brother, Charles, died in 1928. There is no further information on either of them at the moment.


3. John E. Saunders was shown in the 1870 Census for Iowa City as being an 8 year old 'attending school'. According to the Iowa Marriage Register there was a J.E.Saunders who married an M.E.Huff in Des Moines County on the 8th January 1879. John would only have been about 17 at the time so it would be rather doubtful if this was him. The only other information is that he must have died sometime before 1906 if the details in his mother's obituary are correct.


Herbert M. Saunders
Herbert M. Saunders
1865 - 1941

5. In 1888/9 Herbert M. Saunders was a plumber working from 24 Exchange and boarding at 13 Lawrence. Later in 1889 he was working at 26 East Avenue and boarding at 209 Jefferson Avenue. In 1890 he is shown as working at 287 East Avenue and living at 49 South Union.

He married Mary G.Conway in Rochester, N.Y. on the 4th November 1891 where he was working as a plumber. Mary was the daughter of William and Nancy Conway (nee Hyde) and was born in Fairport, N.Y. about 1870.
For some unknown reason he is shown in the Rochester Historic Marriages as Michael H. Sanders.

The following report appeared in 1895;

Rochester'Union Advertiser'
April 13, 1895
Plumbing Inspector Named

Herbert M.Saunders was this morning appointed a member of the examining board of plumbing, in place of Louis F. Zimmer, who recently resigned from the position

Mary died about July 1899 as Herbert M., was shown in the 1900 Census as a widower. He was living in 23 Edmonds Street with his three daughters, Alma, Hilda and Mary. Also in the household was Margaret Conway shown as a housekeeper but a later census described her as Herbert’s sister-in-law. It could be that his wife, Mary, had died in childbirth or shortly afterwards as their third daughter, Mary (or Irma Mary), had been born during 1899.

There is some dispute as to the birth dates of the two eldest children. In the 1900 Census they are shown as being born in October 1884 and October 1885 respectively but is more likely that they were born 10 years later.

By 1892 Herbert was lodging at 205 York. In 1900 his permanent home was now at 23 Edmonds Street and he was working at 145 South Avenue. Ten years later he was a ‘superintendent’ at 34 East Avenue.

In 1915 he was a partner in ’Saunders & Nolan’, plumbers, of 297 East Avenue and then from 1921 until 1941 he was working from 322 East Avenue trading as ‘Bareham & Saunders’.

The following announcement appeared in ’Rochester Democrat & Chronicle’ of the 13th July 1941; -

SAUNDERS - Herbert M. Saunders, at the residence, 23 Edmonds Street, July 10, 1941. Survived by three daughters, Sr. Mary Margaret of the Order of the Sisters of Mercy; Hilda A. and Irma M. Saunders; one sister in Iowa City. Services Monday morning at 8.30 o'clock from N.J.Miller & Son Funeral Home, 706 South Avenue and 9 o'clock at Blessed Sacrament Church. Interment in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

The firm of ‘Bareham & Saunders’ would incorrectly appear to be involved in publishing as on his Death Certificate his occupation is shown as ‘Proprietor – Publishing Company’. This must be an error and should have read ‘Plumbing Company’. The informant shown on the certificate was his daughter, Hilda A. Saunders. He was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Rochester on the 14th July.

This newspaper notice has now solved the mystery of the apparent disappearance of his eldest daughter. She had become Sister Mary Margaret of the Order of the Sisters of Mercy of Rochester. The only other news we have of her is that she died, aged 88, on the 10th December 1980 at 1437 Blossom Road, Rochester, which is described as the ‘Mother Home’. The archivist of the Order in Rochester, Sister Jean, confirmed that Sister Mary was born on the 5th November, 1892. There is no indication as to when she actually joined the Order. She was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in the Sisters section.

His second daughter Hilda A. was a stenographer or secretary for all her working life. She worked at 1050 University Avenue during the early 1920’s then for over 20 years was working at 28 Exchange. From at least 1951 until her retirement in 1963 she was a stenographer at the ‘Monroe County Vets Service Bureau’. She had been living at 23 Edmonds Street up to this time but now moved to 222 Culver Road. She died, aged 68, in Hornell, Steuben County, New York on the 15th November 1963. She too was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery alongside her younger sister, Irma, who had died about 18 months earlier.

The third daughter, Irma M. worked as a clerk or assistant cashier. She was at 30 State Street for 21 years from 1924 then was an assistant cashier for about 18 years with Egbert F. Asley until about 1962. She had been living with her sister at 23 Edmonds Street up to 1962. She died, aged 62, in the Genesee Hospital, Rochester on the 3rd April 1962. It appears that none of the sisters ever married.


Catherine died on the 24th April 1906, aged 78.

‘Iowa City Daily Press’
Wednesday, April 25, 1906
"Death Comes to two Happy Homes"
Unwelcome Visitant Brings Sorrow
Mrs. John Saunders is no more - Mrs. Levi Robinson is Called to Other Shore

Mrs. Katherine Saunders passed away at 3 o'clock this morning, at her late home, 409 Iowa Avenue. She had been in ill health for some time and had been bedridden for three weeks. She was 73 years of age, and was a pioneer who had lived here for years, and was widely know by old settlers. She was a worthy woman, a good wife and mother, and will be long mourned.
The surviving members of the family are John Saunders, the bereaved husband, two sons and two daughters, Herbert of Rochester and Dr. C.J.Saunders of Ft. Dodge and the Misses Susan Alicia and Mary.
The funeral will take place from St. Patrick's church tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.

John Andrew Saunders, died on the 2nd January 1913, aged 80. A newspaper obituary gives more details of his life.

‘Iowa City Daily Press’
Monday, January 6, 1913

"Pioneer Now Sleeps Well"

The funeral of the late John Andrew Saunders was held Saturday morning at 9 from St. Patrick's church. The interment was in St. Joseph's cemetery, where the aged pioneer now sleeps beside his wife, who passed away nearly seven years ago in April 1906.
Mr. Saunders was a faithful member of the official staff of Johnson County, having served the board of supervisors and the general public faithfully for several years as overseer of the poor. His services were always of a trustworthy type.
He was a good citizen and a devoted member of St. Patrick's church to which he belonged for many years.
Mr. Saunders was in his eighty-first year and his death was due to the encroachment of old age. He had been ill but a fortnight when the end came, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 2, at 3.30 o'clock at his home 409 East Iowa Avenue.
The estimable pioneer has resided in Iowa City almost 59 years, having come hither in 1854 from New York, where he had lived for four years, having settled there following his arrival from his birthplace, London, Eng., in 1850. He was married in 1856 to Catherine Murray. To them were born seven children, of whom four survive - Dr. Charles J. Saunders, of Fort Dodge, an alumnus of the S.U.I. College of Medicine, class of 1885, and president of the Alumni association of that college; Herbert Saunders, Rochester, N.Y.; and the Misses Mary and Alicia Saunders at home. Other surviving relatives are eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
During his residence of nearly three score years in Iowa City, Mr. Saunders earned and maintained a high standing in the regard and affection of his fellow citizens, who gave him recognition, officially and otherwise, in posts of trust. He was a good man and will be sincerely mourned.