WEST ACROSS IOWA
THE PROMISED LAND
SETTLING THE WEST
JOHN JOSHUA TANNER
ELSIE TANNER LANT
Philo Johnson, 9th Ten
JOHN JOSHUA TANNER (1811-1896) was born
in Greenwich, Washington County, New York; which is north of Albany,
in the Hudson River Valley. He was a descendant of four Mayflower
pilgrims: John Cooke, Francis Cooke, Richard Warren, and Miles Standish.
After hearing the first missionaries who were sent to northern New
York in 1832, when he was 20 years of age, John Joshua Tanner accepted
the gospel, along with his father John Tanner (1778-1850), his stepmother
Elizabeth Beswick Tanner, his older brother Sidney (and Sidney's wife
Louisa Conlee) Tanner, also John Joshua's younger brothers Nathan Tanner,
Martin Henry Tanner, Albert Miles Tanner, half-brothers Myron Tanner,
Seth Benjamin Tanner, Freeman Everton Tanner, and his sister Louisa Maria
Tanner (who later became the wife of Apostle Amasa M. Lyman). Two more
half-brothers, Joseph Smith Tanner and David Dan Tanner, were born after
the family joined the Church. In addition to these 10 siblings of John
Joshua's, there were 8 more brothers and sisters who died as young children,
and also three more siblings older than John Joshua who never joined the
Church. (Although not in polygamy, father John Tanner had 22 children
altogether, by three different wives).
When the Tanner family accepted the restored gospel in 1832, they
lived in Bolton, Warren County, New York; on the shores of beautiful
Lake George in the Adirondack region of northern New York State. Father
John Tanner's diseased leg was healed by a miracle, because of his
faith, through the administration of the elders, so that he could be
baptized. The family moved to Kirtland in 1834, and John Tanner gave
large amounts of money to the prophet, which saved the temple lot from
being foreclosed; and he assisted in building the Kirtland Temple. John
Joshua and Nathan Tanner served in Zion's Camp, where they were commended
by the Prophet for their conduct. Later the Tanners moved to Missouri,
where they passed through many trials. Sidney and Nathan Tanner
participated in the Battle of Crooked River, and John Joshua, Sidney,
and their father John Tanner were taken prisoner by the mob. Later
they moved to Montrose, Iowa, across the river from Nauvoo, and had six
peaceful years before the Saints were driven from Nauvoo. When they
came across the plains, Sidney, John Joshua, Nathan, and Maria Tanner
Lyman were all married and had young families, and brothers Albert
Miles Tanner and Myron Tanner served in the Mormon Battalion.
Father John Tanner was 70 years old when he crossed the plains,
and still had five young children in his care at this time.
* * *
REBECCA ARCHIBALD SMITH (1816-1854)
married John Joshua Tanner in 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio. She was born
17 April 1816, in Bolton, Warren County, New York; the
daughter of William Smith (1779-1858) who came from Milford, Connecticut;
and Lydia Jane Calkins (1787-1874) from Dutchess County, New York.
Rebecca's sister Rachel Winter Smith (1818-1896) married John Joshua's
younger brother Nathan Tanner in 1836. Rachel and Rebecca came from a
substantial family, and had much to offer a young man just starting out
in life. They were descendants of the famous Rev. John Lathrop (1584-1653)
through their grandfather James Calkins, Jr. (b. 1741 in Lebanon,
Connecticut). James' mother was Abigail Huntington b. abt 1719 in Norwich,
Connecticut); daughter of Rebecca Lathrop (1695-1774), whose parents were
Rebecca Bliss and Israel Lathrop (1659-1733). Israel's father was
Samuel Lathrop (1623-1700), son of Rev. John Lathrop.
John Joshua and Rebecca Smith Tanner were endowed in the Nauvoo
Temple 30 Dec 1845 and sealed there on 28 Jan 1846. They were uprooted
or forced to move at least seven times during their married
life. Eventually there were nine children born to them:
1. LYDIA JANE TANNER,
b. 28 Nov 1836 at Gallatin, Missouri and
died 31 Oct 1897 at Lehi, Utah, at the age of 60.
Married Luke TITCOMB in 1854.
They lived in Lehi, had 14 children.
2. WILLIAM SMITH TANNER,
b. 28 Mar 1839 at New Liberty, Illinois and
died 6 Aug 1910 at Payson, Utah, at the age of 71.
He married Clarissa Jane MOORE in 1868;
they had 14 children and also adopted an orphaned
Indian girl and raised her as one of their own.
"Smith" Tanner remembered as a boy living at Montrose, Iowa
across the river from Nauvoo; he remembered the Prophet Joseph
coming to their home and of sitting on Joseph's lap while the men
talked and planned. He was 12 when the family came to Utah, and
he walked and drove an ox team most of the way. He stood guard
against Johnston's Army in Echo Canyon at the age of 19. After
this he engaged in the freighting business with some of his uncles
and brothers between California and Utah, and also across the
plains and to the various mining camps in Montana and Nevada,
where they made good profits.
In their travels they had many incidents with the Indians. On
one trip coming up from California, while in Southern Utah the
freighters came to where two tribes had had a battle. The one
tribe had taken a few captives; among these was a little girl
about 3 years old. The warriors didn't want to be bothered with
her so they were going to kill her. Smith interceded and traded
his pistol and belt for a fat steer, then traded the Indians the
steer for the girl. She had no clothes, so he made her a dress by
cutting a hole in a grain sack. He put her head through the hole,
then cut a hole for each arm. He used to laughingly say that she
was the best-dressed female in the whole freight outfit. He took
her to his father's home in South Cottonwood where she lived three
years until he was married, then he brought her to Payson and she
lived here until she was eighteen years of age. They named her
Flora Belle and had her baptized into the Church. She was dressed
and sent to school like the rest of the Tanner children. She was
willing and adept at keeping the house clean and was a good cook.
She married a white man but died at the birth of their first baby.
Smith Tanner served in the Black Hawk Indian War, as a First
Lieutenant. After his marriage he settled in Payson, and engaged
in livestock raising, especially horses and mules. He would take
trips to California and get horses, then drive them to Utah, where
there was a good market for them. Also, on two return trips from
California he brought back loads of redwood lumber and sided up
the big house he built in Payson. This house still stands (1979)
on the northeast corner of 4th West and Utah Avenue.
In 1877, after their first five children were born, a plague of
diptheria hit Payson, and they lost four little girls. One day
soon after this, Smith hitched his team to the wagon and started
for West Mountain for a load of cedar wood. He had gone past the
last house on the road when all of a sudden the team stopped. He
heard a sound as a wind blowing, and there appeared in the air in
front of him and above his team a vision. His mother (Rebecca
Smith Tanner, who had died when he was 15) was there holding the
youngest of the four little girls, and the other three were by her
side. They were all smiling and happy. Nothing was said, but
they stayed long enough for him to be assured they were all right
and there was no cause to mourn. He hurried home as fast as he
could and explained this to his wife.
It is said that Smith and Clarissa Tanner's home in Payson was
like a free hotel -- always crowds there, besides their own large
family, making a home for many homeless and poor and needy. Clarissa
was Relief Society President, and at one time a call came to
raise silkworms, so they had to turn a room in their home into a
wormery. The members of the family were kept busy feeding them,
as silkworms ate several times their weight every day, not stopping
for night. The mulberry leaves for their food were gathered
from the mulberry trees in the hollow where the Payson City Park
now is. The business was not a success, so the Relief Society
gave it up.
Clarissa often ministered to the sick, and at one time she
placed back and saved the nose of one of her sons which had been
cut off by the strike of a horse's hoof; another time she saved
and made usable three fingers of another son which had been cut
Smith Tanner served a mission to Great Britain from 1882-1884,
laboring in Lancashire and Liverpool with John Henry Smith, who
later became an Apostle and was the father of President George Albert
Smith. Smith Tanner was a very quiet man when young. It was
said that he would go a whole day and not utter a solitary word.
He was therefore surprised when he was called on his mission, and
nobody will ever know how much he suffered in every effort he made to
address the people in public. Since preaching was not his forte, he
became determined to make good in other ways, so he gave generously
of his means to emigrate a large number of families to Zion.
When he returned from his mission in 1884, Smith Tanner was
made a member of the high council for all of Utah County, in which
he served until his death in 1910; also he was ordained a patriarch
in 1897 and served in this capacity also until his death. In
addition, he was active in civic and business affairs in Payson.
He was president of the board of both Payson Savings Bank and Payson
Cooperative Store, both of which were in large measure due to
his initiative. He served six years in the city council. The
accumulation of property and the establishment of big business
enterprises came easy to him.
At one time in his later years, when he was confined to his bed
for a time, from an attack of severe inflammatory arthritis, his
daughter Emma recorded the following incident: "I was in a chair
sitting beside his bed when he started to talk, but I could not
understand what he said. James Finlayson came to see him, and
thinking my father was dying, tried to arouse him. After Mr.
Finlayson left, my father expressed regret at having been disturbed,
because he said he was talking to his mother and sister who were
dead. He said that two women had come into the room and stood at
the foot of his bed. He recognized his sister, Elsie Lant (who
had died in 1888), and he asked her who the other lady was with
her. She answered, 'Why Smith, this is our Mother (Rebecca Smith
Tanner, who had died in 1854).' (He did not recognize her at first
because she looked different than he remembered, and he had no
picture of her). She had beautiful long hair which hung down her
back. His mother said, 'Smith, you haven't been as good a boy as
I would have liked for you to have been. You've thought too much
of getting this world's goods, and it's of no value here.' She
then told him of two men that he had known and that had since died
-- one had been poor in earthly treasures but lived a life of
doing good to others, and what a rich inheritance he had on the
other side; the other man had been rich in worldly goods but poor
in deeds that brought rewards in heaven, and was indeed unhappy
there. She continued, 'Your time hasn't come yet, so spend the
rest of your time preparing yourself for the life hereafter.'
Smith asked her where his father (John Joshua Tanner, who had died
in 1896) was, and was told that he was on a mission. As his mother
and sister left, their arms went up to the picture of his father
which hung on the wall of the room."
3. MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE TANNER,
b. 1 Oct 1840 at Montrose, Iowa and
died 26 Jan 1916 at Payson, Utah, at the age of 75.
He married Emily RALPHS in 1871, settled in Payson
and had 9 children.
"Marcus" or "Mark" Tanner, as he was called, also worked
in the freighting business between California and Utah,
fought in the Black Hawk War, and was the night watchman
It is said that he had great faith and trust in his
Heavenly Father. In early 1889, after the birth of his
eighth child, a premature baby who had to be fed with a
medicine dropper, he came in from chores and sat down
near where the Relief Society sisters were trying to
feed the baby, when he heard a voice say to him,
"If you will give that child an injection, she will be
spared and you will raise her."
Father told the Relief Society sisters, Jane Wightman
and Alta Davis, who were present, what the voice had
told him, but they said, "It can't be done, she is too
little." Father said, "It can be done; if you won't
do it I will get someone who will. That child is not
going back there and say she was neglected here."
Jane went and got an ear syringe and did what the voice
had said to do, and the baby's life was spared and she
lived to be over 90 years old and raised a good family.
4. EDWARD ORLANDO TANNER,
b. 20 Jan 1843 at Montrose, Iowa and
died 5 Sep 1908 at Fremont, Utah, at the age of 65.
He married Mary Emily GRIGG in 1870; they lived in
Payson and Fremont, Utah and had five sons.
Their children were all born in Payson.
Then in 1883 Edward Orlando and his family were called
to go to Wayne County, Utah to help settle that area.
They started a farm in Fremont, and worked very hard
raising all kinds of crops and livestock.
"Edward Orlando was a very religious man. He never
drank coffee, but used a parched wheat drink for a
warm drink. Regardless of what work needed to be done,
he went to church on Sunday. He was a very kind and
gentle man, and he loved people ... He was also gentle
with all of his animals."
5. CYNTHIA MARIA TANNER,
b. 12 Mar 1845 at Montrose, Iowa and
died 22 Nov 1847 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska at age two
6. JOHN HENRY TANNER,
b. 10 Mar 1847 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska and
died 14 Sep 1914 at Payson, Utah, at age 67.
He married Mary Melissa COLVIN in 1869,
settled in Payson and had ten children.
He was in the Black Hawk War as a Cavalryman in
Captain Conner's company.
In 1868 he was sent by Church leaders to help bring
groups of Saints from the Missouri River across the
plains. In 1885 he was called on a mission to England.
Of their home in Payson, John Henry and Mary Melissa
Tanner's daughter Anna wrote, "Mother had flowers which
came from Uncle David Lant's flower garden. The
Peteetneet Creek ran through their grounds, and the
first settlers of Payson had camped by this creek right
where our home stood ...
Father was a jolly man and always had a good word for
everyone. He was religious and always taught his
children to be honest and obedient ... I never remember
my father being cross or unsympathetic. He was always
very patient and looked on the bright side of life."
7. ELSIE TANNER (twin),
b. 22 Sep 1849 at Kanesville, Iowa and
died 6 Aug 1888 at Payson, Utah, at the age of 38;
8. EDWIN TANNER (twin),
b. 22 Sep 1849 at Kanesville, Iowa and died at birth;
9. ESTHER TANNER,
b. 4 Jan. 1853 at South Cottonwood, Utah and
died at birth.
Apparently John Joshua Tanner had been called to
enter plural marriage during the Nauvoo period; both of his wives were
endowed with him in the Nauvoo temple on 30 Dec 1845. His second
wife's name was Nancy Ferguson, but virtually nothing is known about
her. John Joshua later married three more plural wives after coming to
the Salt Lake Valley.
According to the book JOHN JOSHUA TANNER FAMILY, "Along with his
father John Tanner and brother Sidney, John Joshua Tanner had been
appointed as one of the compassionate bishops whose
duty it was to help those in need (after they left Nauvoo). This
appointment seems not to have had anything to do with the presidency of
a ward, but Brigham had said that if a man was willing to give all he
had for the Lord to use as He wished, he was worthy to be a bishop.
John Joshua Tanner was such a man." After they reached Winter Quarters,
John Joshua Tanner was asked to stay there for five years and assist
others of the Saints on their way west. The Tanner family opened up
a farm of 1200 acres and planted wheat and raised cattle, oxen, and
horses to supply immigrants on their way west. They were also put in
charge of all of the Church cattle and oxen for three years (beginning
at the time the Saints first reached Winter Quarters in 1846, the
Tanners herded all the stock for the whole "camp of Israel," at the
herd grounds north of Winter Quarters, known as "the Rushes").
Three of the Tanner children were born while the Tanners lived at
the Missouri River. They were at Winter Quarters (now Florence, Nebraska)
from August 1846 until June of 1848. Here John Henry Tanner was born,
and Cynthia Maria Tanner (age two) died. After Brigham Young and most
of the Saints departed from Winter Quarters in June and July 1848,
the camp was abandoned, and those who remained at the river moved to
Kanesville (now Council Bluffs, Iowa) on the east side. This included
John Joshua and Rebecca, who continued their compassionate work among
the "green" arrivals for three additional years. John J. with "Rebeckah"
and Lydia Jane are listed as members in Pottawattamie County, Iowa Church
Records. Elsie Tanner and her twin brother Edwin were born while the
family lived here at Kanesville, on 22 Sep 1849; but Edwin died at birth.
In 1851, when the Church was phasing out the Iowa camps, the Tanner
family came on across the plains in a covered wagon with Isaac Allred's
Fifty. According to the Journal History of the Church, the Isaac Allred
Fifty left Kanesville on about June 10, 1851, was turned back due to
Indian trouble, and left again on June 29.
They arrived in Great Salt Lake City on October 2, 1851.
At that time the family consisted of John Joshua, his wife Rebecca, and
LYDIA JANE (nearly 15),
WILLIAM SMITH (12),
MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE (11),
EDWARD ORLANDO (8),
JOHN HENRY (4), and
They settled at South Cottonwood (now Murray), Salt Lake County, where
some of John Joshua's brothers already had farms established. John Joshua
and Rebecca continued to reside there for the rest of their lives.
When Elsie was only four and a half, she had the sad experience of
losing her mother, Rebecca. Not much has been found which would tell
us more about Rebecca or her personality. Apparently she was quite
self-effacing, and during her life she worked tirelessly for her family's
happiness and comfort, and this occupied all of her time. A letter
written by her mother to Rebecca's sister Rachel (Nathan Tanner's
wife), pleading with her to get Rebecca to please write something home,
indicates she had neglected to keep in as close contact as she should
with her parents (who had stayed in Kirtland). One granddaughter related
that she had understood that Rebecca would never have her picture
taken. Apparently Elsie Tanner was a lot like her mother, because
unfortunately we have no picture of her either.
John Joshua Tanner remarried soon after Rebecca's death, to
Mary Ann Neyman (Nickerson), widow of Levi Stillman Nickerson,
who had four young children. In 1857, John Joshua also married two
young plural wives, Mahaleth Jane Chase (who was 16 at the time) and
Nancy Augusta Ferguson (age 14 at the time), who became the mothers of
thirteen more of John Joshua's children. (During this time, all in
the Church who were of marriagable age had been counseled to enter into
marriage as soon as possible with the most suitable partner they could
find, apparently to counteract the problem of many persons remaining
single too long and getting into trouble, or else marrying out of the
Church since there had been a great influx of people traveling through
the territory to California.
It seems that many of the Saints, in their
zeal, carried the leaders' counsel too far. As a consequence, many
unsuitable marriages were made, and many girls who were only 13 or 14 were
married to much older men in plural marriage. The husbands were counseled
to "wait upon the desires of their wives," and to court them -- even
though they were already sealed they had to win their wives' love. Many
of these marriages were not consummated until many years later, when the
girls became old enough to decide that they loved the man and desired
him for a husband. Many other of these marriages were later dissolved,
if the girl decided she did not desire the man for a husband after all).
Children of John Joshua and Jane Chase Tanner:
10.ALBERT JOSHUA TANNER,
b. 14 Dec. 1859 (never married);
11.NATHAN CHAUNCY TANNER,
b. 8 Feb. 1866 (never married);
12.MAHALETH ABIAH TANNER ("Aunt Haley")
b. 30 Mar. 1867 and died 15 Feb 1933 at the age of 65.
Married Thomas BEARD.
They had 10 children, and lived in Coalville
where her husband had opened the first coal mine.
He also served a mission to England, and was later
called by church leaders to beautify the area of
Coalville by growing flowers and vegetables; he became
an expert landscape gardener and beautified many homes
and gardens and the Summit County Stake House.
Children of John Joshua and Nancy Augusta Ferguson Tanner (this Nancy
Ferguson was much younger than, and was apparently the niece of, the
other Nancy Ferguson, whom John Joshua had been sealed to in the Nauvoo
Temple in 1846):
13.ALMIRA ARTIMISSA TANNER,
b. 13 Dec. 1860 and died 21 Feb 1935
at Grant, Idaho, at the age of 74.
Married William Henry PINNOCK, had 8 children.
William Henry PINNOCK, brother of Henry Hugh Pinnock,
came to Salt Lake from England with his family when
he was 6 years old. His father was superintendent of
the Temple Block for 14 years during construction of
the Salt Lake Temple. William was trained as a stone
mason and worked on the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Soon after their marriage they took up a homestead in
Idaho, two miles west of Rigby. Later they moved to
Eagle Rock (later called Idaho Falls), where he worked
as a stone mason, also as a miner and clerk in a store.
They took up another homestead in Grant, Idaho in 1890,
where William died in 1910, and ALMIRA continued to
live there until her death.
14.ISAAC WILLIAM TANNER,
b. 19 Jan 1863 and died 21 Dec 1937 in Escondido,
California, at the age of 74.
Married Emily Ella HALL, had 7 children.
Soon after their marriage they moved to Idaho in
a covered wagon together with his sister Almira and
her husband William H. Pinnock, and also took up a
homestead near Rigby. Isaac also raised sheep, and
was in the real estate business and active in civic
affairs. They moved to California around 1918, and
had a ranch in Valley Center, about 15 miles from
Escondido, where they lived until their deaths. He
was foreman of the San Diego County Road Department.
15.WARREN FOOTE TANNER,
b. 8 Dec. 1864 and died 29 Apr 1937
in Idaho Falls, Idaho, at the age of 72.
Married Harriet Mary SULLIVAN, had 4 children.
He had a farm near Rigby, Idaho and raised bees.
His wife died early in their marriage, and his
sister, Almira Tanner Pinnock, helped raise his
children. He spent much time alone taking care of
his bees and farm.
16.REBECCA AUGUSTA TANNER,
b. 21 Oct. 1866 and died 28 Apr 1930
in Fullerton, California, at the age of 63.
Married Daniel Hammer Adams, had 9 children.
Rebecca and Daniel met when she came to Idaho to
visit her older brother and sister who were
homesteading there. They took up a homestead near
Rigby also, where all of their children were born.
They moved to California around 1920 and lived there
until their deaths.
17.FREEMAN EVERTON TANNER,
b. 22 Feb. 1869 and died 27 Jan 1870
at South Cottonwood, Utah
18.HORACE GREELEY TANNER,
b. 22 Nov. 1872 and died 25 Feb 1958
at San Leandro, California at the age of 85.
Married Madie Helena KNUDSEN, had 9 children.
As a boy he helped his older brothers and his father
haul wheat to the Knudsen Flour Mill at the foot of
Big Cottonwood Canyon. Here he met the miller's
daughter Madie, when she was 6 and he was 10.
He said that some day he would marry her.
They married when he was 22 and she was 19, and made
their home in South Cottonwood.
He had a ten acre ranch with a few cows and was a
farmer. He also worked several years at the Murray
Smelter; later he raised chickens and sold eggs and
milk. In 1944 he and his wife retired to California
and lived there until their deaths.
19.INA EUGENIA TANNER,
b. 17 July 1876 and died 25 June 1941
at Murray, Utah, at the age of 64.
Married Charles Henry RINGROSE, had 5 children.
They lived in South Cottonwood and Murray.
Charles worked at the Murray Smelter until he retired,
and was on the Murray City Volunteer Fire Department.
Ina helped the sick, and helped in the delivery of
many babies; her daughter wrote that "Mamma worked
under every doctor that came to Murray ...
the mothers-to-be would tell her, 'I won't worry
about it if I know you will be with me.'
She had grown up riding horses and taking her place
with the boys riding herd on the horses and cattle ...
she never did any housework until she was full grown
and they fenced the place in. Everyone that had a
sick horse or cow would bring them to her father to
take care of them, and she helped him all the time.
She would do everything he told her to do, and how
happy they both were when the horse or cow was okay
again. This stayed with her all her life -- she was
always helping people who were sick. She was also a
lover of horses and dogs -- a family trait."
Both she and her husband were well-known in the
community and loved by all who knew them.
20.CLARENCE LAVERNE TANNER,
b. 3 July 1878 and died 2 Feb 1936
in Salt Lake City at the age of 57.
Married Rose Ann ATKINSON, had 4 children.
They built a home in South Cottonwood, where they
lived until their deaths. They had about five acres
of land on what became Tanner Lane (at present-day
1810 E. 6400 S. -- now a development called
"Cottonwood Cove at Tanner Lane"), where Clarence
farmed and raised chickens and other animals.
He also worked at the Murray Smelter, and owned a
21.ETHEL MAY TANNER,
b. 2 May 1882 and died 22 Feb 1937
at Neenoch, California at the age of 54.
Married Bertram Luther GOOKINS, had 5 children.
They lived in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, and
Bertram had a grocery store and also worked for
the U.S. Government, delivering mail.
22.ARTHUR LYMAN TANNER,
b. 8 June 1887 and died 14 Aug 1887.
John Joshua Tanner died on 9 Sep 1896 at South Cottonwood, at the age
of 84, and is buried in the Murray (previously called South Cottonwood)
Cemetery on Vine Street. It is uncertain where his wife Rebecca is buried,
since the South Cottonwood Cemetery was not started until the 1870's, and
she died in 1854. The Salt Lake Cemetery has no record of her being
buried there in the Tanner family plot, where father John Tanner and
Nathan and his wife Rachel Winter Smith Tanner (Rebecca's sister) and
many of their family are buried. Perhaps she was also buried there and
the record of the burial was lost, or perhaps she was buried at the
Fort Union Cemetery, which was started in the 1850's. (About fifty
burials there are unaccounted for.)
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray