Saunders, John Henry (1850–1919)

By: Dorothy Wimberley Kerbow

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

John Henry Saunders, teacher, businessman, and public official, was born in Kasey, Bedford County, Virginia, on July 22, 1850. At age thirteen he volunteered for service in the Confederate States Army and served in the Second Virginia Cavalry, Fitzhugh Lee's Division, Army of Northern Virginia. After the war Saunders was educated in schools near his home and later attended college in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1868 he went to Indian Territory and taught school for two years before moving to Texas in 1870. On arrival in Texas he settled at Purgatory Springs, a community eleven miles west of San Marcos, and became the first teacher in its first free school. He married Calladonia M. Williamson on August 28, 1872, in Purgatory Springs. They had thirteen children. Saunders ranched and taught school at Wimberley's Mill (later Wimberley). In 1885 he moved to the settlement of Wimberley, where he built a general store. He was appointed postmaster of Wimberley in 1890 and served until 1892 and again from 1902 until 1907. Saunders was elected county commissioner of Precinct Three of Hays County for three consecutive terms, from 1902 until 1907. He was a school trustee for Wimberley in 1902 and 1903. He helped install the first water system in Wimberley by the use of a hydraulic ram that pumped water uphill from Cypress Creek for 200 yards to a huge cypress-wood holding tank. He was first to give land for the Wimberley Cemetery. He was a partner of Saunders and Hughes, Photographers, and had a studio in his general store. Saunders was appointed superintendent of public instruction for Hays County in 1907 by Judge Edward R. Kone. The Saunders family then moved from Wimberley to San Marcos. When the county election was held in 1910, Saunders was elected superintendent; he served until 1916. He worked diligently to improve the schools and stressed the "three r's" for beginning pupils. Saunders died at San Marcos on November 3, 1919. His homestead in Wimberley is the oldest structure on the town square. It has been in continuous use and bears a Texas Historical Commission marker.

San Marcos Historical Commission, Clear Water and Limestone Ledges: A History of San Marcos and Hays County (Quanah, Texas: Nortex, 1985). Tula Townsend Wyatt, Historical Markers in Hays County (San Marcos, Texas: Hays County Historical Commission, 1977).
  • Education
  • School Trustees and Regents

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dorothy Wimberley Kerbow, “Saunders, John Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995