Friday, March 25, 2011

Why I Have a Yankee Accent

My grandmother, father and nine of my 10 Tipton uncles at my grandfather's funeral 1939

I first began researching my Tipton family roots in 1994.  I was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1941 to Isaac Walter Tipton and Betty Louise Hadfield.  My Mother’s family history was from Pennsylvania Quakers.  All I knew about my father’s history was that he came up to Pennsylvania when he was ten years old, with eight of his brothers (no sisters) and without shoes to work on his Uncle Don Byrd’s farm near Unionville, Pennsylvania, country about 45 miles west of Philadelphia.  I did know that my father was a ‘hillbilly’ and that fact distressed me greatly when I was growing.  Little did I know that my father and his brothers came from those hearty, brave and hardworking families of Appalachia that made up the backbone of America. 

My Uncle John Henry Tipton and his team of mules used to haul lumber
for his father's (my grandfather) saw mill in the western mountains of
North Carolina about 1924
 Back in 1994 was when I first began researching my family history.  I made my first trip to the mountains of western North Carolina where my father grew up as a small boy and visited one of my father’s distant Tipton cousins.  His name was Horace Tipton and he was about the same age as my father.  During my visit ‘Uncle Horace’ stopped me and said:

“Ye a damn Yankee ain’t ye?  Ye talk funny!” 

'Uncle Horace's home in Micaville, North Carolina 1994
At first I was stunned because he thought I talked funny?  I could hardly understand him, his Appalachian accent was that thick.  Then I saw the humor in the situation and continued my visit with ‘Uncle Horace.’  However during our visit (I was there with my brother John and his wife Barbara Tipton), ‘Uncle Horace’ did maintain a certain distance.  Don’t want to get TOO friendly with a (damn) Yankee you know. 

My brother John and I at his home in Greenville, South Carolina
discussion our recent trip to the hills of North Carolina where
our father was born and left at ten years old for Pennsylvania

Below is the reason I have a ‘Yankee’ accent.

This is a history of how my branch of the Tipton family came to be in Pennsylvania. This information is an oral history from my late Aunt Peg Tipton, wife of my Uncle Henry Tipton.

In the 1920’s, life was rough for the folks who lived in the hollers of the Pisgah Mountains in western North Carolina, near the border of Johnson City, Tennessee.  One of those families who were near starvation was my paternal grandparents, Fieldon and Hester Lewis Tipton and their nine sons. 

Me during a visit to the mountains where my father was born - 1994

From 1909 to 1926 Fieldon and Hester had nine children, all boys. Fieldon was in the lumber business with other relatives in the close-knit mountain community. Leading up to the Great Depression, the sawmill business wasn’t producing enough food on the table to feed nine growing Tipton boys. Fieldon’s brother-in-law, Don Byrd (married to Hester Lewis’s sister, Essie Lewis) had a fruit and vegetable farm in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. He needed cheap farm labor. Fieldon and Hester and their nine growing boys needed food, a roof over their heads to protect them from the elements and heat to give them comfort during the cold winters.

My grandmother Hester Tipton with her two sons born in Pennsylvania, Bruce and Sam Tipton 1936

 Sometime in 1929 or 1930 (the exact date is uncertain) the Fieldon Tipton family made a life course change and decided to relocate to Pennsylvania and work on Don Byrd’s farm. The whole family moved into one of the tenant cabins called “The Baker Place” near present day Unionville, Pennsylvania. “Field” and his boys began the back-breaking work of picking fruits and vegetables in their Uncle Don’s farm. Two more sons were born to Fieldon and Hester Tipton in Pennsylvania. More farm labor.

My Uncle Sam, Bruce and Fieldon Tipton at the old 'Baker Place' where they
were farm laborers for their Uncle Don Byrd on his farm in exchange for free housing
The names of the Tipton boys were:

Raymond Luther Tipton (1909-1988)                           
John Henry Tipton   (1911-1993)                                 
Edward Walter Tipton (1914-1998)                              
Erby Erwin Tipton  (1917-1990)                                  
Isaac Walter Tipton Sr. (my father) (1920-2000)        
John Hannum Tipton (twin) (1922-1961)                          
Richard Berry Tipton (twin) (1922-1989)                 
Luther Raymond Tipton  (1925-2006)                         
Fieldon Jacob Tipton, Jr.  (1926-2006)                         
Bruce Tipton  (1931-1995)                                                                   
Samuel Park Tipton (1934-2001)                                   
Baby Tipton (twin of Samuel, died at birth)(1934-1934)

As the Tipton boys grew into adult most of them met and married the local women of southeastern Pennsylvania, their new home.  Out of those unions thirty-six legitimate children and four illegitimate children were born. I am one of those thirty-six legitimate children over a hundred children were born. 

My Mom (pregnant with me), my Uncle Dude and my grandmother Hester Tipton 1941

With the exception of Fieldon ‘s cousin Adgie Tipton, who also moved to southeastern Pennsylvania at the same time, all of the Tiptons who now live in an around the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania are descendents of my grandparents, Fieldon and Hester Tipton.  And this is the reason I am a Tipton with a Yankee accent.

March 26, 2011
Ronald Walter Tipton

Me ( tall, skinny  kid on the right) with my brothers and cousins showing our hillbilly roots 1955