Tanner Family


JOHN TANNER (1778-1850) was born in Hopkinton, Washington County, Rhode Island, on 15 August 1778. He was the second child and oldest son of Joshua Tanner (1757-1807) and Thankful Tefft (1757-1822). On his mother's side he was a descendent of three Mayflower pilgrims: Richard Warren (1579-1628), and father and son Francis Cooke (1583-abt.1653) and John Cooke (1612-1695). John Tanner was a 7th generation American -- on his father's side he was a descendant of noble and royal English families such as Trevilian, Courteney, Beaumont, Tremayne, Tyrrell, Sergeaux, de Raleigh, de St.Clare, de Champagne, de Spencer, de Saluzza, Beauchamp, Plantagenet, de St.Valery, de Brittany, Marshall, Welsh prince Llewelyn "Fawr", William the Conqueror, etc. John Tanner was also descended from many early Rhode Island and Massachusetts families, including Sheldon, Potter, Palmer, Carpenter, Tripp, Anthony, Vincent, Hazard, Paine, Pitts, Holbrook, Ballard, Lloyd, Smith, Sanford, Sherman, Webb, and Salisbury families.

John's great-grandfather William Tanner (1660-abt.1730) had been a member of the Baptist faith, advocating the practice of baptism by immersion for accountable persons who chose to become Christians. This was, of course, considered blasphemy by both the Church of England and the Catholics, since the Baptists were implying that the established form of baptism, by sprinkling, was wrong; and that all previous infant baptisms were invalid. The Baptists were severely persecuted for holding this view. Seeking religious tolerance and freedom to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience, William Tanner came from England and settled in Rhode Island in 1682 (the year of founder Roger Williams' death). The Tanners remained in Rhode Island for over one hundred years and remained devout Baptists. William Tanner's son Francis Tanner, Esq. (1708-1777) lived in Washington County, Rhode Island during his entire lifetime. He was a highly respected citizen, a member of the Town Council, and Justice of the Peace for many years. Francis' son Joshua (John Tanner's father) also lived in Washington County, Rhode Island until 1791, when he and his wife moved their growing family to New York state, seeking better opportunities.

John was thirteen years old when they made the move from Hopkinton, Rhode Island to New York. The biography of his older sister Polly (Mary) Tanner Baker states that, "When Polly was quite young her parents removed to Hoosac (Hoosick, now Rensselaer County), New York, and later (about 20 miles northwest) to Greenwich, Washington County, New York." It is uncertain how long the Tanner family stayed in Hoosick. Greenwich is located near Stillwater and Schuylerville, in the north eastern part of New York state, five miles east of the Hudson River and 40 miles upstream from Albany, near the Vermont border. Here John Tanner grew to manhood. Early in the year 1800, at the age of 21, he married Tabitha Bentley (1780-1801), by whom he had one son, born March 23, 1801.

    (1) ELISHA BENTLEY TANNER (1801-1858)

John's wife Tabitha died seventeen days later, on the 9th day of April, at only 20 years of age. The baby lived to be raised by his grandmother, and later by his stepmother.

Subsequently, in the fall of 1801, John married Lydia Stewart (1783-1825), by whom he eventually had 13 children; ten sons and three daughters. John's second wife Lydia, the daughter of William Stewart (1740-1826) and Amy Hunton or Huntington (1755-1839), was born in Bolton, Warren County, New York, and was descended from Duncan Stuart (of the Stuart or Stewart royal clan of Scotland). On her mother's side, she was also a Mayflower descendant, from Capt. Miles Standish (1584-1656), through her grandmother, Amy Standish (1711-1798).

John's father Joshua, who had been a farmer and a citizen of high standing, died (September 12, 1807, near Reed's Corners, Washington County, New York, at 50 years of age). By this time John and Lydia's first three children had been born, and one had died:

    (2) WILLIAM STEWART TANNER (1802-1875)
    (3) MATILDA TANNER (1804-1888)
    (4) WILLARD TANNER (1806-1807)

John Tanner was 29 years of age at this time, with his own family to care for, but as the eldest son he took up the business of his father, running the farm, settling the estate and taking responsibility for his widowed mother, his brothers, and some of his sisters. John's five sisters were:

    Mary Tanner Baker (31)
       (wife of Thomas Potter Baker, a farmer and lumberman)
    Thankful Tanner Barber (27)
       (wife of Alpheus Barber)
    Susannah Tanner Place (23)
       (wife of Godfrey Place)
    Betsey Tanner (22)
       (married Newman Perkins in 1810)
    Esther Tanner (19)
       (later married John Wellwood)

Only the two youngest of John's sisters were still living at home in 1807, when their father died. John's four younger brothers and their ages in 1807 were:

    Pardon Tanner (16)
       (later married Harriet Dean)
    Francis Tanner (14)
       (later married Alcey Morey)
    Joshua Tanner, Jr. (12)
       (later married (1) Survival Bishop and (2) Sally Wells)
    William Tefft Tanner (8)
       (later married Lydia Foster and moved to Pennsylvania).

John Tanner's own children in 1807 were Elisha (6), William (4), and Matilda (2). So there were nine whom John and Lydia were responsible for -- ten counting John's widowed mother, Thankful Tefft Tanner (age 50).


One evening in the year 1808, when John returned from his work, he found that two of his children had been bitten by his dog, which had gone mad. He, in his attempt to confine the dog, was also bitten -- on the calf of the leg. Realizing immediately that he had no time to lose, he grasped a pair of sheep shears, cut out the affected parts, and filled the wounds with salt. He thus succeeded in saving his own life and the lives of his children by his quick action. (There being no treatment for it in those days, rabies was nearly always fatal, and the Lord surely preserved their lives at this time).

Six more children were born to John and Lydia Stewart Tanner between the years 1808-1818 at Greenwich:

    (5) SIDNEY TANNER (1809-1895)
    (6) JOHN JOSHUA TANNER (1811-1896)
    (7) ROMELIA TANNER (1814, lived only two weeks)
    (8) NATHAN TANNER (1815-1910)
    (9) EDWARD TANNER (twin) (1817, lived three weeks)
   (10) EDWIN TANNER (twin) (1817, lived 5 days).

In the spring of 1818, free from the cares of his father's family, John Tanner moved with his wife and family of six surviving children about 40 miles north of Greenwich, to Northwest Bay overlooking beautiful Lake George, in Warren County, New York. Lake George has been called the most beautiful lake in America. Its water drains northward, into Lake Champlain and eventually into the Saint Lawrence River near Montreal, then eastward to the North Atlantic. This whole area was strategically important historically, since it controlled the invasion route by water from Canada. Fort William Henry was built on the south end of Lake George; Fort Ticonderoga to the north on Lake Champlain; and Crown Point (Fort St. Frederic) to the north of that. Many battles were fought on and around Lake George and Lake Champlain during the French and Indian Wars (1689-1763), the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812.

While the Tanner family lived at Northwest Bay, another daughter and two sons were born:

   (11) LOUISA MARIA TANNER (1818-1906)
   (12) PARDON TANNER (1820-1821)
           (This child, who died young, was apparently forgotten
           and left out of the family records.  He was not mentioned
           in the John Tanner Family book, which says that John was
           the father of 21 children, when he actually had 22)
   (13) MARTIN HENRY TANNER (1822-1907)

John's mother Thankful Tefft Tanner died 18 November 1822, at 65 years of age. In 1823, John and Lydia again moved their family, this time about six miles south, to Lydia's hometown, Bolton (or Bolton Landing), on the west shore of Lake George; where in 1825 another son was born,

   (14) ALBERT MILES STANDISH TANNER (1825-1879)

In May of that year John's second wife Lydia Stewart Tanner died, at 41 years of age, leaving him a widower for the second time, at the age of 46, with nine children to care for. In those times it was nearly impossible for a family to get along without two parents (much more difficult than today, because without any of our modern conveniences and labor saving devices, both earning a living and housekeeping required very strenuous physical labor. Both farmers and housewives worked extremely hard, from sun-up to sundown, just to meet the family's basic needs), so people usually remarried as quickly as they could when a spouse died. John was no exception, and he married a third wife, Elizabeth Beswick (1803-1890), on November 3, 1825. She was 25 years younger than John, being 21 and he 47 when they married. Elizabeth eventually had six sons and two daughters, making a total of 17 sons and 5 daughters in the family; 14 of whom (12 sons and 2 daughters) survived to adulthood.

   (15) MYRON TANNER (1826-1903) - Born in Bolton, NY
   (16) SETH BENJAMIN TANNER (1828-1918) - Born in Bolton, NY
   (17) FREEMAN EVERTON TANNER (1830-1918) - Born in Bolton, NY
   (18) JOSEPH SMITH TANNER (1833-1910)
          Born in Bolton after the family had joined the church
   (19) PHILOMELIA TANNER (1835-1838) - Born in Kirtland, Ohio
   (20) DAVID DAN TANNER (1838-1918) - Born in Kirtland, Ohio
          (Dan was the last to survive to adulthood;
          two more children were later born in Iowa,
          but died as children.)
   (21) SARIAH TANNER (1840-1853) - Born in Montrose, Iowa
   (22) FRANCIS TANNER (1843-1844) - Born in Montrose, Iowa

(Note: John's last child was 42 years younger than his first child, who had been born in 1801. John was 22 when his first child was born, and 64 at the birth of the last -- although not a record, it's quite a span of years!).


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

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INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray