WEST ACROSS IOWA
THE PROMISED LAND
SETTLING THE WEST
JOHN JOSHUA TANNER
ELSIE TANNER LANT
Tanner Family -- Kirtland
THE KIRTLAND YEARS --
In 1833, after they had been members of the church for about a year,
John Tanner fitted out two of his sons, Nathan and John Joshua
(who were then ages 18 and 21), and sent them up to Kirtland where they
called upon the Prophet. The following is recorded in the journal of
the Prophet Joseph Smith on September 28, 1833:
"Brother John Tanner sent his two sons to Kirtland to learn the will
of the Lord, whether he should remove to Zion or Kirtland. It was decided
by the unanimous voice of the council, on the 28th of September, that it
was the will of the Lord, for all who were able and willing, to build up
and strengthen the stake in Kirtland. Brother Tanner was counseled
Nathan Tanner wrote in his reminiscences that he and John Joshua got
acquainted with the Prophet and the leading men of that day, and that the
Temple was by then "fairly commenced." They returned to New York to take
word to their father, and then in the spring of 1834 they again set out,
this time to join Zion's Camp, taking "old Brother Putnam and his wife
and seven children, together with Lyman Johnson, Amasa M. Lyman, and others
to Kirtland. By the way, we took Brother (Heber C.) Kimball and family
from Genessee, N.Y. to Buffalo, where they took water (went by boat)."
Amasa M. Lyman wrote in his
autobiography that he was nearing the end of his mission to New England
when "the call to go to Zion (to help redeem Jackson County from their
enemies) reached eastern New York, through Lyman E. Johnson; responding
to this call changed my plan of operation ... I went directly to Kirtland,
taking in charge as a contribution some money and teams and the two sons
of John Tanner, John J. and Nathan. I received on my own account between
nine and ten dollars in money, to provide myself for the
journey; the above money I received from Sister Polly Beswick, it was
all she had."
(Polly Beswick was the sister of John Tanner's wife
Elizabeth Beswick Tanner. In 1846 there is mention of her in a journal as
being in Montrose, Iowa with the Tanners, but then apparently went back
east instead of crossing the plains. She didn't come west until 1855,
when she sailed with her husband Edward Cook from New York to San
Francisco, as told later in this account).
Amasa M. Lyman, John Joshua Tanner and Nathan Tanner joined Zion's
Camp at New Portage, Ohio, fifty miles west of Kirtland, where it was
being organized and assembled. The camp started out in early May 1834,
with approximately 150 men and twenty baggage wagons. The Tanners
furnished some of the wagons and three teams, and Nathan says, "We put in
very near half the money that paid the expenses of the camp." Nathan
Tanner and Zerubbabel Snow served the Camp as commissaries (Nathan later
served as a commissary on the pioneers' march across Iowa as well).
Nathan wrote of his experience in Zion's Camp, "We performed our duty
as such, the best we could, and enjoyed the trip and acquaintances of
the brethren. Here we had the pleasure of the company of the Prophet,
Hyrum, Brigham, Heber, Martin Harris, the Johnsons, Pratts, and many we
cannot mention. In the camp is the place to make lasting acquaintances."
Nathan said of the Prophet Joseph, "I had the pleasure of seeing
him (when he was) in vision, when he saw the country over which we had
traveled in a high state of cultivation (the future of this area was
opened to his view). This was while he was riding, and when we camped,
he had a wagon run out in the middle of the (encircled) wagons, and got
into it, and told what he had seen while in the spirit. It was glorious
and grand to hear."
"Our Camp was blessed with good health on the road all the way until
we got through and God gave the revelation saying our offering was
accepted like unto Abraham, and we were not required to go any further.
At this, some of the Camp became angry and said that they would rather
die than return without a fight, and drew their swords and went a short
distance from the camp and gave vent to their wrath on a patch of Paw-paw
brush, and mowed them down like grass. At this very time the Cholera
set in, and our men died off like sheep with the rot ... It was a
sorrowful time, and one long to be remembered. We had to put them into
the ground in their blankets without a coffin or much ceremony." Nathan
said that, ironically, "it seemed as though the Lord took those who
were most fit to go;" some of the most saintly men, rather than the
most rebellious among them. Sidnay Gilbert was among those who died.
Heber C. Kimball later wrote, "At this scene my feelings were beyond
expression. Those only who witnessed it, can realize anything of the
nature of our sufferings, and I felt to weep, and pray to the Lord that
he would spare my life that I might behold my dear family again. I
felt to covenant with my brethren, and I felt in my heart never to commit
another sin while I lived." Sixty-eight men were struck with the
sudden, violent attack of cholera; eighteen of these died.
The Tanner boys were commended for their conduct in Zion's Camp,
especially for ministering to the sick and burying the dead. (Besides the
Tanner boys, John D. Parker, Joseph B. Noble, Brigham Young, Joseph Young,
Heber C. Kimball, Luke S. Johnson, and Eleazer Miller were commended for
this). It is said that under similar circumstances full-grown men have
been known to panic and run. On June 25, during the height of the cholera
attack, Joseph Smith divided Zion's Camp into several smaller groups to
demonstrate the Saints' peaceful intent to the Missourians. The cholera
plague was stayed when the rebellious Camp members humbled themselves
in prayer, and sought forgiveness from the Lord. Ten days later formal
written discharges were prepared for each faithful member of the Camp.
They dispersed after being released by the Prophet; some of them staying in
Missouri in accordance with the Fishing River revelation (see D&C 105:20).
Before returning to Kirtland, Joseph Smith set the Church in order in
Missouri, and called a new high council there.
John Joshua Tanner, Nathan Tanner, and Amasa Lyman followed the advice
of the Prophet and remained in Missouri a year to assist the hard pressed
Saints. They returned to Kirtland in 1835 (after their father and the
rest of the family had moved there), and soon married: Amasa Mason Lyman
married Louisa Maria Tanner on June 10, 1835; John Joshua Tanner married
Rebecca Archibald Smith (1816-1854) in July 1835, and returned with his
bride to Missouri, and Nathan Tanner married Rachel Winter Smith (1818-1896)
the next year.
John Joshua and Nathan's wives were both daughters of
William Smith Jr. (1779-1858) and Lydia Jane Calkins (1787-1872). The
Smiths (no relation to the Prophet's family) were from Bolton, New York
like the Tanners, and had certainly been acquainted with them there. The
parents William and Lydia Jane Calkins Smith moved to Kirtland with their
family in 1836, and they lived in Kirtland until their deaths in 1858 and
1872. William Smith Jr. was the son of William Smith Sr. (1738-??) and
Thankful Peet (1745-??); and Lydia Jane Calkins was the daughter of
James Calkins Jr. (1741-??) and his wife Sarah (1745-1814). They were
descended from early Connecticut families: Smith, Youngs (with an "s"),
Landon, Peet, Titherton, Fairchild, Beardsley, and Huntington; also among
their ancestors was Rev. John Lathrop (1584-1653), an early immigrant to
Massachusetts and leader for religious liberty.
While Nathan and John Joshua had been with Zion's Camp, father John
Tanner back in Bolton, New York, had fitted out seven families who had
joined the Church and sent them in 1834, some to Kirtland and some to
Missouri. He also sent money for the building of the Kirtland temple.
Nathan Tanner wrote that shortly after their family joined the Church,
"Our house was soon filled with the Saints, and Father soon found what
the Lord wanted of him. The gospel must be preached, the Elders must
be furnished, the poor must be gathered to Zion, and he went in to do
all he could."
As George S. Tanner wrote, "Generosity is more than
just being able to separate oneself from a few dollars, a piece of
property, or a gift; it consists in being interested in people and
wanting to help ... Like Will Rogers, John Tanner never saw a man he did
not like, nor did his family ... John Tanner was a neighbor to all the
world, and his hand went out to anyone in need." His generosity also
inspired others to give as they could.
Because of his extensive holdings in Bolton it took Father Tanner
some time to make all of the necessary arrangements and preparations
for all of his family to go west, but by the fall of 1834, John had
sold nearly all of his property in Bolton and was ready to move to the
Church headquarters the coming spring, together with most of the remaining
families in the area who had been converted to the Church.
But then about the middle of December he received an impression by dream or
vision of the night, that he was needed and must go immediately to the
Church in the west. He told his family of instructions he had received,
and forthwith made preparations for the journey. "His neighbors regarded
this to be an insane purpose on his part, and did their utmost to dissuade
him, but he knew it was the will of God, and nothing could deter him from
what he considered his duty." When they saw that his mind was made up,
apparently the other families who were planning to go in the spring, all
made preparations to leave immediately also. It seems that they looked
to John Tanner as their leader in both spiritual and temporal things; he
and his sons were all experts with teams, wagons, harnesses, and equipment;
also the Tanners all seem to have had natural leadership qualities.
On Christmas day 1834 they commenced their journey, a distance of 500 miles,
in the dead of winter and over very poor roads, but apparently the weather
was favorable, for they reached Kirtland about the 16th day of January 1835,
making the journey in 22 days (about 22.7 miles per day).
In a newspaper
article dated Dec. 2, 1971, in the Glens Falls, N.Y. Post-Star, highlighting
the history of the LDS Church in the area as researched by local members,
it says, "... one of the founding patriarchs was John Tanner of Bolton.
The church today can count among its numbers (approx.) 15,000 of his
descendants, including a great-grandson, Nathan Eldon Tanner, who is in
the first presidency of the Church at Salt Lake City ... (At Christmas
time) in 1834 John Tanner's family, in six wagons, along with ten
wagons of other members, formed a train in the rye fields where the
town filtration plant is now located, in back of the Bolton Episcopal
From here the wagon train (which included 45 persons in all,
according to the reminiscences of Elizabeth Beswick Tanner), set out
In the Prophet Joseph Smith's journal, Jan. 18, 1835, he wrote,
"Certain brethren from Bolton, New York came for counsel, relative to
their proceeding to the West; and the High Council assembled on the
18th. After a long investigation, I decided that Elder Tanner assist
with his might to build up the cause by tarrying in Kirtland; which
decision received the unanimous vote of the council."
It seems that Father Tanner had immediately come to inquire of the
Prophet when he arrived in Kirtland, to see if the Lord's word to him had
changed relative to proceeding to Missouri since the time he had sent his
sons in 1833. By his dream or vision, he knew he was needed by the Church
"in the west" but didn't know exactly where the Lord needed him. It sounds
like he was anxious to go to Missouri and help build up Zion! But the
Lord had other plans for John, for on his arrival in Kirtland, he learned
that at the very time he had received the impression by dream that he must
go immediately to the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith and some of the
other brethren had met in prayer meeting and asked the Lord to send them a
brother or brethren with means to assist them in lifting the mortgage on
the farm upon which the temple was then under construction. The mortgage
hanging over it was an obstacle which looked for a time as if it might
frustrate the work of building the temple, for which they had sacrificed
so much; the Saints were very poor and could not raise the money to pay
the mortgage, but they had faith that the Lord would provide a way (and He
On the second day of his arrival, by invitation of the Prophet,
John Tanner and his son Sidney met with the High Council (in the meeting
which Joseph mentioned above), where he was informed that the mortgage on
the temple block was about to be foreclosed. When he heard this, Father
Tanner gave the Prophet $2,000 and took his note for it, and with this
amount the block or farm was redeemed. Mr. Tanner also loaned $13,000 more
to the Temple Committee, Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon and Jared Carter.
This amount and that loaned to the Prophet were not included in his liberal
donations to the building of the temple. He also signed a note with Joseph
Smith and others for $30,000 of goods purchased in New York, and signed
other notes later for the Church. His open-heartedness was a very striking
proof of his confidence in the Prophet and his testimony of the truth
and importance of the work he had embraced. When the temple was finished,
he participated in the dedication, took part in the "solemn assembly" and
in the glorious gifts and manifestations of that memorable occasion. In
this, the first temple built in this dispensation, John Tanner received his
temple anointings (a partial endowment), along with some of his sons.
Nathan Tanner attended the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, where he
studied Hebrew. He said that it was generally held in the Kirtland Temple,
and "the Spirit of the Lord was daily felt."
All of the Tanners with their families had moved to Kirtland by
1835, with the exception of the two oldest sons, Elisha Bentley Tanner
and William Stewart Tanner and their families, who never joined the
Church and remained in New York. The third child, Matilda Tanner, had
married Jared Randall in 1829, and they came with the others to Kirtland,
but it is not known whether they ever joined the Church; more
likely they simply wanted to be near the rest of the family. They
stayed on in Kirtland after the Church left. Another brother, Martin
Henry Tanner, who was 10 at the time of the family's conversion, came
to Kirtland with the family and later to Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa,
and in 1844 (at age 22) he served a mission with his father and brothers,
but apparently at this time or shortly afterwards he moved back to New
York instead of going west. So of John's children who survived childhood,
four did not go west with the Church, but ten (nine sons and a daughter),
Two more children were born to John Tanner and Elizabeth in Kirtland:
Philomelia Tanner (1835-1838), and David Dan Tanner (1838-1918).
Dan was the last to survive to adulthood; two more children were later
born in Iowa, but died as children.
The nine sons of John Tanner who came west with the Saints were
said to be "a hardy race." They and their sister Maria Tanner Lyman
all became the heads of large families; the Tanner "Ten Tribes."
(They had an average of 16.5 children each. There are so many descendants
of these families now, that in 1976 they held a family reunion in
the Special Events Center at the University of Utah). The sons of John
Tanner, especially those of his third wife Elizabeth, were large,
standing well over six feet and weighing from 200 to 275 pounds, and
"they were strong in proportion. Even on the rugged frontier, these
sons of John Tanner were physical giants, not to be trifled with." It
is said Brigham Young once commented that when he had a tough job to be
done he tried to find a Tanner; they were of great assistance in helping
the Saints cross the plains, and were later sent out on several exploration
and colonizing missions, to California, Southern Utah, and Arizona. Many
of the Tanners worked in the freighting business between the various
settlements, and traveled back and forth bringing supplies and accompanying
people to Utah.
Myron Tanner wrote of his experiences crossing the plains that
"some of the brethren whose lives had been given largely to the ministry
were hardly familiar with team work (how to handle wagons and teams) and
many of those who were driving had little experience (and often got into
difficulties such as getting stuck in the mud) ... George A. Smith gave
over to me much of the responsibility of conducting the teams (in his
whole company) across the plains (even though Myron was only 21 at the
time), as I was familiar with horses and cattle, with which I had worked
all my life."
All of the Tanners had these skills, as well as those of farming, fencing,
building, and anything in which there was hard work to be done. They were
very hard-working, practical men as well as ambitious and enterprising,
and these skills served them well in pioneer life; they seem to have
prospered in everything they did, at the same time helping many other
families who were less skilled and less prepared to face the frontier.
They also seem to have been very strong-willed, and had qualities of
independent thinking, initiative, self-sufficiency, organization and
leadership, and intellectual capacity, which became apparent in the
succeeding generations. Other common traits of Tanner descendants are
generosity, appreciation and love for their fellow beings, and a desire
to be of service.
There was a longevity in the family as well. The
average age at death of the ten who came west was 82, which was quite
old in pioneer times; and two of them lived into their nineties. Among
their descendants are many who served in Church leadership; including
N. Eldon Tanner, Hugh B. Brown, Victor L. Brown, Franklin D. Richards,
Marion D. Hanks, and the Lymans: Amasa M. (son-in-law to John Tanner),
his son Francis M. Lyman, and grandson Richard R. Lyman, who were all
apostles. In addition, many Tanners have distinguished themselves in
the fields of business, law, education, medicine, government, and others.
Many Tanners have become quite well-off financially; although this has
proven to be a liability rather than a blessing to the great majority of
people from an eternal perspective, many of the Tanners seem to have had
the rare ability not to set their hearts upon their riches or become
prideful, but rather to stay humble and grateful, mindful of the Source
from whence all blessings come, and willing to use all they have in serving
the Lord and their fellow beings.
Louisa Maria Tanner married Amasa M. Lyman in June 1835 in Kirtland;
they had first become acquainted back in Bolton when he visited as a
missionary at their home in January 1834. According to their writings,
they both were given premonitions and a strong witness that they were to
become husband and wife, although neither of them spoke to the other about
it at the time. When they first met, Maria was 15 and Amasa was 20; he
had been disowned by his own family for joining the Church, and it seems
that the Tanner family took him under their wings.
As soon as he returned to Kirtland after serving in Zion's Camp and
assisting the Missouri Saints, Amasa Lyman and Maria Tanner were married
(10 June 1835, in Kirtland). Maria was then 16 and Amasa was 22 years old.
He left again five days after they were married, to continue his ongoing
missionary work, returning to Kirtland in the middle of December 1835,
where he attended the school of the prophets and stayed until after the
temple dedication in early April 1836. Maria lived with her parents'
family much of the time even after her marriage to Amasa, and he also lived
there himself when he was not away on missions. Later, when he entered
plural marriage, his plural wives and children were also left in the care
of Father Tanner much of the time, until after they crossed the plains.
All of the Tanners were very supportive, and gladly took care of things at
home and contributed hard work and means, so that others could do the work
of the ministry and other church service (although they too served missions
on many occasions; especially Nathan Tanner).
In mid-April 1836, Amasa M. Lyman together with Nathan Tanner and two
other companions were called on another mission to New York, where they
raised up a branch of the Church in Albion, Oswego County. In the Kirtland
newspaper "Messenger and Advocate," June 7, 1836, in the section "From our
Elders Abroad" it reads, "Elders A. Lyman and N. Tanner write us from
Portage, N.Y. under date of May 10th, that between that time and April 7th,
they had travelled three hundred and fifty miles, held twenty meetings,
and baptized six (so far); we use their expression when we say 'the sick
are healed, and the promises of the Lord are fulfilled unto us.'"
At the end of their mission Elders Lyman and Tanner also visited
Bolton, the former home of the Tanners, but made no new converts there.
Father John Tanner, who had been on a mission himself, to Vermont, also
met up with them in Bolton, and here Nathan Tanner on 29 June 1836 married
Rachel Winter Smith (Amasa M. Lyman performed the marriage). Father
Tanner and Amasa Lyman then returned to Kirtland together, while Nathan
Tanner remained with his father-in-law William Smith for a time. (John
Joshua Tanner may have also returned to Bolton, NY after serving in
Zion's Camp, to marry Rebecca Archibald Smith. The information we have
says they were married in Kirtland in July 1835, but since the rest of
her family was still in Bolton at this time, it doesn't seem likely she
would have come to Kirtland by herself, unless she traveled and stayed
with another member family.)
Later in 1836, Nathan brought his wife's parents William and Lydia Jane
Calkins Smith and their family to Kirtland. Amos Perry's family also came
with them. Amos was the husband of Emily Smith, another sister of Rachel
Winter Smith and Rebecca Archibald Smith.
The Perrys never joined the
Church, but Nathan tells of his brother-in-law giving money to the Prophet.
They arrived in Kirtland on a Sunday morning, just in time to hear the
Prophet Joseph speak at the morning service in the temple (the temple in
those days was also used for public meetings). The Prophet mentioned that
he had purchased a farm which lay in the bounds of the city, and had gone
on Saturday to pay for it, but the party refused his paper money from the
Kirtland Safety Society Bank, so Joseph had to raise the gold or silver in
three days or lose the purchase. He said if anyone had the hard money he
would be glad to get it so that he could make payment in the morning.
Nathan says, "My brother-in-law was struck with Joseph's remarks, and
when we came out of the temple he said to me, 'Nathan, what would you
do if you were in my place? You know I have the hard money.' Said I,
'I don't want to advise you, but you know if I had the money I should
lay it down.' He said, 'Well, I think I will if you will go and introduce
me to Joseph.' And he went to his wagon and pulled out a coin sack of
hard money, mostly silver -- I think about $3,000 -- shouldered it up,
and packed it into the temple, through the aisle the whole length of the
temple, and laid it down on the sacrament table before Joseph, and then
I introduced them. It seems that Joseph had the power to call money to
his aid when he needed to accomplish his ends, at will. I doubt whether
Mr. Perry ever got all his money back (he had been given Kirtland Bank
notes in exchange), but he was blessed, and raised a large family of
lovely children and left them plenty when he died."
Father Tanner and his sons were among those who contributed both
money and manual labor towards the building of the Kirtland Temple.
One of Joseph Smith's scribes recorded in his journal: "This day (March
7, 1835) a meeting of the Church of Latter Day Saints was called for
the purpose of blessing in the name of the Lord, those who have heretofore
assisted in building, by their labor and other means, the House of the Lord
in this place ... In the afternoon, the names of those who had assisted to
build the house were taken, and further instructions received from President
Smith. He said that those who had distinguished themselves thus far by
consecrating to the House of the Lord, as well as laboring thereon, were to
be remembered; and those who built it should own it, and have control of it.
After further remarks, those who had performed labor on the building, voted
unanimously that they would continue to labor thereon, till the house should
be completed. President Sidney Rigdon was appointed to lay on hands and
bestow blessings in the name of the Lord."
(John Tanner and his son Sidney were among the 119 brethren who received
blessings on this occasion).
In Kirtland, Father Tanner became known for his generosity towards
all, and his devotion and loyalty to the Prophet Joseph Smith. An entry
in the Prophet's journal for December 9, 1835, contains this item:
"Elder Tanner brought me half a fatted hog for the benefit of my family.
And whether my days be many or few, whether in life or death I say in
my heart, let me enjoy the society of such brethren. Signed Joseph
Nathan Tanner tells of receiving a blessing which he highly prized.
On April 6, 1836, he records the following: "I went with my father and
Brother Amasa M. Lyman, to Brother Joseph Smith's, and there under the
hands of Joseph Smith, Amasa M. Lyman and my father I received a father's
blessing. It was of great importance to me."
John Tanner had several grandchildren born while they lived in
Kirtland. Emma Smith Tanner (Sidney Tanner's third child) was born in
Kirtland in June 1835 (Sidney's first two children, Allan Benedict Tanner
and Lydia Tanner, had been born in Bolton, N.Y., in 1831 and 1832).
It appears that Sidney Tanner and family, along with John Joshua Tanner
and his bride Rebecca, moved to Missouri in the late summer or early
fall of 1835, while the other Tanners remained in Kirtland a few more
years. Maria Tanner and Amasa M. Lyman's first child, Matilda Lyman
(named for Maria's sister), was born in Kirtland in Nov. 1836. John
Joshua Tanner's first child, Lydia Jane Tanner, was born in Missouri at
the end of Nov. 1836. Also, Nathan Tanner's first child, Romelia Tanner,
was born in April 1837 in Kirtland, but she died as an infant. In
addition to these were Matilda Tanner Randall's children, and the other
grandchildren who were back in New York, giving John Tanner at least 15
grandchildren by this time. Eventually he would be blessed with 183
grandchildren and 845 great-grandchildren.
While they lived in Kirtland, Myron Tanner, according to his biography,
"asked for the privilege of going down to the bottoms below the Temple to
fish." He was about 11 years old at the time. He said, "One of the
neighbors had had a dream about me the night before. The dream troubled
him. It was a warning to him that I was likely to lose my life. His name
was Mr. Hales. In the afternoon he looked, he said, towards our house and
did not see any of the children around. He immediately went over the
street and called to my mother and asked where I was, to which she replied
that I had gone fishing. Without stopping a moment to say one word to her,
he ran a mile and a quarter and reached the dam, where I was in a dangerous
position likely to drown, and saved my life."
Myron also mentioned his profound reverence and respect for the Prophet
Joseph Smith. "He was a man among men," he said. "I express a feeling of
intense pride in the fact that my father and Joseph Smith bore a resemblance
to each other." (No one else has mentioned this resemblance, so perhaps it
was only in young Myron's opinion).
"At the time of the heavenly manifestations at the dedication of the
Kirtland Temple, Myron called his mother to behold the heavenly personages
he saw (on the roof of the temple)."
In Kirtland John Tanner, with his characteristic energy, put forth
his best efforts to assist the Prophet in sustaining the Kirtland Bank,
and bought up much of its paper or bank notes, but there was "a Judas
under the counter" and the bank went down in spite of all their efforts.
"While we strove to maintain the credit of the bank, others
strove to draw out all the specie and bank notes or other securities,"
wrote Nathan Tanner. Those who had stuggled hardest and invested most
were naturally the greatest losers, and Mr. Tanner was one of the foremost.
He had also given much to assist the poor and needy who had gathered to
Kirtland, many of whom asked Father Tanner for assistance because he was
well known for being generous and was supposedly wealthy (although he had
already given away most of his wealth by this time).
He had developed a nice farm a few miles outside of Kirtland. "John
Tanner was an energetic and intelligent farmer. His love for and
cultivation of the soil characterized his labors at each stopping place
in every exodus of the Saints," said one biographer. "John Tanner was
at one time rated the wealthiest man in the Church."
Mother Elizabeth wrote that, "Our substance was divided from time to
time for church purposes and to assist the needy, even my own personal
clothing. I divided until we were in very destitute circumstances, and
lived as poor as it was possible to get along with, our large family many
times lacking nourishment, as I felt the need of, to sustain myself through
sickness (pregnancy) and hard labor (work). I had two children during our
residence there. Our home was always open for the accommodation of the
people, as Mr. Tanner was much given to hospitality and never refused its
demands as long as we had a crust to divide."
After the Kirtland Bank failed, its paper money became worthless, and
Father Tanner was completely crippled financially; the other Tanners as
well. Nathan wrote, "I felt the (paper money) would all have to be
redeemed, and I was zealous in that matter, and sold all I had to redeem
the paper (notes). I sold my last team and wagon, my last cow, and the
watch from my pocket, and in this financial crush Brother Amasa and myself
were forced to prison."
Before the bank failed, Joseph Smith and others of the authorities
went to Canada to raise money "to redeem the Kirtland money that was
out." While they were gone, one of the seven presidents of the seventies,
John Gould, "got up an article for the paper, and had it laid before
the seventies for their sanction in the school room in the Temple. He
was going to have it printed up for the paper and sent out the next day
to the four winds." Since John Gould was one of the presidents, he had
quite a bit of influence. In this article he denounced the Kirtland
Bank, and in the meeting he called for a vote, to disfellowship and cut
off all persons passing or dealing in Kirtland money. The seventies
voted unanimously to sustain this action, except for Nathan Tanner, who
was only 21 at the time.
As he tells it, "President Gould said, 'There seems to be one opposing
vote; the boy in the midst of the congregation must have some objection.'
I arose and said 'I have some very grave objections. It is well known that
Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and John Taylor are now in Canada raising
money to redeem our bank paper and increase its circulation, and I cannot
raise my hand to cut them off. I realize the consequence; it would simply
be cutting off our own heads.' At this several arose and said they wished
to rescind their votes, and then Bro. Joseph Young, the senior president,
said, 'Hold on, hold on. I think we had better all rescind our votes.'
And it was done. I believe this was about the last official act of John
Gould's life.'" (He later went down to the gold rush in California and
died there of cholera).
Myron Tanner wrote, "Father (along with all of his sons) was intensely
devoted to the Prophet. Compared with the necessities of the Church and
the financial relief of the Prophet in the hours of his distress, money to
him was mere dross." The Tanners did all they could to keep the Kirtland
Bank solvent, and were not involved in the rampant speculation based on
greed and unsound financial principles, to make "fast and easy" money on
paper, as so many in Kirtland engaged in, contrary to the counsel of the
Prophet. This caused the bank to fail, and then afterwards they blamed it
all on the Prophet, as if he had been responsible instead of their own
greed and foolishness.
After the failure of the bank in Kirtland, pressure in the form of
religious persecution, from both apostate members and anti-Mormons, became
so unendurable that the leaders were forced to flee for their lives in
January 1838, under cover of night, and seek homes in the West. After the
leaders left, most of the Saints soon followed, and in the spring John
Tanner and his family set out on the journey of 1000 miles to Far West.
He had "tarried in Kirtland" as he had been counseled, and had given
all he had for the Lord's cause there, and was left with nothing.
Nathan says, "Father had signed on notes for the Church farm (and other
property) ... the Church could not pay anything. Father (still had some
property back in New York) and had to send to New York to his son-in-law to
sell his property there, and let Father have the money to raise these notes
that were given for the Church farm ... He had signed (other) notes with
Joseph and the Church which we took up after we came to Nauvoo or Iowa."
The Biographical Encyclopedia says in relating the story of the
financial disaster, "He (John Tanner) had an excellent farm and home
which were (legally) exempt to him from sale by law, and he could have
retained these and remained in Kirtland in comfort, but he had signed
for the church, and no financial promise of his had ever before gone
unfulfilled; nor would he now fail to meet his obligations (even) if it
took all he had. It was quite a change for Father Tanner; from a condition
of wealth in which he was enabled to assist many people and the Church in
general, he was left in a condition without means to assist himself, at the
age of 60 years. In a financial way he had staked his all on his faith,
the Prophet, and the Church, and had lost (but only temporarily)."
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray