Governor of Illinois, 1897-1901
William A. Northcott, Lieutenant Governor

John Riley Tanner

John Riley Tanner
Governor of Illinois, 1897-1901

John Riley Tanner was born in Warrick County, Indiana, April 4, 1844, and was brought to Southern Illinois in boyhood where he grew up on a farm in the vicinity of Carbondale, enjoying only such educational advantages as were afforded by the common schools; in 1863 at the age of 19, he enlisted in the Ninety-eighth Illinois Volunteers, serving until June 1865, when he was transferred to the Sixty-first and finally mustered out in September following. All the male members of Governor Tanner’s family were soldiers in the War of the Rebellion, his father dying in prison at Columbus, Mississippi, one of his brothers suffering the same fate from wounds at Nashville, Tennessee, and another brother dying in hospital at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. On December 25, 1866, Mr. Tanner married Miss Lauretta Ingraham, daughter of Barton Ingraham, of Clay County, Illinois.

Returning from the war Mr. Tanner established himself in business as a farmer in Clay County, later engaging successfully in the milling and lumber business as a partner of his brother. The public positions held by him, include those of Sheriff of Clay County (1870-72), Clerk of the Circuit Court (1872-1876) and State Senator (1880-83). During the latter year he received the appointment of United States Marshal for the Southern District of Illinois, serving until after the accession of President Cleveland in 1885. In 1886 he was elected State Treasurer; in 1891 was appointed by Governor Fifer, a member of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission, and in 1892 received the appointment of Assistant United States Treasurer at Chicago, continuing in that office until December, 1893. For ten years (1874-1884) he was a member of the Republican State Central Committee, in 1894, he was chosen Chairman of the Committee and conducted the campaign. In 1896 he received the nomination of his party for Governor and was elected over John P. Altgeld, his Democratic opponent.

Governor Tanner was married December 30, 1896, to Miss Cora Edith English. He died May 23, 1901, at Springfield, Illinois. He is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Source: “The Governors of Illinois, 1818-1918“; Issued by the Illinois Centennial Commission


JOHN R. TANNER—1897—1901.

JOHN R. TANNER, the twenty-fourth governor, was elected in 1900. He was born on a farm in Warwick County, Indiana, April 4, 1844. The great grandfather of John R. Tanner died in service in the War of the Revolution, the grandfather while in the War of 1812, and his father while in service in the War of the Rebellion. Each bore the name of John R. Tanner. John R. Tanner, of the fourth generation, enlisted in the Civil War at the age of nineteen in the 98th Illinois Infantry and was transferred to the 61st and served to the end of the war.

After the war, John R. Tanner took up the life of a farmer in Clay County. He went into politics, being elected sheriff in 1870, and in 1874, circuit clerk of Clay County. In 1880 he was elected state senator, and in 1886, state treasurer. He was, for a time, United States marshal for the southern district of Illinois; railroad and warehouse commissioner under Gov. Fifer, and assistant treasurer at the United States Sub-treasury, Chicago.

In 1896, he was elected Governor, defeating John P. Altgeld (Dem.). The December following, he married Miss Cora Edith English of Springfield. His term of office expired in January, 1901, and he died at Springfield the following May.

The principal events of this administration are as follows: Legislative Acts—Establishment of State Board of Pardons, State Board of Examiners of Architects, State Board of Examiners of Horseshoers, Offices of State Food Commissioners, and State Commissioners of Game, also the Juvenile Court act, and the creation of Western Normal School at Macomb. Senatorial and Congressional reapportionment was made, Illinois securing twenty-five congressmen thereby. Chicago Drainage Canal in operation. Water turned in January 2, 1900.

During his administration, a company, of which Governor Tanner was one, purchased the estate of Pierre Menard, at Fort Gage. This later passed into the hands of Mr. Charles Lynn, who restored the house and improved the farm. This house, built by the first Lieutenant-Governor of the state, now stands in appearance exactly as it did in the early years of the nineteenth century. It has been occupied by Mr. Lynn for several years and is, perhaps, the only house in the state which represents the varied life of Illinois from the French colonial days, through the early years of the young commonwealth up to the present time. As such it has been chosen as the frontispiece of this volume.

Source: Decisive Dates in Illinois History, A Story of the State, By Lottie B. Jones. Danville, Illinois: Illinois Printing Company, 1909.