Monday, November 28, 2011

Seth Benjamin Tanner

Seth Benjamin Tanner was born March 6, 1828 at Bolton Landing, New York to John Tanner and Elizabeth Beswick.  Seth was four years old when his parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In his seventh year, the family moved to Kirtland Ohio.  He was ten when they moved to Missouri and twelve when the family settled in Montrose, Iowa.  The family left Montrose in 1846 when Seth was 18 years old and headed west to Utah.

Soon after Seth's father John died in 1850, Seth and his brother Myron decided to go to the gold fields of California to seek their fortunes.  George A. Smith, a Mormon apostle and long-time friend of the family gave the boys a yoke of oxen and a wagon for the journey.  Seth and Myron were succesful in California and with their first earnings, they sent George A. Smith $400 in gold.  This was three or four times the value of the team and wagon he gave them.

Seth married Charlotte Levi in 1858 in Pine Valley, Washington County, Utah, and they settled in North Ogden, and had seven children. She died in 1872, and after this Seth moved his family to Payson to be near other family members.

1870 Federal Census lists the Tanner family with 6 children

In 1875, Seth he was chosen to go on an exploring mission with James S. Brown to Arizona, to search out a suitable place for settlement on the Little Colorado River. He later returned to Utah and married Anna Maria Jensen in 1876, then moved his family to Arizona, to an isolated cabin on the Little Colorado River near Tuba City, on the present-day Navajo reservation. Apparently his cabin was on the main travel route and visitors often stopped over there. Wilford Woodruff mentioned it when on the underground, hiding out from the federal marshalls. Seth's second wife had no children of her own, but raised the children of Seth's first wife, in this lonely cabin in the wilderness. Seth Tanner apparently also helped with the Hole-In-The-Rock expedition for a time; he joined the expedition as a guide for the initial exploring party, guiding them up to the Bluff area after they had reached Moencopi in the Navajo country. The whole expedition would have been much better off had they followed the route which Seth showed them, instead of taking the insane "short cut" down through the hole and across the redrock country. This "short cut" took them 6 months, instead of the 6 weeks it took to go the "long way" around.

Seth got along well with both the Navajo and Hopi Indians.  He and his children learned their languages, and they called him by a Navajo name which meant "the man who is strong as a bear," and his children were known as the young bears. He was often appointed to deal with the Indians, having the ability of making friends with them.

Seth Tanner founded trading posts on the Navajo Reservation beginning in 1875.  Some of his ancestors have followed in his footsteps today. The Fifth Generation Trading Company sells handmade Navajo rugs, potter and jewelry.

Seth Tanner was a gentle, solitary man of the desert, and he did a lot of traveling and exploring through northern Arizona. He engaged in prospecting and mining in the area, but does not seem to have had too much success in these ventures. It is said that his name is somewhat of a legend in northern Arizona. A Wikipedia entry  mentions several natural features that were named after him.

Seth Benjamin Tanner died on December 3, 1918 and is buried in Taylor Arizona.  The location of the cemetery is N 34° 27.880 W 110° 05.880  Seth Benjamin Tanner is my 2nd Great Grandfather on the Goodman side of the family.

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1 comment:

  1. I came across your blog entry about Seth Tanner and thought you might be interested in some of the things I am posting on my blog about the Tanners and Foutzes in the early days of Tuba City. It is at

    Seth Tanner is also my second great-grandfather, through his son Joseph B. Tanner, Joseph's daughter Ann Tanner Pomeroy is my grandmother, and her daughter Francene Pomeroy Gooch is my mother. I'd like to share whatever Tanner records I come across with other cousins, so feel free to let others know about my blog. Thanks, Dayna