Genealogy Trails

Jackson County, Illinois

The Autobiography of John Uriah Tanner

August 4, 1908

Donated by Gayle Putt

John Uriah Tanner, the subject of this sketch was born April 12,1839, in what is now Saline Co, Illinois, near the present village of Stonefort. I was the second of six children that were born to my mother and father. There were five boys and one girl namely: William S.; John Uriah; Francis M. (Marion); Pleasant E.; Louisa I. and James M. and a half brother, Tom , by my father's second wife and who was the youngest. My father was of Virginian by birth but came to Kentucky with his parents in childhood and when he had grown to manhood, came to Illinois and married Miss Penneta Carson, cousin to the well known Kit Carson of western notoriety (have been unable to prove this at this point-gp).   My parents were of English origin. My mother died when I was small and I was put in charge of my uncle for some two years till father married again to the widow Owen, formerly Miss Hayes.

Father, being a blacksmith, was of limited means and I had but little advantages for education as the only chance for learning was by subscription school in some old log cabin with goose quills to write with and hewed puncheon slabs for seats. A wood fire place, and a log sawed out on each side for windows. Our books were the old McGuffee's Speller and Ray's Arithmetic. There was no compulsion on the part of the parents so our school advantages were limited and small. After I was large enough to work, myself, with the rest of us small children would in the summer and fall dig pink root, Jimsonweed, snake root and read and yellow pecoon root for the trade at Shawnee-town or lllinois-town, then, our nearest market which was ready sale. All of the neighbors in the settlement did the same. Also deer skins, venison hams, and all kinds of furs, mink, coon, opossum, beaver and many other articles were taken to market for exchange. There was a certain time set, and a certain party to make the trip and the bill of which each party wanted in exchange. some wanted to exchange for so many hanks of black flax thread, some a gross of pants buttons, some a pair of cotton cards, some wool cards, sugar, coffee and if there was anything left, would add a jug of good old rye. After all the neighbors had brought in all their good to send, the trip was started. Generally two or three wagons would make the trip and would be gone two or three days. The neighbors would learn when the wagons returned and would gather in and get their portion of goods.

Our shoes were homemade and would last two or three years, as we only wore shoes in the winter. Each spring our shoes were thoroughly dressed up and greased and hung away till winter again. If they would be too small for me, they were handed down to the next younger, causing the older one to get a new pair of shoes every year or two at least. Our summer attire, was simply a homemade shirt of homespun flax or homemade cotton cloth made to strike our legs just below the knees. The sleeves were made like our coat sleeves of the present day, and oh, how slick the sleeves would get from the elbow down. Our hats were made of wheat or oat straw. Also, the horse collars were made of plaited shucks of corn. I would go to a mill and stay all day and take my turn for a sack of corn to be ground and when the corn was ground, the sack would be fuller of meal that it was of corn before grinding.

The country abounded with wild game of many kinds, and the woods were full of wild, as well as, tame hogs. Everybody killed what they needed for their own use as there was scarcely any market for it.

In the fall of 1854, father with five others, loaded their little belongings in their ox wagons and started from Indian Camp Springs in the eastern part of Williamson County, and started northwest. As it was the noted dry year, we suffered for food and water. I well remember one long day's drive, that we had no water and we had been all day out on the prairie and stopped at night to camp with no sign of water or timber that shown signs of streams. After night, mother got a clean table cloth and told father to go out in the prairie grass and drag it over the grass in the dew and wring it in a bucket and it wasn't long till we had all the water we wanted to drink and cook with. After about six weeks on the road, father drove into a little place of about one hundred people I guess, and rented a house and shop. this was in Apanoose County, Iowa. He went to work in the blacksmith shop, but as this country was so very thinly populated, he decided to go farther west and south. Se we loaded up again and went to Nodaway County in northwest Missouri and settled in Nodaway County on the Nodaway River. there, he put up a blacksmith shop and R.R. Russell built a water mill, another man put up a store and four other men put up a grocery, which we now call a saloon. So, we started a town of our own, which is now quite a railroad center on the North Mo. R.R., Quitman,. by name.

In the spring of 1859, my stepmother died and father broke up housekeeping and came back to southern Illinois bringing the small children with him. My two older brothers and I remained till the fall of 1860, when we also came back. Father had just married again to Elizabeth Cane, a widow, who is still living. I went to work for my uncle at his saw mill until the fall of 1881. In October 10,1861, I married Cynthia Clementine Eaton, daughter of William Eaton, living six miles east of Marion, Illinois. I stayed on my father-in-law's farm and made two crops, then, I bought forty-four acres of woods land which was located three miles east of Carbondale, Illinois; and built a small log cabin , moved into it and went to work in earnest, working in the shop and clearing land for several years. When a railroad was built from Carbondale to Carterville, I went to Carterville and began to work as a carpenter, and finally went into the furniture and undertaking business. After seventeen years, I sold out and bought a farm in Franklin County and farmed six years. I sold out again and moved to Benton, Illinois; when after living there one year we moved to DuQuom, Illinois; and remained there about two years. From there, we went to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where I went into the clothing business. From Cape Girardeau, wen went to Bloomfield, Missouri; and again went into the clothing business but on account of sickness, came back to Carbondale, Illinois; and went into the furniture and undertaking business. After three years living there, we moved to ElkviIle, IL, in September 1906 where I am now in the same business.

There were ten children born to my wife and I. Eight of them are still living. Two died while young. The eight that are surviving are namely: William Meredith, James Monroe, Annie Belle, Flora Elizabeth, Mary Ellen, Emma Catherine, Ida Jane and Rose Etta. All are married but Ida who is living at home. The two that are dead are Albert Brownloe and Myrtle Ollie.

My father was a member of Company C, 31st Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry under John A. Logan, and was honorable discharged. His widow still lives and is drawing a pension. She is 82 years old. My father died at Stonefort, Illinois in 1876. My grandfather was in the battle of New Orleans under General Jackson. My great grandfather was in the revolutionary war under General Marion, better known as the Swamp Fox and was 105 years old at his death.

I professed faith in Christ in the fall of 1861, at a Cumberland Presbyterian Camp Meeting in Williamson County and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian church.. later, in 1867, I was a charter member of the County Line Cumberland Presbyterian Church which is three miles east of Carbondale near my former home. I was one of the builders of the church which still stands there now, though, badly in need of repairs. There is a large cemetery there now. I have a loving brother, sister and two dear ones lying there. I was clerk of the church and an elder for sixteen years till I moved to Carterville, Illinois. I was granted a letter of dismission and recommendation to any church where God in his providence my cast my lot. After I settled in Carbondale, I cast my lot with the missionary Baptist church of that place with three others of my family. On coming to Elkville, we transferred our membership here. I am a strong believer in all Christians working together for those who love the Lord. I also believe that all truly converted Christians should join some orthodox church and be privileged to take part in the Lords' Supper or sacrament, regardless of name. As I grow older in years, may I grow stronger in the faith of my Lord and Master, whom I have been trying to serve for over forty years. May the path to glory grow brighter to the Perfect Day, and may I, with all my loved ones meet in heaven at last, is the humble prayer of the writer of these few lines.

Signed: John Uriah Tanner


Well, as the good Lord has spared my life to the present time, I will continue my story of my pilgrimage in this, my stay, as some of my dear one, if not all, my remember me after I am removed from here. My removal from Elkville back to Carbondale was in the summer of 1910, when I fell on the sidewalk near my home and it made a cripple of me for the remainder of my life. I have not been able to successfully attend to business since then, but have been trying to help the best I could to forward the cause in business for my family and friends. I have always been a very liberal giver to every cause of charity and benevolence. My wife and I still live in Carbondale where we have our membership with the First Baptist church and are trying to live a Christian life to the best of our knowledge and as the says and years go by and as we grow older, and as we are both going down the western slope of life, we have no desire to turn back.

The 21st day of April last, we visited our son, J. Monroe, in Gainesville, Texas and stayed till October 12, where we had a very pleasant visit with the family and his fine wife, Myrtle and their four dear children.

This is May 5,1914 and my wife and I are visiting our daughter, Flora and her good husband, William Edward Helms, and family in Jackson, Tennessee. We came here April 25th and are having a splendid visit, but as we are not getting old, we feel more at home in our childhood days. I am now going on 76 years old since last April 1~h. My good wife is almost 69 years old. We have been married fifty-three years this coming October 10th, 1914 and with all the trials and turmoil 5 of life, we have been a happy couple. We celebrated our Fiftieth Golden Wedding Anniversary in Carbondale, Illinois; October 10th, 1911. We received many beautiful gifts in gold and guest arrived all during the day to congratulate us. We also had an elaborate wedding dinner.

We have some 24-30 grandchildren, and three great grandchildren to date. I will name the children in our family and give the names of their children.

Meredith, our oldest son, was married twice; first to Hattie Bracey of Marion, Illinois. Two little girls, both died in infancy, were born to them. he married the second time to Dora Swofford, of DuQuom, Illinois. To them were born six lovely daughters namely: Maude, Effie, Edith, Mary, Ruth and Lacy. They reside in Logan, Illinois.

James Monroe, was married to Myrtle Tate of Thompsonville, Illinois and to them four children were born name: Pearle, Homer, Eugene and John. They are living in Gainesville, Texas.

Anna Belle, married to John Sherman Logan Dowell, and to them nine children were born, namely; John, Ethel, Lena, Myrtle, Sherman, Pansy, Euguene, Ruth and Charlie (deceased). John has a little daughter Christine. Ethel has a daughter, Evelyn, and Lena has a little daughter, Pauline. There are my three great grandchildren.

Flora Elizabeth married William Edward Helms of Benton, Illinois and to them were born five children namely: Celeste, Vivian, Albert (deceased), Robert (deceased) and Billie Tanner Helms. Flora's husband had been married before and he had three children by his first wife, namely: Lula, Walter, and Lillie. They are all living in Jackson, Tennessee.

Ellen married Edd A. Munday of Eastern Township, Illinois, and to them were born seven children, namely: Gilbert, Rose (deceased), Opal, Barney, Stanley, Robert and a little daughter that died in infancy.

Emma, married John Schwartz of Elkville, Illinois. To them were born three children namely: Mabel, Ruth and little Herbert who died in infancy. They lived in Elkville, Illinois. Emma's first husband passed away and she later married Bill Kimmel of Elkville, Illinois. No children were born to this union.

Ida, married Charles L. Haenny. To this union were born two children, namely: Charlene and George Monroe. This family resided in Carbondale, Illinois.

Rose married Edd A. Brown. To this union were born four children namely: Thurmena, Edward, Paul and Virginia. Rose divorced her first husband and later married Edd K. Martin of Toledo, Ohio. July 4,1915 at DeSoto, Illinois

I will endeavor to continue a brief history of my stay in this world of ours from May 4,1914. Since my last writing, I have been at Carbondale, Illinois; till last July 18th, when I came here and have been engaged in the furniture and undertaking business, but my health seems to be failing. I do but little business and while I sit alone and reflect and think of days gone by, it brings many sad thoughts, as was as pleasant ones to my mind and when I think of the times of my younger days and the many dear relatives and friends that have already preceded me to the great beyond, it makes me feel sad and lonely. I remember that the dear old County Line Church House, which is now large county and the church a much larger church, has been made since the organization of the church in 1868, where the house still stands in very good repair. After having been overhauled by the good people of the community where I have enjoyed so much Christian fellowship with so of the dear Christians, and as I am the last member of the church that is now living when the church was organized in 1868,1 am the only charter member left.

There were a few of the dear people that used to gather with us there. I will give a few of their names: J.S. Woods and wife, Martha; Thomas Stum and his wife, Julie, and their daughter; Joel Ward and wife, Julia; A.B. Bander and wife; Coy Baird and his wife; John Snider and wife' David Stancel and wife; William Holden and wife; James Holden and wife; Mrs. Baxter and family; Sammuel Painter and wife; Thomas Ruftin and wife; Thomas Keys and wife; all of them and many more that used to attend there are all gone. Mrs. Thomas Stum was the last of the charter member to go which was only a short time back, a month or so ago, and I am left to tell the story. I will say, that I was the leading cause of the founding of the church there. I was converted at the Cumberland Presbyterian camp grown six miles east of Marion, Illinois under the preaching in part by Louis J. Simpson, where I lived before I moved to my home three miles east of Carbondale, Illinois; where I bought apiece of timber land and built a log cabin 14 ft. by 14 ft. square, covering it with three feet boards and weighted the boards down with peal weights, chinked and daubed the cracks with mud and chinking that with scraps of wood and built a tick and clay chimney. ON going to bed, the last thing I did was to look up the chimney and see that it was not on fire. If it was, I would throw a few gourds full of water on it and see that the fire was all out before we went to sleep. But even if the house had burned, we had only a very small amount of household good. Our bedstead consisted of part of a fence rail about six feet long and one rail about four feet long, made round at each end and bored a two inch auger hole with a post to stand out in the floor, with two holes in it and two holes in the legs with some four feet body for bed springs and mattress with straw tick, two or three homemade chairs and a homemade table, a small board shelf in which we put our change of suits instead of a dresser. For a range cook stove, we used a skillet, kettle and frying pan, and no coffee. We used milk or water. After we moved into our nice little bungalow with all our house arranged as stated above, I met old Father L.J. Simpson, and gave him an invitation to come and visit us and preach for us sometime in the future, but not expecting a visit so soon. He consented to come that fall in 1888, and we built what we called a bush harbor out in front of my mansion using poles and covering the top with bushes to keep the sun out in the day and the dew at night. From that series of meetings, the start for a church was made. The next fall, we had another Harbor meeting, where the church now stands or near by. We had a large revival meeting and a great many conversions, so then we began to talk about building a church.

We employed Brother Simpson to sing and preach for us once a month. We would have preaching at my house when the weather was unfavorable out doors and in the fall of 1888, all the neighbors got together and went out into the woods near by and hewed sills, joists and studs and Mr. N.J. Thornton, J. S. Barrit and myself built the church house where there were many year of good Christian service, and where there were many made happy on their way to Glory, I feel sure.

As I live in less than a quarter of a mile from the church, my house was always open for the preachers and it seemed to be enjoyed by them as I always tried to make them feel at home.

In two or three years, by hard work, and energy, I arranged for me a nice little house and stayed there till I went to Carterville where the town started there, and you have a brief history of my stay there.

I am here at DeSoto, Illinois now, but don't know how long I will stay, but feel sure according to nature, not many more years or months, as I am nearing my 77th birthday and I am very nervous as you can see by my writing.

Signed: J.U. Tanner

J. U. Tanner passed away in February 1916 and was buried in Carbondale, Illinois.

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