TANNER, ARCHIBALD. Soon after the death of
Archibald Tanner, which occurred February 15, 1861, the following
obituary notice, written by the Hon. S. P. Johnson, was published in the
The subject of this notice was to Warren its oldest inhabitant, its best
friend, its most enterprising citizen. Here he spent his youthful vigor,
his ripened manhood and his feebler age. Around us everywhere are
visible mementos of his public spirit and private virtues. With all our
pleasing recollections of the past his memory is commingled. Every mind
is stored with reminiscences of his genial and eccentric humor. Every
eye is moist at his seemingly sudden exit. His loss is equally a private
grief and a public calamity.
The religious, the political, the commercial, and social circle have
each a vacant seat and no one able and willing to wear his falling
mantle and fill them. But the tear which this bereavement exacts is
dried by the knowledge that the good which he has done will live after
him, and the conviction that our loss is, to him, eternal gain.
Archibald Tanner, son of Tryal Tanner, was born in Litchfield, county,
Conn., February 3, 1786 — emigrated with his parents to Trumbull county,
O., in the year 1802 — commenced his business life at his majority by
boating produce down the Ohio River, and came to Warren in 1816 with a
small stock of goods and groceries, brought by keel-boat up the river.
He had been located for a few previous months in Franklin. With this
small stock, his earthly substance then, he commenced a career of
commercial success. This he achieved single-handed, where many others
failed, in a poor and sparsely settled country, without aid from
relatives or patronizing friends. His integrity gained him universal
confidence, while his capacity and close attention to business secured
him a large measure of success. He prospered and enlarged his business
for many successive years, until he was recognized at home and abroad,
as the capitalist and business man of Warren.
The latter part of his active commercial life was
spent in company with Robert Falconer, esq., and the well-known firm of.
Tanner & Falconer is yet remembered by all middle-aged descendants of
the early settlers, with feelings of sincere respect. Two more honorable
dealers never did business in Warren.
In December, 1819, Mr. Tanner married the daughter
of Colonel Alexander McDowell, of Franklin, one of her earliest and most
prominent citizens. His married life was short. In 1825 he was left a
widower with two infant daughters, only one of whom, wife of Hon.
Glenni W. Scofield, survives
him. Not forgetting his obligations as a citizen nor relaxing his
business energies, he added to their burdens the double duties of a
widowed parental vigilance.
His political proclivities may be summed up by
saying, he was an Adams man while Adams and Jackson headed the parties
of the country, subsequently a Whig during the life of that party, and
lastly a Republican in full communion.
In politics, as in all things, he was an earnest
man, acting boldly upon his convictions of right and duty. When in a
discouraging minority, he purchased a press and established at his own
expense the first newspaper ever printed in the county, to maintain the
political doctrines he thought right.
In 1819-20 he was treasurer of the county, and for
many years prior to 1829 — the advent of Jackson’s administration — he
held the office of deputy postmaster in Warren, with great credit to
himself and satisfaction to the people.
But his most prominent characteristics were local
pride and public spirit. He led in every enterprise that aimed to
promote the interest of the town and county in which he lived. Coming to
Warren when it was an ungrubbed plateau, accessible only by the river
channel and the Indian trail, he was foremost in all improvements, both
useful and ornamental. To roads, turnpikes, boats, and bridges, and all
other means of progress, he was the largest contributor and most active
friend. In building he had no compeer in the early history of Warren.
The first steamboat that ever navigated the Allegheny River, in 1830,
was a monument to his enterprise and self-sacrificing spirit.
His last undertaking was the development of the
rock-oil fields of Pennsylvania. At Titusville, in company with Hon. L.
F. Watson, he sunk the first flowing well.
In his early life he devoted a portion of his
leisure time to mechanical improvements. His inventions, though useful
in their day, have been superseded by changes in business and later
discoveries. One of his patents bears the signature of James Madison and
another of J. Q. Adams.
Nor was he less a friend to the moral and religious
advancement of society. He was one of the pioneers of Presbyterianism in
Warren. Having united with that church at its first organization in
1831, he became its chief supporter. In 1832 he was much the largest
contributor to the erection of its church building, and for a quarter of
a century thereafter, to the support of stated preaching therein. His
religion was the result of an earnest, vital conviction of its truth,
and was never laid aside or forgotten in the excitements of the hour.
His conscientiousness was largely developed and ever present, prompting
him in questions of doubtful morality. Although possessing certain
idiosyncrasies of character that occasioned him to differ with many
others in his views of right and wrong, he never could be betrayed into
an act that was dishonest or dishonorable. While he was an advocate for
the doctrine of expediency, few men lived so blameless a life in a moral
point of view.
In intellectual capacity Mr. Tanner occupied a
prominent position among intelligent business men. His was an original
intellect, possessing large self-sustaining resources, ingenious,
inventive, eccentric, with a strong appreciation of the ridiculous, a
ready adaptation to the details of business and a pride of peculiarity
in the mode of accomplishing his purpose. In his later life, his water
works, his fence building, his cemetery project and the various
enterprises which he either originated or patronized for the development
of the country and improvement in the arts, were evidences of these
characteristic peculiarities of taste and talent.
His perceptions were quick, and his mental action
upon every subject presented, direct and pertinent, overleaping all
circumlocution. His conclusions were rather instincts than rational
deductions. His views of men and things were often quaint and quizzical,
and so abrupt that many of his sayings have passed into proverbs and
became the common property of the people.
In judgment he was not infallible, and he often
embarked, in projects that proved unfortunate pecuniary speculations.
Such were his printing, steamboat, turnpike, railroad, bridge, and bank
experiences, prompted always by public and patriotic motives, but
disastrous in their financial results. To his friends he was always
true, to his enemies persistently hostile. To his friends he always made
himself useful and reliable, while he was at times exacting and
censorious; to his enemies he was uncompromising and defiant, but never
To his relations he was always kind and often
generous, even to involving himself in heavy losses on their account.
True to his benevolent impulses, to the last, in his will, he releases
all obligations to his estate for such advances.
He was the poor man’s friend, if he would work. To
the wants of the needy and unfortunate his heart always responded in
acts of substantial aid. Industrious and energetic himself, he had no
toleration for idleness or dissipation.
In his temper he was self-willed and somewhat
hasty, exhibiting at times a degree of petulance and passion that was
doubtless largely attributable to his sensitive and very excitable
nervous temperament. But underneath all his foibles lay a manly and open
heart, sincerely devoted to truth, honesty, and the public good. His
courage, moral and physical, no one ever doubted. It had been often
tested. He dared to do right in all emergencies, even against the swell
of popular sentiment.
He had long been a member of the Masonic order and
adhered to it as a benevolent institution.
With this brief but candid review of his character
and history by one who knew him long and well, we must now part with our
old friend Tanner, not to forget him, but to commemorate his virtues and
perpetuate his good name.
For integrity and firmness of purpose, for industry
and energy in its execution, for public enterprise and private charity,
for an untarnished morality and a consistent piety, his life was a model
well worthy the study and imitation of those who have a lifetime yet to
live, and desire to attain his high position in the estimation of
History of Warren County:
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent
Men and Pioneers, J. S. Schenck, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1887.
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