Marriage License Into The Afterlife

In the Monroe, Louisiana Old City Cemetery, the most prominent monument is that of Sidney Saunders, whose likeness stands holding — of all things — his marriage license

After being born in 1846 in Mississippi, he grew up in Morehouse Parish when very young, and was orphaned as a teenager. He joined the CSA, and after being wounded during the siege of Vickburg, became a prisoner and was paroled home.

Later, he became a grocery and saloon keeper and in 1875, brought his wife and son Willie to Monroe, which apparently was a big surprise. There were rumors that Sidney’s business practices were suspect and that the circumstances around his marriage weren’t on the up-and-up. Bad things were said about his wife, Annie, and the nature of how she and Sidney actually became a couple.

Their son Willie died in 1886 at age 12.

In the span of about 20 years, three of Sidney Saunders’ properties caught fire, and the last one in the late 1890s cast him, at least in his own mind, as a suspect of the latest arson. Sidney bought a lot in the Monroe City Cemetery in January 1889 and less than two weeks later, he was found dead, believed to have been the fault of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After his death, his wife Annie found herself in a situation to make full claim on his $83k estate. Relatives remembering the odd circumstances in which he found himself married could not find a legal marriage license and thus took the inheritance.

Annie fought back and the register (not license, but officiant statement) of their marriage had been found in St. Louis, dated back to 1875. Annie had this cemetery monument made, based on the likeness of someone who worked at the monument factory, holding a marriage license — which is what’s in the statue’s hand, below.

She had their son Willie moved to this crypt also. Inside the crypt, what’s believed to be a 10′ square room, Annie:

..hung curtains, moved in her husband’s desk and kept a sewing machine and her son’s velocipede (or tricycle).

Local history enthusiast Ron Downing said his grandfather talked about visiting with Annie Saunders on Sundays while she sat in the subterranean room in a rocking chair.

People said she went there daily to pray and sew, according to Peppers.

Annie was later buried in the crypt also.