The Tener Family

This is a journal kept by Dennis Holmes and friends concerning the Tener Family.
The links below will take you to the "Tener Blue Book" - "TENER: A History of the Family in France, Ireland and America"; and to a Finding Aid.

NEW! Tener Eckelberry: A Life
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Friday, June 25, 2004

An Immigration Journey

An Immigration Journey - 1847

As I started to conduct research into the Tener family history, I have periodically wondered, "What was it like?"  …for the families to pick up stakes and immigrate to America? …for sons to go off in search for their fortunes in foreign lands? …to cross the country side, to go from the Port in New York to Pittsburgh?

In July 2003 I found out what it was like!  More specifically, I read 'what it was like' for John Kinley Tener II and his brother Edward Tener to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, when they came to America in 1847 to attend college at Bethany.

Having previous knowledge of a strong connection between the Tener family of Tyrone County Ireland and the family of Thomas and his son Alexander Campbell - later of Bethany, West Virginia, Ann and I visited The Campbell Mansion in Bethany in June 2002.  There I met a Mr. George Miller - who was a docent on the day of our tour.

We chatted, of course, about the house, and then about Mr. Alexander Campbell and then the relationship between the Campbell's and the Tener's.  Mr. Miller was very well versed in the Campbell's and after our tour he led us upstairs in the Mansion.  There he showed us a small library - and he began to review some of the books for more direct correlation between the two families.

We talked, and he told us of the publication, "The Millennial Harbinger".  He showed us a published index that listed several "Tener's".  This created significant interest, and then he showed me a couple of the indexed entries.  He also told me how to research in the Harbinger. 

Once we returned home, we were able to locate a complete set of the Harbinger at a Christian college in San Jose.  There we were able to obtain photocopies of each entry that referenced a member of the Tener Family!  We learned of the classes that 'the boys' attended, of the class awards received, that Edward gave a commencement speech when he graduated in 1851.  We read a letter sent to Alexander Campbell by Isaac Tener, and an obituary for Mary Frances Tener.

I sent a letter to Mr. Miller in the fall of 2002, and there was no immediate reply.  I sent a second letter: again, no immediate reply. I almost forgot of the letters while research into the family continued in a number of separate areas.

In late March 2003, we received a letter from Mr. Miller.  He apologized for the delay, and then he provided me with information on a book - that we had discussed in June, which had mention of a lady's travels 'with the Tener's'.  He did not recall the name of the book, but he did follow through and provide it to us.

In his letter he included a photo-copy of the books title page, "The Story of an Earnest Life: A woman's adventure in Australia and in Two Voyages Around The World".  This book was written by Mrs. Eliza Davies, and it was published by the Central Book Concern, in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1881.

Following receipt of his letter, and the precise information on the book, we again visited the San Jose Christian College library, in an effort to obtain a copy of the book.  Our luck did not hold, and they did not have the book.  No real surprise - since the book was well over one hundred years old.

Next stop - the internet.  We were able to locate a copy of the book in a Christian Book Store, in either Rockdale or Fitsroy Falls, New South Wales, Australia.  We acquired a copy of the book through an exchange of a number of e-mails, and anxiously awaited its arrival. 

Mrs. Davies wrote of her travels, with remarkable detail.  I skimmed the text and located where she had arrived in London - the first time, and she indicated that she had just completed her first global circumnavigation.  She began in Scotland, and after visiting what she wanted, she returned to Scotland.

There she had learned that one of her cousin's had married a minister to the Baptist Church.  She attended this church with her family, and on that very day there was discussion, great dialogue, as to whether or not to invite a "Mr. Campbell from America" with "his new fangled doctrines" to preach at their church.  It was a weighty debate.  The voices of the younger parishioners won out, and he was invited.  He was in Scotland 'to spread the word'.

Mr. Campbell was invited, and Mrs. Davies attended.  On August 28, 1847, she was present when Alexander Campbell arrived to give his sermon.  She described his arrival:
"He was above the middle height, strongly built, but rather thin; his hair was gray, and stood up from his high, intellectual forehead'; he had heavy eyebrows; his perceptive organs were very large; he had a high Roman nose, as one born to command; the lines on his face were strongly marked."
She was quite taken with his sermon.  Following the 'sermon' there was an adjournment to a basement room in the church for socializing and refreshments.  Mrs. Davies sat beside Mr. Campbell.  They were introduced, and she had told him of her intention to go to America.  He invited her to Bethany.

(** Having skipped much of the book, I suspect that Mrs. Davies' activities in Australia were memorable - of a religious nature.  Mr. Campbell acted as if he was aware of her ministrations.)

Over the course of about a week, she accepted the invitation to go to Bethany.

Shortly thereafter, as Mr. Campbell was preparing to go to Ireland, he was arrested and imprisoned - for "libel".  This arrest and imprisonment is well documented and will not be addressed here - other than to say in court the charges were dropped, and Mr. Campbell was exonerated of all charges brought.

Once he was released from Bridewell Prison in Glasgow, he sailed to Ireland.  I believe that in other writings it is established that Mr. Campbell addressed a group including Mr. John Kinley Tener, and visited Moree - the Tener home in County Tyrone.

From his visit to Ireland, Mr. Campbell wrote to Mrs. Davies telling her "two young gentlemen, sons of a Mr. Tener, were going to college at Bethany, and an aunt of his own was going to Bethany…"  And he wrote, "… you will have good company and protection by the way." 

They were to sail from Liverpool, England aboard the sailing vessel "Siddons". 

Mrs. Davies wrote, "On October 12, 1847, a fair wind took us out into the Irish sea; but we had to "tack ship" very often in St. George's Channel, ere we were fairly out on the Atlantic."

What follows is verbatim from her book, her account of the journey that lasted until after October 30.

"Once out upon the ocean, our ship like a war-horse bounded over the waves.  On the second night out, our little party was sitting in the fore saloon, when suddenly the ship was lit up with a blue, lambent flame, terrific to behold.  Mrs. C--- was very much alarmed, and retired to her cabin, from which she did not emerge while the voyage lasted.  Our ship was freighted with over 400 living souls from Erin's green isle.  She was large, and had a large leak in her, through which the water rushed to an alarming extent.  The Captain would not turn back to ascertain the extent of this danger, because he would have to lose a few days.  So the lives of hundreds were risked for a few greedy men grasping for gain!  The crew were discontented and quarrelsome, we were surrounded by perils.  The wind was blowing stiffly, and the ship was rolling heavily, and to quiet Mrs. C---'s fears, I went on deck to see what was going on.  I was near the top of the poop stair, when Captain ran toward me, caught me in his arms, and carried me almost breathless right back toward the stern of the ship.  I thought the man had lost his senses; but before I could speak, I knew his reason for acting so strangely.  The captain saw a great foam-capped billow rolling toward the ship with furious speed, and it washed clean over the vessel, carrying the ladder away on which I stood but a moment before.  He saw my danger, ran to the rescue, and saved my life.  He laughingly asked, if he should beg pardon for so rudely taking me in his arms.  I shook my head, and thanked him for his unceremonious embrace, or hug, for it was more like the hug of a bear; but my life was preserved, for which I was thankful.  The wind blew louder, and the storm grew greater, till it rose to a gale.  We lost our foretop mast-stay sail, or jib, and our main top-gallant sail, all in a short time.  The leak kept all hands at the pump.  The foul winds continued, and we lost our mainsail.  Shortly after, our foresail blew to ribbons."

That alone makes this seem like a treacherous voyage.  But the storm continues…

"Our ship dipped her bows into the surging sea, while her stern was tilted high in air.  I enjoyed the sight and feeling of riding the waves so gloriously.  We had a very narrow escape from being run into by a very large ship.  The two ships met on top of a huge wave, and the stranger's bow grazed our ship's side.  We lost another sail.  We were fast losing our sails ere we reached mid-ocean.  Everything broke loose from its moorings, that was not properly secured. In the steerage all was confusion; boxes and benches and  chests dashing and smashing, and the poor creatures knocked about terribly.  The wind was still high, but it had veered round in our favor.  I was enjoying a lively scene on the deck, when the steward came to me, and asked me to give him a needle and white silk thread.  I asked, "For what purpose?""
"To sew up a woman's leg," was the rough answer."
"I went down to my cabin, found a needle and thread, a salts bottle and some rags.  I told Aunt Ellen, as I left the cabin, to hold to her bed tight or she would tumble out."
"Och! Och! But this is terrible," said the poor old lady."
"I went to the steerage with the steward to see the poor woman.  On going down the ladder, I had to press through a cloud of impurity.  The stench from 350 human beings, lying in filth, and eating filthy food, was very sickening.  At the foot of the ladder lay a poor, pale-faced woman, with half a dozen women screaming around her, "Och, she will die, she will."
"A child was trying his lungs at the utmost pitch.  I told a woman to take the little fellow out of sight and hearing.  We lifted the woman up, and stretched her on a bench, and I held her with great difficulty till the steward sewed the flesh from the ankle to the knee of the poor woman's leg, which had been laid open, and the bones laid bare, by a great chest that had broken away from its moorings, and pinned her to the stair.  The poor little creature stood the operation well; but seeing the needle pushed through the quivering flesh made me very faint.  I held her tight till the lat bandage was put on; then she called for her lusty boy, but she could not nurse him.  She smiled at him, and he crowed at her.  The steward performed the painful operation very skillfully.  I helped nurse the poor woman, and took her better food than her own, till she recovered."
"I told the captain that if the steerage was not thoroughly cleansed the cholera or some other plague would break out among the people.  He ordered the sailors to 'drive every one of the dirty devils on deck, and make everything clean, and make them clean after themselves in the future.'  In this den of dirt a woman died, and when the sailors were sewing the canvas about the body of the corpse, and fastening the ballast to sink it, the young husband was nearly frantic."
"och, let her lie azy in her own feather-bed," he cried.
"And he would and did have her sewed up in her feather bed, not to sink, but to float away."
"When in mid-ocean we had a sublime storm.  I had gone on deck.  The air was oppressive, but the sea looked like itself, deep, dark-blue, fresh, free, and boundless, without a landmark.  It seemed to play with the sky, which was almost cloudless.  The sun shone clear and bright, at the same time a sad sough was wailing through the shrouds.  Groups of men and women were standing and sitting on the deck listlessly.  Everything seemed unnaturally quiet and calm.  The groups on deck one after the other went below.  When the last disappeared, "batten down the hatches," rang out on the stillness.  The Captain came to me and said, "You had better go to your cabin."
"I prefer to stay on deck, and see what is to be seen," I said.
"What do you expect to see?" queried he.
"A storm," I answered, pointing to a cloud that had been no bigger than a man's hand when near the horizon.
"It was rising and spreading and deepening and becoming more dense.  And suddenly from the midst of the ocean, uprose the liquid element in one long, high mountain chain, or ground-swell, that seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon.  The whole ocean seemed to present a long, unbroken wall moving toward us, nearer and nearer.  I expected every moment to be engulfed.  Every man was at his post.  Some had swabs in her hands: all seemed expectant.  I had taken my post by the mizzen-mast, holding on to a rope.  The wind now began to blow with fury, and just as the bow of our ship went down, apparently to rise no more, the great mountain wall broke into thousands of billows, washing over us from stem to stern.  The scuppers were all open, and the men with their swabs soon cleared the deck of the great body of water that was shipped.  Had the hatches been open, the ship would have filled and sunk.  AT that moment we had a narrow escape.  The ship gave a leap and a plunge, and rolled frightfully, so much so that I was driven from my moorings, and swung in mid-air, away from the mast, then down bump against the bulwarks with a bang."
"Hold on for God's sake; hold on, or you are gone," shouted the captain as he saw me swing."
"When I touched the deck again with my feet, I nodded to him.  The wind was now blowing a gale, and the lashing, tossing, heaving and foaming of the surging billows were terrific, but magnificent.  The whole ocean from the central speck on which I stood to the vanishing circle of the horizon, seemed one boundless, boiling caldron; millions of waves, leaping from the abyss below, and rearing themselves into blue mountain peaks, capped with snowy foam, sparkled in the light for a moment, and then sank in the dark and roaring deep.  My whole soul was lifted up in reverence and awe to the great Ruler of the tempest.  All this while I stood gazing forth upon the stormy surface of the sea, and as I looked the wind went down as suddenly as it had risen; but not so the angry waters.  The captain came to me and said:"
"You are very brave; you would make a good sailor's wife."
"I thanked him for his compliment, and asked him to assist me to go below.  I thought Aunt Ellen would be anxious about my long absence.  I was well satisfied with the grand  spectacle I had seen."
"A worse gale burst upon us one night than any that we had met. Everything in the steerage gave way, and the smashing up of everything frightened the people nearly out of their wits. Such screaming, and shouting, and praying were going on as made the confusion worse confounded. In the tumult, a woman gave birth to a child before her time. It died and was thrown out in the deep without ceremony. A few hours afterward a woman died, and she was also thrown out, and ere another day passed another child died, and was tossed into the deep. It is a solmn thing to die at any time and place; but how much more so to die at sea, when the friends have to toss their beloved ones, without ceremony, to the sharks, without even a canvas coffin."
"A fine day after a gale would give us a little rest before another outburst.  I hardly ever slept on board the Siddons - first, because the leak in the ship was gaining; the pumps were going all the time, and I thought at any hour we might fill and sink, and I did not wish to go down in my sleep. Gale after gale followed in quick succession, till we were worn out with the pitching and tossing. The poor sailors had to climb the shrouds and reef the top sails when the tall masts were swaying every way, resting their feet on a slack rope, and, as they say, "holding on by their eyelashes" while their hands were reefing. One poor fellow lost his foothold, and fell headlong down on top the cook's galley, and was greatly injured. Many a prayer was sent up from that distressed ship for rest from the storms. We were all very much subdued and worn out.  One day an Irishman came staggering upon deck, in the midst of a severe storm calling out,"
"Mister Mate, Mister Mate, the ship is sinking: come and see the big hole in her."
Poot Pat was in mortal terror, but the Mate did not laugh at him, but at once went with him to see the hole. He was alarmed himself, fearing another leak. However, all fears were soon quieted. A porthole that had been caulked had burst open, and in rushed the water. Pat was told that there was no danger. The real danger we were in was kept from these poor, ignorant creatures. Our ship was drifting under bare poles, all her sails furled. We sometimes thought we were buried under the water: we shipped such tremendous seas, and the ship did not ride the waves like she was wont. The captain, Mate and crew were all on deck all night. The storm-sail was set. The poor sailors were pitched out of the rigging, and some almost overboard. The ship gave one tremendous lurch, and lifted me clean out of bed, and threw me with violence against the opposite side of my cabin. I thought the side of the ship was gone and I with it. The turnout was so sudden that I gave a scream, the first since I came on board. Our storm-sail and part of the bulwarks went overboard with this dash of the ugly waves."
"October 30th, we were on the great bank of Newfoundland, with a fair wind, fine weather, and all in good spirits. A little stranger who came to the ship in a storm left it in a calm. It died and was buried on the banks.  We passed the banks without accident. The sea looked like a sheet of burnished silver.  We had a good tossing in the Gulf stream, and another thunder and lightening storm. Our lights were all put out and we were all left in darkness that might be felt, while the blue glare of the lightening made the scene more terrible. The next day the wind changed in our favor, but blew a perfect hurricane. We were sitting about on our cabin floors, holding on to any and everything we could find to keep from being dashed to pieces against the walls. The cold was intense, but we had no fires. Another short respite brought us to the deck once again. The Captain was taking the sun's altitude; his smiling face had not been seen for several days. The Mate was throwing the log, to see how many knots an hour she was sailing, when one of the son's of Erin called out:
"Mike, Mike, come and see the mate measuring the sea, and the captain is lookinhg for New York somewhere hereabouts."
"Land Ho!" The joyful sound rang through the ship.  What preparations for going ashore! All was bustle.  We let go anchor between Staten and Long Islands. . . . . . . .  Just one month from England, a long and stormy one. A rougher, more disagreeable, stormier voyage could not be imagined."

I have skipped her description of the health inspection, the river pilot, and the hustle-bustle of the harbor craft at they entered.

"Our little party of five landed on the Western Hemisphere on the 12th of November.  We dined at a restaurant, Aunt Ellen, her grandson, a boy of twelve, the Tener brothers and myself. Then we parted.  The brothers purposed staying a few days in New York. We met again at Bethany."

There was only brief additional mention of the Tener brothers.  As misfortune would have it, Mrs. Davies' luggage was taken from her.  She did however locate it on the street, and summoned a carriage take her and Mrs. Campbell to the Tener's home in New York.  But, they could not locate the home, and they stayed in a Hotel.

All in all, I think that this is a fascinating, first hand account of the voyage of the Siddons, and the journey taken by Edward S. Tener and John Kinley Tener II. 

Hope that you enjoyed the description!

(Posted June 25, 2004 -- Dennis Holmes)