WEST ACROSS IOWA
THE PROMISED LAND
SETTLING THE WEST
JOHN JOSHUA TANNER
ELSIE TANNER LANT
Tanner Family -- Winter Quarters
WINTER QUARTERS --
On August 1, Hosea Stout recorded in his journal that his teams
were too weak to pull his wagons to the top of the bluffs on the west
side of the river, since they had not yet eaten. They had spent the
night in a narrow ravine. Another company came up from the river, and
Brother Stout was hopeful that someone would help him up the hill, but
he was disappointed when they just asked him to move his wagons out of
the road so they could pass. Soon the wagons were backed up clear to
the river, but still no one would help Brother Stout, until John Tanner
came, and he with his teams helped Brother Stout take his wagons up to
Cold Spring Camp on top of the bluffs.
The "Camp of Israel" was soon organized into companies, and on August
12, "Sidney Tanner was chosen as foreman of the seventh company." Five
days later, "John Joshua Tanner and eight others were given permission
to join themselves to Amasa M. Lyman's company." When it became apparent
that it would be best to remain at the Missouri River for the winter,
the Saints began to get themselves organized and began
building fences and cabins, although most were still camping in their
wagons and tents for several months. At Cutler's Park some concerns
arose for their safety and their relations with the two local Indian
tribes, so the decision was made to abandon their settlement there, and
they moved to Winter Quarters near the ferry site on Sept. 11, 1846,
where they began all over again building cabins for the winter.
In the "Nebraska Manuscript" there are more interesting items concerning
John Tanner and other members of his family. On Sept. 6, 1846,
"It was voted that all the cattle be sent to the herd except the milch
cows and teams in use. John Tanner was appointed to take the oversight
of the cattle on the range. Arrangements were made to notify the
respective divisions for the removal of all the cattle simultaneously."
On Sept. 12, 1846, "The marshall was instructed in a meeting of the
High Council to see that sufficient lumber was sawed to make coffins,
and that the foremen of each division send two men to help John Tanner
repair the miry road." On Sept. 13, 1846, John Tanner reported to the
council that the cattle were doing well and getting fat.
A census taken on Dec. 20, 1846 furnishes the following facts:
Winter Quarters consisted of 538 log houses and 83 sod houses, inhabited
by 3,483 souls, of whom 334 were sick (many had already died by
this time); and 75 were widows. There were 814 wagons, 29 mules, 388
yoke of oxen and 462 cows (a much greater number of livestock were up
north at the herd grounds and were not included in this count). Winter
Quarters was divided into 22 wards, each presided over by a bishop. It
is said that during the winter of 1846-47 another 2,500 Saints were
camping on Pottawattomie Indian lands on the east side of the Missouri
River; an estimated 700 were at Mt. Pisgah; 600 at Garden Grove; at
least 1000 were spread throughout other parts of Iowa; and 500 were in
the Mormon Battalion on their way to California. Many Saints gathered
for the winter in Mississippi River towns; the Mormon population in St.
Louis swelled to 1500. In total, about 12,000 Church members were
scattered throughout the country; never had the Church's membership been
so scattered and so poorly housed. The phrase "Zion in the wilderness"
aptly describes the Church's difficult situation during the
winter of 1846-47.
The Tanners had their share of tragedy at Winter Quarters, where so
many of the Saints perished. Sidney Tanner's family suffered the heaviest
losses. His wife, Louisa Conlee, died near Winter Quarters Sept. 29, 1846
at age 35; and her baby Mason Lyman Tanner (b. 1 July 1846, on
the road in Iowa) died eight weeks following his mother. Another son
of Sidney's, James Monroe Tanner, a toddler of 15 months, had earlier
died on the trek across Iowa, at Richardson's Point, Iowa on 17 Mar
1846. (In 1988 his grave and a few others were found and marked, as
reported in the Church News). Eliza Partridge Lyman, one of the plural
wives of Amasa M. Lyman, gives a vivid description of her feelings at
the loss of her baby. She and her sister Emily had both been previously
sealed in Nauvoo to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the order of celestial
marriage (they lived with the Prophet's family for about three
years after the death of their father Edward Partridge), and then after
Joseph's martyrdom, Emily was married to Brigham Young, and Eliza to
Amasa M. Lyman, together with her other sister Caroline and later her
sister Lydia also.
This was Eliza's first child and was born 14 July, 1846 in a wagon
box near Winter Quarters, assisted by midwife Patty Sessions. Since
Eliza's experience was similar to many others, she is quoted to some
July 14 "My first child was born here in a wagon. I have named
him Don Carlos. I am very uncomfortably situated for a sick woman.
The scorching sun shining upon the wagon through the day and the cool
air at night is almost too much of a change to be healthy."
Aug. 9 "Since I last wrote I have been very sick with child-bed
fever. For many days my life seemed near to end. I am now like a
skeleton, so much so that those who have not been with me do not know
me till I tell who I am. It is a fearful place to be sick with fever
in a wagon, with no shade over us except the cover, and a July sun
shining every day. All the comfort I had was the pure cold water from
the spring nearby. But the Lord preserved my life for some purpose,
for which I thank Him. My babe, in consequence of my sickness, is very
poor, but as I get better, I hope to see him improve. We left the
spring and went up the river about 12 miles."
Sep 22 "Don Carlos ten weeks old today, and as bright a little
fellow as ever was."
Sep 26 "Removed to our winter quarters on the banks of the Missouri
Sep 28 "The wind blows very hard, several tents were blown down.
Received a letter from Mother (in Mt. Pisgah). Bro. Sidney Tanner
removed from the bluff to the river bank."
Sep 29 "Brother S. Tanner's wife Louisa died, leaving a babe three
Sep 30 "Sister Tanner buried. Father and Mother Tanner here,
stayed all night."
Oct. 1 "Brother Lyman and other brethren gone up the river to cut
Oct. 3 "Brother Lyman and company came home with a raft of house
logs, the first that has been brought here."
Oct. 5 "Brother Lyman and others went up the river for more logs."
Oct 14 "Don Carlos is three months old today and weighs 11
Oct 15 "We have taken possession of our log house today. The
first house my baby has ever been in. I feel extremely thankful for
the privilege of sitting by a fire where the wind cannot blow it in
every direction, and where I can warm one side without freezing the
other. Our house is minus floor and many other comforts, but the walls
protect us from the wind, even if the sod roof does not from the rain."
Oct 25 "My hair has nearly all come out, what little is left, I
have had cut off. My head is so bare I am compelled to wear a cap."
Nov. 9 "Daniel W. Clark died this morning aged 3 weeks; he was the
son of Daniel P. and Sarah M. Clark who were living with me."
Nov 14 "Don Carlos weighs 13 pounds, having gained two pounds during
the last month. He is a great comfort to me."
Dec. 6 "My baby sick and getting worse; has cried all day, but I
cannot see what ails him."
Dec. 12 "The baby is dead, and I mourn his loss. We have done the
best we knew how for him, but nothing has done any good; he continued
to fail from the time he took sick. My sister Caroline (also a plural
wife of Amasa) and I sat up every night with him and tried to save him
from death, for we couldn't bear to part with him, but we were powerless
... The Lord took him and I will try to be reconciled to His will,
and think that all is for the best. He was my greatest comfort, and
nearly always in my arms. But he is gone and I cannot recall him, so I
must prepare to meet him in another, and I hope, a happier world than
this. I still have friends who are near and dear to me. If I had not I
should wish to bid this world farewell for it is full of disappointments
and sorrow. But I believe there is a power that watches over us and does
all things right. He is buried on the west side of the Missouri River
on the second ridge back, the eleventh grave on the second
row counting from right to left; the first row being fartherest from
the river. This will be no guide, as the place cannot be found in a
few years ..."
Eliza R. Snow, upon hearing of the loss of her friend's baby, wrote
in her journal, "O Lord, comfort the heart of the mother in this sudden
bereavement." She later wrote a poem for her friend Eliza Lyman:
Belov'd Eliza, do not weep
Your baby sleeps a quiet sleep
Altho' in dust its body lies
Its spirit soars above the skies.
Sweet was its visit, but its stay
On earth was short -- 'twas called away
By kindred spirits to fulfill
Its calling & Jehovah's will.
Then soothe your feelings -- do not mourn
Your noble offspring will return,
With all its loveliness again
And with its friends on earth remain.
(Eliza Partridge Lyman later became the mother of four more children:
2. PLATTE DeALTON LYMAN,
her second son, born 20 Aug 1848 on the banks of
the Platte River near Ft. Laramie, Wyoming,
became the assistant captain of the Hole-In-The-Rock
expedition in 1879.
He died 18 Nov 1901 at Bluff, San Juan County, Utah.
3. CAROLINE ELIZA LYMAN,
born 1 Aug 1851 in Salt Lake City,
married Thomas Callister,
died 20 Mar 1879 at Oak City, Millard County, Utah.
4. JOSEPH ALVIN LYMAN,
born 13 Dec 1856 in Salt Lake City
(also a member of the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition),
died 18 Dec 1925 at Mayfield, Sanpete County, Utah.
5. LUCY ZINA LYMAN,
born 26 Aug 1860 in Salt Lake City,
married Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr.
(another member of the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition),
died 4 Jan 1930 at Blanding, San Juan County, Utah.
As for John Tanner, in addition to the persecutions, trials of his
journeys and his losses and hardships in various forms, he was also
tried by fire. About the middle of January 1847 his house and three
wagons with covers, used for sleeping rooms, supplies of provisions and
groceries, and most of the family wearing apparel were destroyed by
fire; little was saved but a portion of his bedding. "His noble mind
and persevering energies showed themselves superior to these misfortunes
also," even though his family was left with virtually nothing, in the
midst of winter and the very primitive conditions of Winter Quarters.
John's wife Elizabeth wrote, "We were camped out at Winter Quarters
where we had our cabin where we had most of our things burnt. The boys
on the range with the cattle had some bedding which was saved -- but
the chest containing my clothing with many other things were burned. I
was left without a change of clothing except print for one dress."
Their neighbors must have pitched in to help all they could, and they
came through all right.
In the spring John Tanner assisted in fitting out the first pioneers
to the Rocky Mountains, but he himself did not go that year. He opened
up another farm near Winter Quarters, at a place called the "old chimnies,"
and raised a good crop of corn and other things, which were much needed
by the Saints preparing to go to Salt Lake. While Brigham Young and his
picked company toiled over the prairies and mountains in 1847 seeking a
new home for the Saints, John Tanner and his sons and their neighbors
worked equally hard attempting to raise needed supplies for the general
migration which would come.
John's daughter Maria Tanner Lyman wrote a
letter from Winter Quarters to her husband who had gone with Brigham Young
and the first pioneers (as mentioned, all of Amasa M. Lyman's wives and
children seem to have been sometimes left in the care of Father Tanner,
since Amasa was usually away on Church assignments). Maria wrote to her
husband that "your Ladys" (Amasa's seven plural wives) were all in good
health, and that Sidney Tanner and Daniel P. Clark were also at her
father John Tanner's place; the women were "making cheese, gardening,
carding and spinning, doing house work, sewing, knitting, washing, soap
making, & in fact anything that comes to hand."
In the summer of 1847, when he was nearly 70, John Tanner had a
thrilling adventure with Indians near Winter Quarters. The following
account of this marvelous circumstance is from the journal of Jane Grover
(afterwards Sister Stewart). Jane had been born in 1830 in New York
State, so she was 17 years old at the time of this incident. She
"One morning we thought we would go and gather gooseberries.
Father Tanner (as we familiarly called the good, patriarchal John
Tanner) harnessed a span of horses to a light wagon, and together
with two other young women and his little granddaughter, we started
out. When we reached the woods we told the old gentleman to go to
a house which was in sight and rest while we picked the berries.
It was not long before the little girl and I strayed some distance
from the others, when we suddenly heard shouts. The little girl
thought it was her grandfather, and she was going to answer, but I
restrained her, thinking it might be Indians. We walked until
within sight of Father Tanner, when we saw he was running his team
around. As we approached we saw Indians gathering around the wagon,
whooping and yelling as others came and joined them. When he
saw us approaching, Father Tanner drove over and we got into the
wagon to start, when four of the Indians took hold of the wagon
wheels to stop the wagon, and two others held the horses by the
bits, and another came to take me out of the wagon. I then began
to be afraid, and asked Father Tanner to let me get out of the wagon
and run for assistance. He said, "No, poor child, it is too late!"
I told him they should not take me alive. Father Tanner's
face was white as a sheet. The Indians commenced to strip him of
his belongings. They had taken his watch and handkerchief, and
others were trying to pull me out of the wagon. I began silently
to appeal to my Heavenly Father. While praying and struggling, the
Spirit of the Almighty fell upon me and I arose with great power,
and no tongue can tell my feelings. I was as happy as I could be.
A few moments before, I saw worse than death staring me in the
face, and now my hand was raised by the power of God, and I talked
with those Indians in their own language. They let go the horses
and wagon, and stood in front of me while I talked to them by the
power of God. They bowed their heads and answered yes in a way
that made me know they understood. The little girl and Father
Tanner looked on in speechless amazement.
I realized our situation,
for I was given to know the Indians' thoughts. Their calculation
had been to kill Father Tanner, burn the wagon, and take us women
prisoners. This was plainly shown to me; but they were convinced
by the power of God manifested through me, to change their minds.
When I stopped talking, they shook hands with all three of us and
returned all they had taken from Father Tanner, who gave them back
the handkerchief, and I gave them berries and crackers. By this
time the other young women came up and we hastened home. The Lord
gave me a portion of the interpretation of what I had said, which
was as follows: 'I suppose you Indian warriors think you are going
to kill us. Don't you know that the Great Spirit is watching you,
and knows everything in your hearts? We have come out here to gather
some of our Father's fruit. We have not come to injure you, and
if you harm us or injure one hair of our heads, the Great Spirit
will smite you to the earth, and you will not have power to
breathe another breath. We have been driven from our homes and so
have you. We have come out here to do you good, not to injure you.
We are the Lord's people and so are you, but you must cease your
murders and wickedness. The Lord is displeased with it and will
not prosper you if you continue in it. You think you own all this
land, this timber, this water, all these horses; why, you do not
own one thing on earth, not even the air you breathe. It all belongs
to the Great Spirit.'"
(Jane Grover was the daughter of Thomas Grover and Caroline Whiting of
New York. Jane married James Wesley Stewart in 1850, in California.
Her father and her husband were both members of the first pioneer company
of 1847, and they were sent on a mission with 30 men to California
in 1848 to buy cattle and then work in the gold fields, to settle some
Church debts. After marrying in California, Jane and her husband moved
back to Utah and settled in Farmington. They were endowed and sealed
in the Endowment House in Salt Lake 27 June 1860. Jane Grover Stewart
died in 1873 in Farmington, Utah).
As an interesting sidelight: there was another man by the name of
John Tanner (1780?-1847?), a contemporary with our ancestor, who was
very involved with the Indians, although he doesn't appear to be closely
related, if at all, to our Tanners. He was the son of a Kentucky pioneer
family, and was taken captive by the Indians at the age of 8, by a
raiding party from the north. The Indian who captured him kept him for
two years at the Ojibwa-Ottawa Indian village of Saginaw (Michigan),
and then traded him to an Ottawa woman, who accepted him as a
son. For nearly 30 years this John Tanner lived as an Indian in the
Ojibwa country between Lake Superior and Lake Winnepeg, marrying and
raising a family as an Indian.
Around 1820 he began to make efforts to
regain his identity as a White man, and for several years moved back and
forth between Indian and White society, finally settling as a government
interpreter at Sault Sainte Marie. Unable to adjust psychologically to
his divided heritage or overcome the social barriers
thrown up against him, Tanner was in constant conflict with both his
White and Indian associates, none of whom could trust him to be one of
In 1830 a book about his life, entitled A Narrative of the
Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner During Thirty Years' Residence
Among the Indians of the Interior of North America, which he wrote in
cooperation with Edwin James, was published (Reprinted by Ross and
Haines, Minneapolis, Minn., in 1956). This book is called "one of the
most significant Indian captivity accounts, recounting in a frank and
intensely personal way the situation of those trapped on the border
between two cultures but belonging to neither world; it is also an
important ethnographic source." (HANDBOOK OF NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS by
the Smithsonian, vol. 4, pp. 689, 794)
Returning to the story of our ancestor John Tanner (1778-1850):
John Tanner had five grandchildren born in Winter Quarters or Florence,
Nebraska, or across the river in Kanesville or Council Bluffs, Iowa:
Sidney's daughter Julia Ann Tanner, born in 1848 (the first
child of his second wife Julia Ann Shepherd; she was 17 when Sidney
married her, two months after the death of his first wife Louisa); John
Joshua's children John Henry Tanner, born in 1847, and twins
Elsie and Edwin, born in 1849; also Nathan Tanner's
daughter Rachel Winter Tanner, born in 1848. There were more deaths in the
family also: John Joshua's daughter Cynthia Maria Tanner, age 2, died at
Winter Quarters in 1848, and his son Edwin died at birth. Also Maria
Tanner Lyman's daughter Ruth Adelia, age 4, died in 1848, in addition
to the deaths in Sidney Tanner's family, mentioned previously.
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra Shuler Bray