Early visitors "on the Nishna" never refused an invitation to the Saunders home and a visit there was always an inspiration and a delight. The hospitality was so cordial and whole-hearted, the atmosphere of sturdy, vigorous family life was so energizing, the spirit of kindliness and brotherly love so inspiring that few have forgotten those old time glimpses of the Saunders home.
Both Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Saunders, the founders of the Crawford county family, were natives of old England. Mr. Saunders was a square chinned, clear eyed. well built man and these physical characteristics, together with the traits which they imply, he transmitted to his progeny. The Saunders family of today traces its ancestry with pride and affection to the kindly grandfather who was one of the bold fishermen of the tight little isle but who came to America with his family and settled at Westmoreland, New York, when G. W. Saunders was but a lad of fourteen.
The grandfather worked in a smelting plant and lead a useful, industrious life until his death in his fifty-fifth year, his widow surviving him until in her ninetieth year. To them were born six children, Herbert, William, Alfred, Henry, George W. and Fanny.
The maternal grandfather was Thomas E. Walker, also a native of England. In 1835 he emigrated to America. settling near Westmoreland, New York, and engaged in farming. He passed away in 1898 at the age of eighty, his wife having died many years previously. There were five children in their family, Mary, Hannah, Hattie, Sarah and Aaron C. Mr. Walker was married a second time and had three children by this union, namely, Thomas A., Robert and Fletcher.
George W. Saunders, the founder of the Crawford county family, passed his boyhood days in England and grew to manhood and was married in Westmoreland, New York. He received the beginning of his education in the public schools, but he was one of those whose education continued uninterruptedly throughout life. He worked on the farm and in the smelter and then became smitten with the western fever. His first employment in Iowa was with the Rock Island Railway at Iowa City, and here he was foreman of a gang of men who took up the old chain iron and laid the first steel rails for that railroad west of Rock Island.
About 1877 Mr. Saunders located in Crawford county, first settling in Hayes township, about four miles south of Vail. A few years later he purchased a farm of three hundred and twenty acres in Nishnabotny township, and it was this farm, together with one hundred and sixty acres purchased later, which became the family homestead and which was the old home with which he will aways be identified in the memory of Crawford county people. He was a successful farmer, being a man of sound judgment and unflagging industry.
It was in the environs of such a home that he reared his family of eight splendid children. They were: Charles G., a member of the Iowa state senate and one of the most prominent lawyers of Council Bluffs, a man of more than state-wide reputation; Martha E., the wife of John Swanson, of Garfield, Washington; Henry A., of Wenatchee, Washington; David P., of Deer Lodge, Montana; Jennie P., the widow of Gazaway Farver, of Des Moines, Iowa; Frank J., who was killed by a railroad train at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in July, 1893; Herbert C., of Prosser, Washington; and Roscoe C, of Manilla, who alone of all the children maintains the name and fame of the Saunders family in Crawford county.
G. W. Saunders remained on the old home until 1892, when he retired from active labor and made his home at Manilla until his death, which occurred in 1896 in his fifty-sixth year. The mother of the family survived, surrounded by love and most tender care, until in 1905 she rejoined her husband in the Great Beyond. Father Saunders was a zealous republican, and both he and his wife were active and earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They left an indelible impress upon the community.
Roscoe C Saunders, the sole representative of this numerous family in Crawford county, is still a young man, but one who has made his mark as one of the strong men of southern Crawford. He was born in this county, in Nishnabotny township, and removed with his parents when fourteen to the town of Manilla, where he continued the education commenced in the rural schools. The death of his father threw much responsibility upon his shoulders and ended the careless days of school life. He was busied with the settlement of the estate and then entered the drug business, with which he was identified for three years, after which he was connected with W. B. Barstow in the hardware and implement business for an equal length of time.
In 1905 he was appointed postmaster of Manilla on the recommendation of Congressman J. P. Conner. At the conclusion of his first term he was reappointed to this office and he continues to serve to the eminent satisfaction of the postal department and of the patrons of the office. He was the organizer of the Manilla Telephone Company in 1900, and he has been its manager from the first, having built up an exchange which is the envy of all who are conversant with the telephone business.
On the 21st of October, 1903, Mr. Saunders was united in marriage with Miss Mae E. Breckenridge, who is a beautiful and accomplished young matron and who makes the Saunders home one of the most attractive and best beloved in Manilla.
Mrs. Saunders is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Breckenridge, who have lived in Manilla for twenty-five years and who have reared a family of eight children, namely, Claude L., Mae E., Nellie, wife of George R. Hird, Ray, Fred, Ida, Bessie and Clemma, all living in Manilla.
Grandfather Breckenridge was a soldier in the Union army and is still living in his ninetieth year. John L. Breckenridge was born in Knox county, Ohio, and Mrs. Breckenridge was a native of Kentucky, as were her parents. Mr. Breckenridge came to Benton county, Iowa, with his parents in 1864, and Mrs. Breckenridge came to the same locality in 1865. The marriage of these two took place in 1878.
It is a pleasure to pay a tribute to these two old families so happily united in the younger generation. Roscoe C. Saunders is one of the most active of Manilla's young business men. He has great faith in the future of the city and is on the permanent "boosting" committee of the town. He seems to have inherited in full the square chinned determination, the clear-eyed loyalty and the well built energy which made his beloved father, George W. Saunders, one of the strongest, ablest and most highly esteemed of the pioneers of Nishnabotny.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.