Tanner Family -- Across Iowa


WEST ACROSS IOWA -- Father Tanner left about the middle of May to join the westwardbound stream of Latter Day Saints in their memorable exodus from Illinois. He also paid the expenses for the removal of two other families besides his own to Winter Quarters. By the time the Tanners had divided with the poor and then divided again, they were again left as bad off as all the rest. Nathan says, "Our families were there and helped the poor all they could. No Tanner was ever known to shirk in the days of hardship and trials."

Travel was very difficult and slow across Iowa, often in pouring rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Hosea Stout wrote that the horses would sometimes sink to their bellies. At the camp on Locust Creek on Apr. 6, 1846, a strong wind blew over a tree across "Brother Tanner's" wagon containing three people, but fortunately no one was injured.

Eliza Partridge Lyman wrote on May 26th: "Rainy morning. It is thought best for some of the families to stop here for the present and raise crops this coming summer. They have named the place Mt. Pisgah. Father Huntington is moving his family to a house he is building here, and will not move farther this year."
On June 2, wrote Eliza Partridge Lyman, "Brother Lyman has started back to meet his wife Maria and family. They are about thirty miles from here."
June 6th: "Brother Lyman has returned with his family and Father John Tanner and family."


Because of the incessant rains and muddy road conditions, travel across Iowa had been slow, and there were days and even weeks when they were unable to move their wagons at all. Many had left Nauvoo ill prepared; "there was an almost hysterical desire to be with the church leaders ... those least prepared to go were fearful of being abandoned and left to the mercy of their enemies. Consequently, they rushed out of the city and threw themselves on the mercy of the brethren, begging to be taken along" (According to Roberts' Comprehensive History of the Church).

The leaders had originally planned to travel all of the way to the Rocky Mountains in 1846, but because of the slow progress of transporting the whole Church in its state of poverty, it was decided to establish way-stations along the route. Garden Grove (145 miles from Nauvoo), and Mount Pisgah (172 miles from Nauvoo), were located, and plans were made to plant and grow crops.

By June 22, five hundred wagons had arrived at the Missouri River and some men were assigned to build a ferry. Many soon began crossing to the west side of the river, but it was not until Sept. 11 that a site was selected for Winter Quarters. Apostle Amasa M. Lyman with his wife Louisa Maria Tanner and family, in company with John and Elizabeth Tanner and the unmarried Tanner children, crossed to the west bank of the Missouri River on July 1 along with Brigham Young and the first group to cross.

On the 21st of July, two of John Tanner's sons, Albert and Myron (who were 21 and 20 years old), left with the Mormon Battalion on their march across the continent to San Diego. Myron didn't finish the march, dropping out with one of the sick detachments in Colorado, but Albert finished the march and was afterwards discharged in San Diego.
(Note: It is in the Mormon Battalion enlistment record where his full name is given as Albert Miles Standish Tanner; this was just discovered recently.

After the men of the Mormon Battalion had taken leave of the Saints in the summer of 1846, a number of families had been left without husbands and fathers, so Brigham Young appointed eighty seven men as special bishops who were to care for the families of the volunteers while they were in the service of their country, and to watch over and care for other needy families. Included in this group were John Tanner and his sons Sidney and John Joshua. These "compassionate bishops" had nothing to do with the presidency of a ward, but had a special calling to care for the poor, having shown their willingness to give their all in doing the Lord's will. All of the Tanner men were kept busy on the Saints' trek across Iowa, continually going back and forth on errands of mercy to fix wagons and harnesses, to trade with settlers for oxen and equipment, and to help those who were stuck or in need of teams or of food and supplies. After they reached Winter Quarters, John Tanner and some of his sons had been asked to herd the stock for the whole camp of Israel at "the Rushes", the herd grounds of the Saints northwest of Winter Quarters; this they did without any compensation.

On August 10 the Tanners went to Cutler's Park (two or three miles north of the Winter Quarters site), where they located "between Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young."


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

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