Saunders, Xenophon Boone (ca. 1828–1909)

By: Dayton Kelley

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 30, 2015

Xenophon Boone Saunders, newspaperman, anti-secessionist, and Confederate soldier, son of Joel Boone and Mariam Lewis (Kennedy) Saunders, was born on October 21, 1828, in Columbia, Tennessee. He was descended from Elizabeth Boone, youngest sister of Daniel Boone, and moved to Texas about 1855, after attending Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee, and Hanover College in Indiana, from which he graduated in 1849. He read law at Indianapolis and Nashville and was admitted to the bar in Memphis in 1854. Saunders moved to Washington County, Texas, and about 1855 moved to Bell County, where he joined prominent members of the Whig party to found the Belton Independent, Bell County's first newspaper. The paper opposed secession and built strong support for Sam Houston in Central Texas. Saunders practiced law in Belton in 1857 and in 1860 was elected the first mayor of the town. Although he was an ardent opponent of secession and had stumped Central Texas speaking against leaving the Union, Saunders was one of the first to cast his lot with his neighbors who had voted for secession. He was elected captain of Company A, Sixteenth Texas Infantry, was later promoted to major, and participated in the battles of Milliken's Bend, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, Perkins Landing, and Jenkins Ferry, part of the time commanding the regiment. Saunders was elected a delegate from Bell and Lampasas counties to the Constitutional Convention of 1866 and voted with the Radical Republican party. He supported the resolution to require members of the convention to take an oath of allegiance to the federal constitution and introduced a resolution declaring the Ordinance of Secession null and void ab initio, thus implying that the right to secede never existed. In 1876, when the terms of the district judges appointed by Reconstruction governor Edmund Jackson Davis expired, Saunders was elected district judge; he served in that capacity until 1877, when he entered into a law partnership with Andrew J. Harris. Saunders was also involved in farming and town real estate and was a vice president of the Belton Compress Company. He married Annie E. Surghnor of Leesburg, Virginia, on December 17, 1857; they had four sons and two daughters. The family divided its religious affiliation between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Saunders died on July 20, 1909, and was buried in North Belton Cemetery.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893; rpt., St. Louis: Ingmire, 1984). Charles W. Ramsdell, "Presidential Reconstruction in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 11 (April 1908). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives
Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction

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

Dayton Kelley, “Saunders, Xenophon Boone,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 30, 2015

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