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William Fleming Saunders
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Birth: Nov. 27, 1871
Mercer County
Illinois, USA
Death: Oct. 16, 1919
Platte County
Wyoming, USA


With only a half hours work left to complete a well on which he had been working for several weeks, William Saunders was caught by the collapse of the sides of the well, Thursday afternoon, and crushed under thirty-five feet of sand.

Saunders began the work over a month ago on the Sam Osborn farm south of town, and reached a depth of 102 feet. At this point water was struck, but the casing was blocked by quicksand, which rose in the bottom of the well. Saunders then began digging again to regain the water. At a depth of ninety-four feet he encountered water again, but was troubled by the quicksand which flowed up under the bottom of the casing in which he had been working. The quicksand poured underneath the casing with the water until a considerable cavity was formed behind it. Messrs. Arthur Moran, Volley Osborn and Clarence Osborn, who were at the top, heard the ground dropping behind the casing and asked Saunders several times to come out. Saunders repeatedly stated that he felt entirely safe, and called for small stones to pack behind it. When the sand was heard falling the third time, Saunders called for the bucket. The men at the top rushed the bucket down with all possible haste, but before it had reached the bottom a roar of falling sand and the crash of timbers in the casing at the bottom told then that it was too late.

The Odd Fellows Lodge held a meeting Friday evening and voted to take charge of rescuing the body of their fellow member, and chief presiding officer, N.J.N. McCallum, was given authority to assume charge and make any arrangements he saw fit for the excavation. He selected A.E. Roberts, and experienced miner from Rawlins, who was here for medical attention at the Wheatland hospital, to direct the digging. It was decided to lower the thirty-two inch corrugated iron pipes used by the county as culverts to the top of the fallen sand and then dig down inside them on the theory that the pipes would settle as fast as the men dug inside them. After digging down about fifteen feet the pipe ceased settling and it was necessary to sink a smaller casing inside. After a few more feet of excavation it became evident that the work could not be carried on further in such cramped quarters. Timbers were then lowered and driven eight feet into the sand at a spreading angle. Tuesday evening the work had reached a depth of eighty-four feet.

William Saunders had been a resident of Wheatland for several years and was well known and respected by his fellow townsmen. Until he undertook the excavation work in the Osborn well he had been employed for some time in the McCallum lumber yard. He leaves a wife and five children.

Wheatland Times no. 4 October 22, 1919, page 1



Crushed between the planking of the curb in which he was working at the bottom of the well, the remains of Saunders were encountered by the excavating force at 11 p.m. Sunday and were taken out the next morning at 10:30 by the Sunrise miners.

The force began drifting across Friday evening and made the cross tunnel in two days' time, working slowly on account of the treacherous quicksand. The body was encountered by the end of the night shift Sunday evening, but the problem of extricating it from between the planking was so difficult that its solution was postponed until morning.

The miners stated that death must have come instantly to the buried man. He was found against the curbing wall on the north side of the well, that side remaining upright. Saunders sat facing it with the plank wall behind crushed in against him. The remains were found in a good state of preservation considering the more than three weeks that elapsed since the accident. The funeral was held at 3:30 p.m., Monday. Rev. McClellan officiating and interment made in the local cemetery.

Mrs. Anna Saunders, the widow, and her brother, James E. Fleming, came down from Casper Saturday evening to be present when the remains were exhumed. Mr. Fleming left Monday evening for Casper. Mrs. Saunders remaining a few days to look after business matters.

William Fleming Saunders was born March 29, 1871 in Mercer County, Ill., the family moving to Adams County, Iowa, in 1873. On June 8, 1904, he was married to Miss Anna Eleanor Fleming. Mr. and Mrs. Saunders made their home in Lennox, Ia., until 1908, when they moved to Wheatland.

Mr. Saunders was a member of the United Presbyterian church and also of the Odd Fellows Lodge, holding the position of Noble Grand in the latter organization at the time of his death.

Besides his wife he leaves five children, two boys and three girls, the oldest being fourteen years of age and the youngest four.

Wheatland Times No. 7 November 12, 1919, page 1

Articles provided by Lostnwyomn.
Family links: 
  John Saunders (1836 - 1900)
  Mary Rebecca Fleming Saunders (1845 - 1921)
  Anna Elnora Fleming Saunders Jordan (1885 - 1969)*
  Charles Homer Saunders (1905 - 1981)*
  Eunice Elnora Saunders Sconce (1907 - 1999)*
  Imogene Wilma Saunders Gibbons (1910 - 1995)*
  William Kenneth Saunders (1913 - 2003)*
  Thelma Marie Saunders (1916 - 1932)*
  William Fleming Saunders (1871 - 1919)
  Margaret Elizabeth Saunders Harmon (1873 - 1947)*
  John Elmer Saunders (1876 - 1939)*
  Della Saunders (1878 - 1904)*
  Duncan Stewart Saunders (1881 - 1947)*
  Charles Reid Saunders (1883 - 1960)*
  Dora Alice Saunders Crow (1886 - 1969)*
  Anna Belle Saunders Wright (1889 - 1953)*
*Calculated relationship
Note: photo taken about 1893-94 is of William Saunders as a young man living with his family in Iowa.
Wheatland Cemetery
Platte County
Wyoming, USA
Plot: Row 5 Block 1 Lot 36
Maintained by: Dorothy Kennedy
Originally Created by: Lostnwyomn
Record added: Jul 22, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 94031777
William Fleming Saunders
Added by: Dorothy Kennedy
William Fleming Saunders
Added by: Dorothy Kennedy
William Fleming Saunders
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Peggy Litzo
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