Marker, Park Dedicated in Honor of Tanners


"Roane County Reporter" - July 1, 1999

By Jim Cooper, Editor

Submitted by Tammy Burch.

Peering under the cliff where Spencer's first settlers once lived, Daniel Tanner recalled hearing about the local landmark from his grandmother.

"I was kind of shocked," he said. "I'd heard stories about people living under there but I didn't give a thought that it was one of my family members."

Tanner, a Roane County High School sophomore, was one of about a dozen descendants of Samuel Tanner who were present for a ceremony Friday to dedicate a historical marker at the site. The new marker now stands near a tree above the cliff on the campus of Spencer Middle School.

Friday's ceremony marked the end of a long effort to honor the pioneer Tanner family, who lived in the crude shelter after coming to the area in 1812. Tanner later moved his wife Sudna Carpenter Tanner and their daughter, Elizabeth, to a cabin built nearby along what came to be known as Tanner's Run.


"It took everybody here to make this happen," Theresa Parker, an SMS teacher, told a crowd of about 100. The ceremony took place in a former school parking lot that was converted to a small playground and park as part of the same project headed by Parker. Grants and donations of materials and labor from several sources were combined to compete the approximately $10,000 effort.

A small contingent of the recently-formed community band performed the National Anthem, Spencer Mayor Terry Williams offered remarks and Daniel Tanner spoke of a social studies project he had completed on his famous ancestor. Carol Board, another descendant, read the marker's inscription aloud and Becky Bolte offered a dramatic presentation based on the life of Sudna Carpenter Tanner.

Bolte, in costume and barefoot as Sudna, told of living "under this great flat rock" and of spending "many a day in that dark cave thinking of the house we would have some day." Before being filled as it appears today, the area under the cliff measured 35 feet deep and was divided in half with one side living quarters and the other a barn.

Bolte, a Spencer resident, was required to write a script and perform it as a requirement for an acting class. She said she chose Sudna to focus attention on pioneer women.

"In my mind, they were the first settlers," she said, noting that men were often away from the home for various reasons, including hunting. "I tried to come up with what she thought about the cave and being in the middle of nowhere."

That first settlement grew to become known as Tanner's Crossroads for a time. Now several of Samuel Tanner's descendants still live in the city whose name was later changed to Spencer.

"I think it's great," Stella Anderson said following the ceremony. Samuel was her great-great-great-grandfather. "It's something to be proud of."

"It makes you feel good," agreed Hershel Tanner, who said he was not sure of his exact relationship to Samuel Tanner. "My dad used to tell me about this."

And now, thanks to the marker and the efforts of the community they started, others will also hear the story of the pioneer Tanners.