Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of my life has been the discovery of my “roots.” I feel secure in the knowledge that if I accomplish nothing else in my life, I have achieved one of the greatest goals known to man. Those of you who read this blog and who also have an interest in genealogy understand what I am talking about. There are others who don’t care about their ancestors or their origins. That is an attitude which I will never understand. I truly feel blessed that I was born with this curiosity about my ancestors. I have found the origin of my paternal ancestral roots and now have the time and energy to share that with my relatives and others who are interested in the Tipton Family.
When I was growing up in a second floor, two bedroom, $22 a month, cockroach infested apartment on 120 Washington Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania I only knew that my father and his ten brothers (no sisters) were “hillbillies.” I’m embarrassed to admit it now, but I cannot tell you the amount of shame that knowledge caused this 10 year old boy at that time who was trying to fit in with his non-hillbilly classmates at East Ward School. Little did I know at that time the amount of pride that I would eventually have for my father and his ancestors.
My father and his eight brothers (two more would be born in Pennsylvania) and his mother and father moved to the Unionville area of southeastern Pennsylvania around 1930, when my father was 10 years old. His family moved from the Pigeon Roost area of the Pisgah Mountains in Mitchell County, North Carolina. This is an area of heavily wooded mountains near the Tennessee border, near Johnson City, Tennessee. My father always said he was from “Pigeon Roost”, but later research indicated that his family lived near the Bailey Settlement near the Toe River. The Pigeon Roost connection came from his mother, Hester Lewis (b. 13 Nov 1892 d. 20 Apr 1945.) Her father, Isaac Lewes (b. 04 Nov. 1856, d. 27 Apr 1944), was a landowner with a large house (for the area) on the Pigeon Roost Road. According to my Uncle Ed (one of my father’s older brothers), Fieldon (their father and my grandfather) would court Hester at her Pigeon Roost home.
Times were especially tough during the Depression in that area of hills and hollers of western North Carolina where the “hillbillies” lived. According to my father, his father Fieldon (Jacob Tipton, b. 04 Jun 1884, d. 08 May 1939) was in the lumber business. Fieldon worked in a saw mill. I don’t know if he owned it or not, just that his livelihood was lumber. Business wasn’t good. Fieldon decided he could provide for his family better by working for his brother-in-law, Don Byrd (b. 1874 d. 1962.) Don Byrd was married to one of Fieldon’s older sisters, Essie Tipton (Essie Elizabeth Tipton, b. 22 Aug 1877 d. 1962.) Don Byrd had a successful fruit and vegetable farm in southeastern Chester County, near the present day town of Unionville. “Uncle Don” would provide housing for his brother-in-law Fieldon and his family provided that Fieldon provided ready farm work (picking fruits and vegetables) with his nine sons. Those sons were (in order of birth):
Raymond Luther “Ray” Tipton 20 Oct 1909 03 Aug 1988
John Henry “Hen” Tipton 15 Feb 1911 11 Mar 1993
Edward Walter “Ed” Tipton 10 Sep 1914 24 Jul 1998
Erby Erwin “Erby” Tipton 20 Nov 1917 29 Sep 1990
Isaac Walter “Ike” Tipton 18 Apr 1920 22 Aug 2000
John Hannum “John” Tipton 29 Aug 1922 14 Sep 1961
Richard Berry “Rich” Tipton 29 Aug 1922 09 Apr 1989
Luther Raymond “Dude” Tipton 11 Mar 1925 17 Sep 1979
Fieldon Jacob “Tip” Tipton 31 Dec 1926 23 Aug 2006
Bruce “Bruce” Tipton 15 Oct 1931 28 Jun 1995
Samuel Park “Sam” Tipton 31 Mar 1934 15 Dec 2001
My father and his brothers and mom and dad lived in a tenant house on Uncle Don’s farm, picking fruits and vegetables. Eventually, other family members would join the Tipton in a migration to Pennsylvania for a better way of life. David Gouge, the husband of another one of my grandfather’s sisters, Abigail Tipton, moved his family to Pennsylvania after he delivered some cattle to Don Byrd. Family lore has it that Dave Gouge saw what he liked and moved his family from the hills of North Carolina to the fertile fields of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. Adgie Tipton, a distant cousin, also moved his family to Pennsylvania. Some of the Lewis family (Fieldon’s wife was a Lewis) also moved their families to the New World of Pennsylvania.
Thus began the first chapter of one of the ancient families to move out of their Appalachian Shangri-La into the 20th century. For the first time my father and his brothers would attend a formal school, thus obtaining an education which was not available to them in the hills and hollers of their former home in Mitchell County, North Carolina. Even more important, my father and his brothers would meet Pennsylvania women, who came from completely different backgrounds than they would have met if their parents had stayed in North Carolina. Many, if not most marriages in those hills were between the same 20 or so families, who names have intertwined with one another over the hundred and fifty years or more that the Tipton familes have family had lived and reproduced in those mountains. It was in 1940 that my Father met my Mother, Betty Louise Hadfield (b. 24 Dec 1923), a beautiful young woman from a poor family in Downingtown with Quaker roots.
A year after he met my Mother, they eloped to Elkton, Maryland for a quickie marriage on November 2, 1940. After the marriage, my Father returned his new wife to her home on Pennsylvania Avenue in Downingtown because she had to go to school that Monday (she was still a senior in high school.) However, that arrangement didn't last too long once her father found out about the marriage. Once the secret of their marriage was out, my Father took my Mother away "from all of that" (her home life where she was almost like Cinderella cleaning house for her wicked step-mother.
One year later, almost to the day, I was born (November 9, 1941.) Looking at my ancestry now, I know that I am the quintessential American (along with all my Tipton relatives.) My ancestry is half from this country’s Appalachian pioneers and the other half from Pennsylvania Quaker ancestry. However, to his dying day my dad called me “half a hillbilly.” And you know, he was right.