Family Stories

Bio for Ethel Tanner

Ethel Tanner was born 12 March 1900 in Wapanucka, Indian Territory (Oklahoma). She was the first born child of Wyatt Tanner and his second wife, Mary Lula Smith. She grew up in Wapanucka and was occasionally noted in the Wapanucka Press (Wapanucka, Johnston county Oklahoma):

Misses Ethel and Edith Tanner and Miss Ona Rose spent the latter part of last week at Bromide, visiting friends.
3 July 1913

Miss Ethel Tanner spent Thanksgiving day with friends in Coalgate returning home Sunday.
4 December 1913

Ethel Tanners little baby sister [Don Ella Tanner] was a visitor in the 8th grade Monday afternoon.
February 1914

Miss Ethel Tanner visited relatives in Clarita the latter part of the week.
10 August 1916

Ethel Tanner is listed on the High School Honor Roll.

Mrs Coda ONeal and sister Bertha Jones of Clarita were the guest of Miss Ethel Tanner on Sunday.
Dec 1916 [Mrs Coda ONeal would later be Ethel Tanner's sister-in-law.]

When Ethel Tanner was just shy of her seventeenth birthday she had a frightening accident that was reported in the Wapanucka Press of 8 February 1917:

Ethel Tanner Falls On Tracks
Last Thursday noon while Ethel Tanner was going home she stumbled and fell, her head hitting one of the rails on the Rock Island Track. The blow was so severe that she was unconscious until 2:00. Her school mates ran back to the building and informed Miss Draldon, who with the assistance of Principal Edwards, carried her to a house near by. Dr Reeves was called and administered medical aid. After she had regained consciousness, she said she never remembered leaving school. As soon as she was strong enough she was taken to her father's home.

We do not know what Ethel Tanner did after her graduation from high school, but she was eventually married to Bryan ONeal, possibly around 1925. The 1930 census locates them in the township of Red Mound in Seminole county Oklahoma. Bryan ONeal's brother, Coda ONeal is living next door. The 1930 census gives Bryan's occupation as merchant, in general merchandise. Later photos and family recollections place Ethel Tanner and Bryan ONeal in Harden (Hardin) City, Pontotoc county Oklahoma where Bryan owned a grocery store. Bryan and Ethel ONeal lived in two rooms in the back of the store.

Bryan ONeal and Ethel Tanner did not have children. Family stories indicate that Bryan ONeal contracted syphillis prior to his marriage and, unknowingly, passed it along to his wife. Later in life, Ethel was overcome by mental illness that often accompanies this disease.

In reviewing The Ada Weekly (Pontotoc county Oklahoma) there were a number of mentions of ONeal family members. These were helpful in defining Bryan ONeal's family and they gave some clues to what happened to Bryan ONeal and Ethel Tanner in later years. Bryan ONeal was born 10 December 1896 in Missouri, the son of Andrew and Rachel ONeal. He came from a large family, and several of his siblings lived in and around Pontotoc county Oklahoma. His sister, Mrs Merl Osborn, lived at Fittstown, and she was often hostess to her brothers and their families. The brothers included Oren ONeal of Oklahoma City, Delmer ONeal of Davis Oklahoma, Coda ONeal of Ada Oklahoma, and Bryan ONeal of Harden City Oklahoma. In the 1960's, when most of these news items appeared, Bryan ONeal was never mentioned as being accompanied by a wife though his brothers always had their families along.

In the 1950' there were several news items that mentioned Mrs Ethel Tanner participating in various social functions. This was at a time when married women were noted by their husband's name, and this was the common practice in the Ada newpaper. So, I suspect that Bryan ONeal and Ethel Tanner had seperated, and perhaps divorced.

In 1968, this item appeared in the Ada Weekly:
Mr and Mrs Merl Osborn visited Mr and Mrs John Nickerson of Wewoka Tuesday. En route home they visited Mrs Ethel ONeal, Allen. [Allen, Pontotoc county Oklahoma]

Ethel Tanner resided in a nursing home in Ada, or perhaps Allen Oklahoma, for a time and I have a copy of a letter she wrote to her sister, Edith Tanner Hutchison, from there. It is a simple and thoughtful letter about everyday life. Ethel eventually went to Central State hospital in Norman Oklahoma and lived there until her death in 1970 at the age of 70 years. She is buried with her parents in the Wapanucka cemetery.

According to social security records, Bryan ONeal died in September of 1980. He was living in Stonewall, Pontotoc county Oklahoma. It is unknown where he is buried.