Sidney Tanner History
Sidney Tanner History By Loy K. Despain Sidney Tanner was born April 1, 1809 in Greenwich, New York, a village approximately forty miles southeast of Bolton Landing, which later became the home of his father’s family. His parents were John and Lydia Stewart Tanner. He was the fourth of 12 children born to Lydia. The family moved to Bolton Landing near Lake George in 1818 when he was nine years old. Within a few years his father John became a wealthy farmer. He owned two large farms, valuable timberland and several located on Beaver Creek. The combination of cash income from the sale of lumber products coupled with their own farm products, which supplied the needs of the family, soon raised the family to a position of comparative wealth. He also owned a hotel of some note. In 1830 Sidney married Louisa Conlee, daughter of James and Elsie or Alcy (Cole) Conlee. She was born the fifth of February 1811, making her two years younger than Sydney. She was the mother of eight of Sidney’s 22 children. Nathan, Sidney’s younger brother said of those days, “In those days women turned the wheel by hand or foot that spun our yarn and made our cloth. In this we were not behind. ‘We were a hard working and hard handed family’. None of our means was willed to us, but earned by hard work and economy. My father used to say he enjoyed accumulating property around him, and if it could be spent wisely, it would prove a blessing. If spent otherwise, it would prove a curse” When the Mormon Elders, Simeon and Jared Carter, brought the gospel to the Tanner family in the fall of 1832, Sidney and Louisa joined the church along with other Tanner members. Louisa and Sidney seemed to be happy members of the large John Tanner family. They joined the rest of the family in their move from St. George to Kirtland, Ohio at Christmas time in 1834. In Kirtland John Tanner gave his fortune to the Church to make sure the Kirkland Temple could be built and to assist during the time of the financial crisis there. The Tanners also put in almost half the money that paid the expenses of Zion’s Camp. It was for that generosity that has led to the tradition in the Tanner family that the Prophet promised John Tanner that his descendents would never go hungry. Sydney was present during the building of the Kirtland Temple and was one of those who “partook of the Pentecostal outpourings” at the Temple. Sidney left with his family for Missouri earlier than John and his younger brothers and sisters in order to assist in building up Far West. When his father John Tanner left Kirtland for Missouri his outfit consisted of one broken down stage horse a turnpike cart, twenty dollars in money and a keg of powder. This was a considerable change of fortune from when he arrived in Kirtland four years earlier a wealthy man. Sidney and his family were in Far West when his father and brothers arrived in 1837. Nathan’s journal and the history of Elizabeth Beswick Tanner, John Tanner’s second wife are the source of this account of the Missouri period. The Saints were trying to lead normal lives and gather the comforts of life around them. They were happy and began to prosper. At this Nathan says that the mob began to howl as usual. The Saints must not be allowed to prosper and be happy. As the mobs grew worse, people began moving into Far West from Clay, Ray and Vanburen Counties, swelling its borders. The mobs got worse and worse and even attempted to keep the Saints from voting in Galiton. The Saints insisted on the right to vote. Following this the mob gathered and burned houses and drove the Saints out in the night from one place to another. Nathan, and I am sure Sidney, were sent out to bring in the families that were scattered, or in the out settlements and guard those that could not be brought in. Nathan remembers that he stood picket guard in the storm and held his horse by the bridle and his rifle in hand, fearing that he would never see another rising sun but must perish at his post. Sidney and Nathan were in the company that took the cannon from the mob. Brother Amasa M. Lyman (Sidney’s brother-in-law) and Brother Dunn had been taken prisoners. They were abused by the mob and were made to ride on the cannon. Amasa’s arms were lashed to his body and he had only the use of them below the elbow to fend off any attacks. Two big ruffians were asked if they could cut a Mormon’s head off, and if so, they were to try him. They were later released and went into the camp to which Sidney and Nathan were assigned. A company was soon formed to go after the cannon. Nathan describes the scene, “The enemy was camped at one corner of a forty acre lot and we came to the opposite corner and divided our company, sending fifty men on each side of the field. We made a charge on their camp. The side Brother Sidney and I were on had been partly cleared. There had been log heaps piled up, and a second growth of young hickories had grown up. We had to ride in open ranks, so if they fired the cannon on us, it would take but little effect, as they could only hit one man. I well remember Brother Sidney as I rode by him through brush and over log heaps. He lost his hat and his thin white hair floated in the air as his horse leaped a log heap clearing twenty feet from where she rose. He was a young man, full of life and vigor, and he knew no fear.” The mob had buried the cannon but it was soon found. The cannon and a number of cartridges were hauled back to Far West. The mob continued to gather strength and the saints were forced to watch their stock as they killed their cattle and fed on their crops. Sidney’s father was captured by the mob. The captain first tried to kill him but his gun failed to fire. The misfire so enraged him that he swore calling him a -- -- Mormon and turned his gun and struck him on the head inflicting a severe wound near the temple from which the blood ran into his boots. Sidney and John were there when Joseph Smith and other leading men were brought into camp as prisoners. They heard the trial by the pretended court martial, and the order for shooting them. They also heard General Doniphan’s response, which saved the lives of the prisoners. A table was brought to the public square and the Mormons were marched up to it at the point of a bayonet, and required to sign away everything they had to pay the expenses of the mob that had driven them out. They then took their acknowledgement that it was their free voluntary act and deed. After signing, Nathan threw the pen down and said that it looked like a free volunteered act and deed – at the point of a bayonet as they were presented to us. He was immediately knocked senseless with the breech of a rifle. He later said they had taken our prophet and patriarch and sentenced them to be shot, and had required all they would find – anything against us to be given up or imprisonment or death. The rest of the saints could have their choice to leave the state in six months, or be exterminated – men women and children. Sidney and John were marched to Richmond a distance of thirty miles during severely cold weather and kept imprisoned three weeks where they suffered very much from cold and privation in company of sixty others. The following February in company with the rest of the Saints who were driven out of the country the Tanners traveled into Illinois finding a place twenty miles from Quincy where they stayed one year. Sidney joined with his father and brother John Joshua and went into Iowa near Montrose. There they took up land on the half-breed tract and made a large farm and began raising crops to assist the impoverished saints and to recoup their fortunes. In the six years they were there, they prospered and became “well fixed” again. Sidney may have performed his greatest service to church during the trouble in Missouri, the sojourn in Montrose and the trip to Utah. He has been described by one writer as a man “of marvelous constitutional powers.” He needed it during these trying years. He was thirty-one years of age when he came to Montrose and thirty-seven when they left for the West. These were times which tried men’s souls, and the Tanner men were brought up for just such times. They knew horses, mules and oxen and they knew how to keep a wagon and harness in repair. The six-year period of peace at Montrose permitted the whole family—John, Sidney, Joshua and Nathan to recover from the severe losses they had sustained in Ohio in rescuing the church from its involvement with the temple and the Kirtland bank. Consequently, when the church members began crossing the Mississippi River in early 1846 to the Iowa side, they found the Tanner Larders filled and their hands extended. From the journal of Nathan Tanner and Eliza Partridge Lyman, we learn some of the details of the aid given to the needy Saints who were forced from their homes before they were ready. The first camp of the emigrants at Sugar Creek was not far from the big Tanner farm, and their spare rooms and beds were filled with grateful friends and others who were made welcome. John Tanner gave a fat calf to Father Huntington, stepfather of Eliza Partridge Lyman, which he butchered for their use. Mother Tanner (Elizabeth Beswick) let her company use mincemeat and other ingredients to make pies. Albert Tanner hauled hay from the ample Tanner Stacks to feed stock at Sugar Creek. Mother Tanner gave Amasa Lyman twelve yards of fabric to line the wagon cover—it was February and was still pretty cold. The Tanners were among the last to leave the Mississippi River, as so many needed help and they had so much to give. When they did leave, they had the best teams and the best “outfits.” Sidney is mentioned repeatedly as not being with his outfit, as he is out rescuing someone who is stuck in the mud or who has lost an ox or mule or who is without food. Because of the compassionate service of John Tanner, Sidney Tanner and John Joshua Tanner, they were designated “bishops” by Brigham Young who had said that, if a man is willing that his property should by disposed of in any way the Lord directed, the Lord was willing he should be a bishop. The pioneers arrived on the Missouri River too late to plant crops in 1846. But they remained there all of 1847. This was an immensely busy year and good crops of corn and garden truck were produced. When the main body of Saints left Winter Quarters in the spring of 1848 for the Salt Lake Valley, they were better equipped, provisioned and disciplined than they had been two years earlier; and the trip across the plains was less eventful than the shorter trip across Iowa had been. The loss in human life from the Mississippi to the Missouri was sobering and even on the plains this was to continue. To add to Sidney’s grief of the loss of two infants in Iowa, he mourned the death of his wife Louisa at Winter Quarters on the Missouri and later of his son Sidney C. in 1848 on the trip to Utah. Sidney’s name appears more often in the journals and records during the two-year stay at Winter Quarters. “John Tanner, though still not old by present-day standards, is growing weary with the burdens of the outdoor life and is not well.” Sidney, the oldest son, moved in to fill the gap. Sidney is listed as the head of this or that group and in particular he managed the cattle of the camps. On August 7th or 8th, 1846, the Mormons created Cutler’s Park, Nebraska’s first and shortest-lived planned community, complete with a governing council, and even a police force. The settlement was three to four miles to the west of present day Florence. Sidney was elected as foreman of the 7th company of the new city. Because the local Indian tribes could not agree on a rent, the Mormons abandoned the city and moved to Florence completing the move by September 11. They left behind fenced areas, an improved communal spring, and about 800 tons of hay that would help supply the next group of pioneers on their journey west the following year. Sidney’s second marriage took place near Florence (Winter Quarters), Nebraska. On December 1, 1846, he married Julia Ann Shepherd, daughter of Samuel and Roxey L. Shepherd. She was born March 24, 1829 and was twenty years younger than Sidney—moreover she had not yet reached her seventeenth birthday. The marriage turned out well in spite of the difference in their ages and the youthfulness of the bride. Sidney and Julia Ann became the parents of eight children, seven of whom grew to adulthood. The Tanners arrived at Winter Quarters too late in 1846 to do any farming. But they stayed there through 1847 and used the year to grow crops and strengthen their animals and rebuild their wagons. As a result they were even better prepared to travel the remaining miles across the plains and mountains than they were when they left Missouri. The families of John Tanner and Amasa Lyman, his son-in-law, traveled with the Willard Richards Company. The family members included 31 Tanners and 13 Lymans. They took their departure from Winter Quarters June 30 and arrived in Salt Lake between the 10 and 19 of October 1848. The Tanners were assigned a square mile of land in the Salt Lake Valley between the Cottonwood Creeks, which in present numbering is about 6,000 south and thirteenth east, extending out toward the mountain to the east. It was rocky and sterile and hardly suitable for farming. After two years in this location, permission came to Apostles Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich to lead a colony to a suitable location in California. Sydney and his large family gladly joined the Lyman family and moved to California. Sidney was in the San Bernardino settlement between six and seven years. It was a busy time; because of Indian uneasiness, it was decided to build a fort. Sidney left his home and farm, which was some miles away, and united with the Saints in building the fort. When the uneasiness died down, he moved back to his large farm. Even though he had a large farm, he spent most of his time freighting. He was on a freighting trip near the Mountain Meadows when the very regrettable massacre took place. Participants in the massacre halted their freight wagons, and they were not permitted to pass the scene in the daylight but were routed away from the scene by night. He carried the frightful news to San Bernardino. Sidney was one of the prominent men in the San Bernardino mission. He was selected member of the county commissioners and sat on the stake High Council. When the call came from the church leaders to vacate San Bernardino, Sidney gave up his holdings and returned to Utah, settling in Beaver. Sidney seems to have been in charge of the large party which moved Apostles Lyman and Rich back to Utah at the time of their recall by Brigham Young. Sydney also freighted the first pipe organ to Utah which had been donated to the Saints by the church members in Australia. Leaving San Bernardino was in many respects like leaving the Garden of Eden and going out into the cold, cold world. Beaver was a newly formed community, suitable for grazing, with timber potential. He acquired considerable acreage, possibly as much as a section (640 acres) on which he maintained dairy cows, sheep and hogs. He also grew alfalfa and grain, as well as garden truck. Sidney became a partner with Jesse N. Smith and others in establishing a lead mine near Minersville, a town a few miles west of Beaver. The lead was used for bullets and as a medium of exchange for labor and merchandise from 1859 to 1870. Sidney also won a contract to haul the black rock from nearby mountains to be used in building Fort Cameron which was established in Beaver in 1873. My great grandfather Henry Tanner took a freighting trip with his father Sidney some time in the early 1860’s. The highlight of the trip for him was that for the first time he saw a fire lit by a match. The Tanners were still using flint and steel to start their fires. Sidney married, a third wife, Rachel Neyman in Beaver in 1859. There were six children born to Sidney and Rachel, only two of whom grew to maturity and married. In 1861, Sidney responded to a call by Brigham Young to be a part of what came to be known as the “Down and Back” wagon trains. This was another effort by Brigham Young to find an inexpensive way to get the immigrant poor across the plains. He had first tried to do it with handcarts but they didn’t work really well and had its problems. By 1861 he had learned that wagon trains leaving Salt Lake could go to the states and back in a single season. With that information, Brigham Young prepared for the 1861immigration season by asking each of the wards in the territory to provide teams, wagons, drivers and supplies to make the trip to Omaha and back to provide transportation and provisions for those too poor to provide their own. In late April of 1861, 200 Church Train wagons with 2,200 oxen and some mule teams carrying 150,000 pounds of flour (the flour was dropped at four way stations to be retrieved on the return trip) left Salt Lake to travel to the Missouri River, to” bring in the poor”. Sidney Tanner was among them with his big mule teams. Because his Mule teams could travel faster than the ox teams, it appears that he was left behind after the other “down and back” trains had started for Salt Lake, to pick up the stragglers. When he finally left on July 20, he was 16 to 20 days behind the others. According to the journal of William Hart Miles, a member of the company, Sidney’s train traveled many days close to 30 miles. Before the end of July he was passing other trains. He made the return trip in just over seven weeks arriving in Salt Lake September 11 arriving before all the ox drawn “down and back” trains. Sidney lived out the rest of his life in Beaver. He was a substantial citizen with financial holdings above average. He had interest in woolen mills, sawmills, a mine and cattle herds in addition to his farms. He was a counselor in the Ward Bishopric and later a member of the Stake high Council. In 1884, at a Tanner family gathering in Payson, he was called by Apostle Francis M. Lyman to be a patriarch to the Tanner family and the people of the Beaver area. He was seventy-five at the time and the apostle promised him he would have an additional ten years of life. He died in 1895 at the age of eighty-six and is buried in Beaver. Sidney was the father of twenty-two, fourteen sons and eight daughters. Fourteen grew to maturity and married.