Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Daisy Buckles

On an early spring afternoon in April of 1994, my U.S. Air flight from Philadelphia International Airport touched down at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. As I was waiting for my suitcase to slide down the luggage carousel, the automatic doors to the luggage area whoosed open and there emerged all 6 foot 6 inches of my baby brother, John. He grabbed my lone suitcase with a wide smile on his face. We exited the airport for his car, enjoying the special camaraderie that is unique to brothers. John took me back to his neat ranch house which is located in a quiet residential section of Greenville. That evening we had a mini family reunion with his wife Barbara, his daughters Nancy and Vickey and her husband Mark and their seven children. Early the next day, John, Barbara and I got into our rented van and we were on our way to Johnson City, Tennessee by way of Asheville, North Carolina. John slide in a cassette of Appalachian music (AKA “hillbilly” music) to get us in the mood for our journey in search of our roots. We arrived in Johnson City about two hours later and checked into our rooms at the Hampton Inn hotel. It was late afternoon. We agreed to meet about an hour later for dinner at a nearby buffet. The South is famous for their generous buffets and we made sure we took advantage of this opportunity. After dinner we were to visit Daisy Buckles, Aster Lewis’ sister and the daughter of my great grandfather Isaac Lewis (1856-1944). Daisy’s house was only a few miles from the Hampton Inn. She greeted us at the door of her modest house on Hopper Road like long lost relatives although we had never met her before. Daisy is a widow who lives by herself in her small immaculate house on the outskirts of Johnson City. Her grown children had long since left her home and had families of their own. Barbara, John and I were quickly made to feel at home by Daisy. She told us about her father, Isaac Lewis. She said she did not know her father’s first wife, Mary Alice Hughes (1858-1916), who was my great grandmother. Mary Alice had died long before Daisy was born. Daisy, and her brothers Aster, Cisro, and Homer were the children of Isaac’s second, much younger wife, Rissie Johnson. Rissie (1894-1992) was 38 years younger than Isaac Lewis when she married him. Thus, Isaac continued a pattern of many of the Tipton men and other males of that time in the mountains. The first wife would produce 10 or more children and then die. The male would marry again, usually a much younger wife. Joseph Tipton (1796-1870), my great-great-great grandfather (father of John Tipton and grandfather of Hiram Tipton), took a second wife 40 years younger than him. Her name was Drucilla Ledford (1836-1880). Joseph had 8 children by his first wife Sarah Ann Bennett ( 1800-1847) and 11 children by his second wife Drucilla. Isaac Lewis continued the time honored tradition of reproducing many offspring. Isaac had 7 children by his first wife, Mary Alice Hughes. He had 4 children by his second wife, Rissie Campbell Johnson. John, Barbara, Daisy and I talked late into the night. Before we left, Daisy gave us her brother Aster’s address and phone number. Aster lived in Erwin, Tennessee, which is only a short distance away from Johnson City, at the base of the mountains which form the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Once over that border, all roads lead to the forested mountains. There are no through roads. One goes to the top of the mountain, and then turn around and come back down. That's why the roads are called "hollers". One of those "hollers" is where my father and eight brothers were born. That is where Aster was going to take us the next day. We went back to our rooms at the Hampton Inn, full of anticipation as to what new stories and sights the next day would bring. Who wants to go to Disney World? Not us! This was way better! For the first time we would see where our father played as a child. We would see where our grandparents courted and got married. We would also see where my grandfather eked out a living for his wife and nine children before deciding to move to Pennsylvania. Fieldon decided there was more opportunity to feed his nine growing boys by working as field laborers in his brother-in-law Donald Byrd’s farm in southeastern Pennsylvania. If we were lucky we would meet some folks who knew my grandfather Fieldon Jacob Tipton (1884-1939) and my great grandfather Hiram Tipton (1852-1933). To be continued.

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