Jefferson County, NY Pioneers



ASHLEY TANNER has been recorded as a pioneer of Orleans, Jefferson Co., NY, but he spent most of his life in Alexandria, Jefferson Co., NY. Unlike most father-son migrations, Ashley moved to Jefferson County from Otsego Co., NY in February 1819 with his father, Deacon Benjamin Tanner, who also came from Otsego Co.

Deacon Benjamin Tanner was affiliated with the Baptist Church in Otsego as early as 1806. He was born in 1758 in Massachusetts, and married on 31 March 1791 at Worthington, MA to Polly Pettengel. She was born 28 June 1774 at Worthington, Hampshire Co., MA, daughter of Edmond Pettengail of Bridgewater and Sarah Curtis of Stoughton, MA. Edmond and Sarah declared their intent to marry at Stoughton on 27 Dec. 1760 and married on 15 Jan. 1761 at Bridgewater, MA. There is a question as to the date of birth and parentage for Deacon Benjamin Tanner. His tombstone shows a death date of November 1839, at 81 years, which would make his date of birth approximately 1758. A printing error occurred in the histories of Jefferson Co., wherein they have his date of birth much later. Polly, wife of Benjamin died on 18 March 1866. Both are buried in the Tanners Corners Cemetery. After Benjamin died, Polly went to live with son, Ashley, and his family, which is apparent in the 1850 Alexandria census. Deacon Benjamin Tanner was a well-known carpenter by trade and has been noted as the first carpenter north of the Black River in Jefferson Co. It seems his religious preference encouraged him to build the first church building in the area and also to organize the first Baptist Church and burial ground. It is said that Benjamin and Polly were the parents of 15 children; six of them died in infancy. The Probate Court of Jefferson County has a meager file on the death of Benjamin Tanner. He died without a will and on 10 April 1846, Jeremiah Tuttle filed a petition regarding the estate. Jeremiah mentioned that 18 months had passed since letters of administration had been assigned to the widow, Polly Tanner, and he wanted an accounting of the estate. Nothing else was in the file. It should be noted that Jeremiah Tuttle died September 1872, at 78 years, 8 months and 11 days. His wife was Minerva Tanner who died 1 September 1888 at 88 years, 3 months and 11 days. Minerva has been listed as a daughter of the pioneer Tanner family.

Ashley Tanner, Benjamin and Polly's eldest son, was born in Tyringham, MA on 26 April 1793. While he was a resident of Otsego County, he married on 4 January 1816 to Susan Smith. She was born 30 March 1796 in Otsego County and died 13 June 1864 at 68 years, 2 months and 14 days. Both are buried in the Tanner's Corners Cemetery. It is an established fact that Ashley served as an assessor in Alexandria for several years. It was in February 1819 that Ashley and his family, Benjamin and Polly, and six other families shoveled snow for five miles to reach their destination in Jefferson County. A log cabin was hastily erected with a central fire to keep them from freezing. On the following morning, six inches of snow on the floor of the cabin was testimony to the outside conditions. For 18 years they kept a hotel, which was the first hotel north of the Black River. Ashley also carried provisions and black salts. (Black salts were potash made from ashes of burned trees.) Ashley has been credited with the survey of all the roads in Alexandria and Orleans. For a short time he was in the lumber business with D. C. Calvin.

Ashley Tanner's will was filed in Jefferson County, NY. On 23 February 1867, David J. Dewey of Orleans, Jefferson Co., was named executor and petitioned to open probate. Ashley's heirs and next of kin named in the petition were:

Melvin S. Tanner (b 1818)
Julius Tanner (b 11 March 1831, died 1 April 1893; wife: Marion Meroa Dewey)
Jane Ann Parker (b 13 Nov. 1824 and died 10 May 1899; married Harvey D. Parker on 27 Jan. 1840)
Julia Dewey
Celia M. Drake - all of Alexandria except Julia who was of Orleans, NY
Candace Dewey, Winfield Dewey, children of Angeline Dewey, a deceased daughter (Angeline b 22 Jan. 1826 and died 14 Aug. 1851)
Alice C. Dewey and Etta A. Dewey, children of Cornelia Dewey, a deceased daughter, of Watertown (Cordelia b 29 Dec. 1828 and died 11 Feb. 1857. Sisters, Angeline and Cornelia Tanner married Hiram Dewey; Angeline married Hiram on 17 March 1846 and Cordelia married him in March of 1852)
Arthur Tanner, Frances S. Parker, Addison A. Tanner, children of Edwin Tanner, a deceased son, all of Theresa, NY. (Edwin H. Tanner died 4 May 1853 at 33 years, 4 months. His wife, Derrinda V., died 21 August 1864 at 53 years, 11 months, 4 days.)

In his actual will, Ashley first named his grandchildren: Candace Dewey, Winfield Dewey, Alice C. Dewey and Etta Adell Dewey, all children of Hiram Dewey of Orleans, NY. He named grandchildren: Arthur Tanner, Addison A. Tanner and Frances S. Parker, wife of John Parker, of Alexandria, who were children of his son, Edwin Tanner, deceased. His three daughters named were: Jane Ann Parker, widow of Harvey D. Parker, late of Alexandria; Julia Dewey, wife of David J. Dewey of Orleans; Mary C. Drake, wife of Dexter Drake of Orleans. The will was dated 11 July 1864 and proved on 8 March 1867.

Mary C. Drake, wife of Dexter Drake of Orleans, was bc 1840 and married Dexter 21 June 1864.

In reviewing land deeds for Otsego Co., NY, it is apparent that Benjamin Tanner (Deacon) bought land. He made purchases in 1804, 1807 and 1819. On 15 Feb. 1819, Benjamin Tanner and wife Polly, and Ashley Tanner and wife, Susan, of Butternuts, Otsego Co., NY, sold a parcel that included all of the land that he had purchased, being his home farm. The parcel was sold for $2,173 to James LeRay de Chaumont of LeRay, Jefferson Co., NY. The deed was recorded 15 Feb. 1819. (Otsego Deeds, Vol. Z, p. 5)

The 1820 federal census of Jefferson County is of interest:

Ashley Tanner with 2 males 0-10; 1 male 16-26; 1 male 26-45; 1 female 10-16
Benjamin Tanner with 1 male 10-16; 1 male 16-18; 1 male 16-26; 1 male over 45; 2 females 0-10; 1 female 10-16; and 1 female over 45
Benjamin Tanner, JR. with 1 male 0-10; 1 male 16-26; 1 female 16-26
Palmer Tanner with 1 male 16-26 and one female 16-26
William Tanner with 1 male 0-10; 1 male 26-25; 3 females 0-10; 1 female 16-26 and 1 female 26-45

Sons of Benjamin Tanner Sr. would be: Ashley, Benjamin Jr., Palmer and William.

Reference/sources: VIR MA, NY, tombstones, wills, estate records, deeds, census records, Hist. Of Jefferson Co. by Durant and Peirce pub. 1878, Baptist Church records of Butternuts, NY.

This information about the Pioneer Tanner family was contributed by volunteer Marilyn Sapienza.

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